In Search of the Magic Metabolism ~ A Challenge

It's comical.  Every time Taubes comes out with something new, somehow folks with magic metabolisms come out of the woodwork as well.  You know the type.  They could not lose weight eating a starvation diet of 1000 cal/day for weeks on end doing hours of cardio a week.  Some even claim to gain weight on such regimes!  Worse yet they were hungry all the time.  But then they read GCBC and went low carb and stopped exercising!  Suddenly, they were never hungry, but managed to wolf down 2000 cal/day of fat and protein and lost 20,30,100 or more pounds effortlessly in a week/month/whatever unbelievably short timeframe.

This is utter nonsense.  Even Taubes acknowledges ultimately that if someone gains fat mass they are in caloric surplus and if someone loses fat mass they are in caloric deficit.  He just claims that you are eating more because your fat cells have gone rogue and hog your energy, and if you're losing weight, you are eating less because the fat cells are releasing their stores so you don't need to eat.  Whatever.

There have been thousands of weight loss/gain studies, many of them well controlled even though free living, and not an insignificant showing of metabolic ward studies.  Now, Dr. Eades may wish to ignore the latter because they are conducted on the dishonest dregs of society prone to cheating by whatever means (and rumor has it they might not even be human!), but the rest of us cannot.  

EVERY time resting energy expenditure has been measured in a weight loss study, the person's metabolic rate went down or at best stayed the same.  We're not privy to the individual results in most cases, but I think had one subject seen their metabolism shoot up while losing weight the investigators would have looked into it.  It may be possible that a diet feels so good someone will increase their NEAT.   Energy expended fidgeting and such can be considerable so it's technically possible that a person's TDEE could increase with a major change in diet, it is next to impossible for it to change as claimed.  Let's say someone claims they couldn't lose weight in a month of diligently consuming no more than 1000 cal/day.  If this is the case, then this person is in energy balance at this level.  If this person now eats 2000 cal/day they are overeating.  Their metabolism might get a little boost from the additional calories so that they are not quite the full 1000 cal/day in surplus, but in reality they're likely gaining 2 lbs/week.  After a month, this person has gained 8 lbs.  Oh .... and I forgot the exercise stopped, but the metabolism revved up.  Uh huh.  Conventional wisdom says this person has gained roughly 10 lbs in a month.

What these folks with magic metabolisms would have you believe is that not only did they not gain weight, they actually now lost weight at phenomenal clips.  Any plausible increase in TDEE would be less than 500 cal/day (even Eades made up ~300 cal/day, and Feinman &  Fine's calculations are in the 100-150 cal/day range), but let's presume this person has such a magic metabolism that their change in diet does indeed increase their metabolic rate by 500 cal/day.  In that scenario, their weight stable intake would be 1500 cal/day, and they would still be in caloric surplus eating 2000 cal/day, and they would put on around 4 lbs in a month.  To lose just 8 lbs of fat in a month (let's say 15 total pounds, a much slower pace than claimed by many) when a person changes from their SAD to VLC their TDEE would need to increase to 3000 cal/day.  In other words, it would have to triple to achieve modest weight loss.   This, folks, is utter fantasy, even moreso when one takes into account a modest 250 cal/day average exercise expenditure they are no longer undertaking.  When that's factored in, the person's true basal metabolism of 750 cal/day would have to quadruple!!  Unless the person is not assimilating significant amounts of their ingested calories, this person is a. lying, b. deluded, c. sleep-eating or d. all of the above.  

The truth is that when they put so-called "diet resistant" in a situation where they can only consume their supposed weight maintenance calories and verify activity, they lose weight.  Always.  When you overfeed people, they gain weight -- perhaps not exactly as predicted, but they never lose weight.  But what about all those damaged metabolisms out there riddled with insulin resistance?  I was remembering this post of mine from roughly a year ago:  Does Metabolic Syndrome Hamper Weight Loss?.  The study in question looked at weight loss on a standard low fat diet in IR and non-IR obese women.  Guess who lost more weight in 3 months?  And not only that, those with the worst HOMA-IR (a model for assessing insulin resistance) lost the most weight.

