Calories in Calories Out? The Truth About Why it’s Not So Simple

By Tico+Tina

Last updated April 7, 2017

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This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series A Smarter Healthy™

Calories in calories out doesn't work because it's based on a faulty premise... all calories are not created equal.Over the hundreds of diet and eating plans out there, one thing that the majority of them have in common is some form of the basic math mentality of “calories in calories out”.

If you’re not familiar with the calorie myth yet, you’re likely struggling much more with your weight than you would need to!

While the basic calories in vs calories out math works in some sense, the truth is that all calories are not created equal. The type of calories you consume affect your body in different ways.

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Over 87 studies, people eating better calories lost an average of 12 more lbs of body fat compared with those eating an equal quantity of less nutritious calories.

In 3 groups, each eating the same number of calories but in varying degrees of benefit, the group eating the most optimal type of calories lost 86.5% more body fat.

In 9 trials, people eating better calories lost an average of 22% more weight than people eating the exact same quantity of crappy calories.

-The Smarter Science of Slim


Why doesn’t calories in calories out work?

We all thought nutrition panels were helping us, but it turns out they’re often inadvertently lying to us.

The USDA allows processed food calorie content to vary up to 20% from what’s on the label, so no matter how hard you’re trying to do a great job counting calories, there’s really no way for you to be completely accurate.

Even if labeling wasn’t working against us, there’s a lot more to it than that.

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Our bodies are confused, clogged up, and over-flowing. Calorie restriction is like turning down the water rather than getting rid of what's clogging the drain. | calories in calories outAs Marie Grace Berg points out in Eat More Burn More, “Remember, your body is an operating system—an intelligent machine that knows which action to take for particular situations. Wrong information input causes errors.

The truth is, biology naturally adapts to change, similar to the way water flows through a sink – more in equals more out. However, modern diets are full of ingredients that aren’t actually food, much like if you try to pour some sort of sludge down the sink – our bodies are confused, clogged up, and over-flowing (into fat, rather than the proper channels of elimination).

Calorie restriction is like turning down the water rather than getting rid of what’s clogging the drain. That’s why we’re so hungry when we’re dieting, and why it doesn’t work long-term.


Your body’s natural ability to convert food into energy is called your metabolism, which is affected by 3 key factors: insulin, cortisol, and human growth hormone.

Not only can the type of food you eat affect these factors, but the mentality of only paying attention to calories means ignoring other important components that may needlessly be working against you behind the scenes.

When we’re in the mindset of counting calories, that’s often the main thing we’re paying attention to. Unfortunately, all those buzzwords we’ve been trained to look for: low-calorie, low-carb, sugar-free, etc. don’t mean those foods are any good whatsoever at burning fat, and certainly don’t equate to actually being healthy.

What does it mean if we can’t rely on counting calories?

It might not be what any of us want to hear, but if we can’t depend on calories as a guide to what we eat, it means we need to actually pay more attention to the kind of fuel we’re putting into our bodies.

The good news is that we no longer need to ever be starving ourselves to lose weight again!

If we get our “sinks” unclogged and put in the right kinds of foods, we can leave the faucet on as high as we need to for our appetite without worrying about it overflowing.

Check out this patented calculator that shows how when you eat more of the right foods you actually lose weight faster!

Why calories in calories out doesn't work

So what foods should we actually be eating???

The rule of thumb you can rely on is aiming for foods that have higher water, protein, and fiber content.


Want to learn more?

How to finally conquer eating healthy on a budget: a smarter healthy - real, easy, fun

A Smarter Healthy™ Series

Call us crazy, but we think...

    • Foods should be: accessible, economical, optimized
    • Cooking & Prep should be: simple, convenient, efficient
    • Eating should be: fun, delicious, satiating
    • Exercise should be: practical, adaptable, potent

The Smarter Science of Slim
Reasons Not to Count Calories
SANE 101

More In A Smarter Healthy™Previous Post in the Series
7 Amazing Tricks for How to Cut Calories the Easy Way

Next Post in the Series
How I Screwed Up My Health with (un) Realistic Weight Loss Goals

We're well-acquainted with being stuck in soul-sucking survival mode, and the intense internal friction of not living in alignment with your potential. We're all about discovering, creating, and sharing adulting cheat codes™ so you can level up faster! -David (Tico) & Chris(tina)

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