So ... here's my challenge:  Find me my black swan.  Any weight loss study (and there are plenty to choose from including "real" honest to God low carb diets) where the REE/RMR/BMR (resting metabolism) of the participants was not lower following weight loss.  Find me one participant where even self-reported intake increased and weight was lost.  Find me one person overfed who did not gain weight (where excreted nutrients are also accounted for).  Surely you can write to the investigators of low carb studies since you believe these things happen.  Surely Westman, Volek or Phinney would not want to cover up such a magical metabolic feat!!  No ... they'd be shouting it from the rooftops.  Find me the black swan who was put on a 1000 cal/day diet in a metabolic ward yet failed to lose weight.  Surely if your experience is real, and we hear these stories from quite a few so there are others like you apparently, there must have been one or two like you who made their way into one of these weight loss studies.  That's all you need.  One.

To those who insist CICO doesn't pertain to them, that because they lost weight successfully eating LC, Taubes is right with his carbs make you fat revolutionary thinking, I say it is anecdotes of the nature you offer that contribute to undermining LC.  This will only keep the "fad" part of the lifestyle alive.  If you want to be taken seriously, then don't treat others like idiots and expect them to believe you have some sort of magical metabolism that defies the laws of physics and common sense.   


Thomas said…
One of the problems with the LC theories out there is that it directs people away from the real problem. I'm sure you saw this, but a certain person over at Stephen's blog posted that her sister gained 10 lbs in 3 mo. while consuming 1200 cal./day and walking 4-5 miles per day. Now, I don't doubt that this person believes this, but her belief is based in a faulty paradigm of why we gain weight, promoted throughout LC circles (and slowly dying it seems). Her main point was that despite her sister's attempt to control CICO, she still gained weight and became diabetic, so there must be some kind of dietary or metabolic fault independent of calories CICO that dominate the ability to lose weight. The truth is likely her sister consumed 2-3 times this much in calories and under reported. But this view goes against the "it's not your fault" claim prominent in LC circles. It's too bad, because once people come to the light that CICO does matter, there are many things, even tricks, that can make this process easier.
Kent said…
Sorry my experience was documented in a study format, but if you want to doubt my story or the legitimacy of my claims of being on a strict 1500 Calorie diet not losing weight and losing weight when I ate dramatically more (3000-4000 Calories per day), I can't help you. My experience was just that my experience. I documented it at the time with amounts of food I was eating and what I did with exercise. So just because science did not document the "black swan" existence and all I can provide is photographs, does not mean they don't exist. Explain it away as faulty recording or self-interested people proving themselves right, but I call it how I went from 429 pounds to 218.
Nigel Kinbrum said…
It is possible to not lose weight, or gain weight while under-eating and over-exercising.

See Why Big Caloric Deficits and Lots of Activity Can Hurt Fat Loss

Hypercortisolaemia also raises Blood Glucose, which can make someone look diabetic.
Quarrel said…
Wow, Evelyn, I'm not sure if you're trolling or not :)

You're totally going to get 20 accounts of people who have met your criteria in their mind (but the scientists dont pay attention to the right thing, don't you know???!), and no actual responses on point about metabolic ward studies etc.

That said, I'm not sure that a higher BMR study doesn't/can't exist- I'm just not sure it'd be all that damning. So I can feed people lower calories while pumping them full of amphetimines, I'm still not convinced it means we throw out CICO.

Best argument against CICO is the 2nd law of thermodynamics argument of Feinman & Fine - but it's about as useful as Taubes arguing that the 1st doesn't apply ... Wow, we don't get to convert macro's for free.. Now what?

As a Science_y type I enjoyed them arguing it, but meh..

It's a bit like Lustig in his piece recently at:

He has this wonderful analogy about following someone around injecting them with insulin. It's all very convincing if you've just read GCBC and bought into it all. But, well, what about the realities of it all? What if NEFA release isn't impaired in obese people (as you've noted many a time) - then his analogy isn't worth a damn etc etc.

I think that Taubes etc have sold lots of books on the basis of having a good analogy that people can relate to- it doesn't matter (to the person there, in the moment) if it's right or wrong. They can relate to it. You & Stephan introduce intricacies & inconvenient facts and don't claim to have all the answers, so you must be wrong.

That and LC *WORKS* for many people in the first instance, and that is POWERFUL. It worked for me, and will work for many more. The fact that the whole GCBC diatribe that we read was mostly wrong obfuscationist crap doesn't matter to most people, cause they'll never read any more about the topic. Never mind that it might work because of FR or some other unexplained mechanism (in my own case I'm very happy to believe its FR now).

Anyway, I appreciate the effort, but as you already know, this post isn't going to produce results :)

CarbSane said…
@Kent, Did you weigh and measure your LC foods? I think a lot of LC'ers drastically overestimate the caloric intake especially on their first attempt after decades of calorie counting and assuming certain foods contain so many calories. Take bacon and eggs. Three eggs = 210-250 cal depending on size, 4 slices bacon? Another 2-300 cals depending on size and how you like it cooked. So 4-500 calories for a big meal (loaded with appetite sating protein) that many would estimate contains far more. I'm sorry, but 3-4000 cal/day is a lot of food, even high fat food. If you can eat that much and lose weight you have a serious fat malabsorption issue. In met ward studies they control intake, they measure metabolic rate, they look at excreted nutrients.

Do you think no "Kents" ever made it into a metabolic ward study, or even into one of these diet comparison studies?
Thomas said…
Sorry, self reported accounts don't count. They are very unreliable when it comes to accuracy. Since most people seem to absolutely hate the idea of counting calories (especially in LC circles) how can we trust all the LC claims of self reported calorie intake when it comes to weight gain or loss (most people don't even know that calories reported on a package/can label are per serving and not per package/can). "Take my word for it" doesn't count. A totally controlled study (as in a metabolic ward study) does count. I'll keep my mind open about the occasional person being able to lose weight based on macro ratio alone, but not based on self reported info-no way.
RichieRich said…

Below is an n=1 but one which I found intriguing when I read it and one that's been kind of bugging me since. Love to know what you think. It was posted by Dave Asprey on Stephan's The Carbohydrate Hypothesis of Obesity: a Critical Examination.

Dave Asprey said...

Great thinking!

But no matter how many papers it cites, it's easy to verify by using yourself as a guinea pig.

Case in point: me. (I run an anti-aging nonprofit and have my first nutrition book being published by Wiley soon.) 15 years ago, I weighed 300lbs. 210 is ideal for my height.

In an experiment, I ate 4500 calories per day of this diet (which evolved over time based on > 1,000 references and lots of anti-aging researchers...) that consisted of 60% plus calories from mostly saturated fats. I also stopped sleeping more than 5 hours a night. And I stopped exercising. For two years.

The results? I'm leaner and more muscular now. Blood chemistry is awesome...triglycerides are 47. I eat a stick of grass-fed butter every day. I drink coffee with 80 grams of butter in it for breakfast. My brain and body work better now, and I measure those too.

If everything in Steven's analysis was true, I'd weigh something like 500 lbs or be dead, yet every measure I can find says I'm better than I was - lower cortisol, better ANS function than people my age in 24 hour heart monitoring, everything.

2 weeks ago I added more carbs to my diet - mostly rice and sweet potatoes, no grain at all - and now I'm 5 lbs heavier, and it's around my middle.

Another MAJOR criticism of both Taubes and Guyunet is that they ignore the very strong role that mycotoxins and xenoestrogens play in obesity in their research. I'm still trying to get Gary (a friend I owe a great debt of gratitude to) to try my low mycotoxin, high sat fat Bulletproof Diet...

My blog is and my upcoming book is

Thanks again Steven for this post. The world needs more thinkers like you!
August 19, 2011 2:15 AM
Thomas said…
@Nigel-I highly doubt this holds up over the long term-cortisol based weight gain with low cal, high activity (lets say years). The body's starvation defense mechanisms will eventually take it all-protein included. I don't think this is really that relevant to this discussion, however. It is true, though, that fat loss gets tougher as one gets leaner.

I do have a question (for anyone)that may be silly, but here it goes:

based on a week's time frame, can one still lose as much (if not more) fat when there is a high intake period (maybe one day or half a day-or even one meal) that brings the weeks total up to maintenance, although the the rest of the days were still well below maintenance?

For example:
total weekly expenditure: 17,500 cal. (2500/day)
intake over 6 days: 12000 cal. (2000/day)
intake on 7th day: 5500, or 5500+

I asked James Kreiger about this and he didn't see any scientific evidence of leptin up-regulation that some talk about with periodic re-feeds. Others say that occasional high cal/carb meals/days help keep leptin higher and fat loss going. It may be that much of the carb intake goes to glycogen and less used for fuel thus diminishing its limitation of fat loss. I don't know. Anyone have any ideas on this? I want to feel better about my upcoming Thanksgiving pig-out (I do this every year and never gain-other than some glycogen and water weight that comes right off in days.
Swede said…
(from above comment by Thomas-

Sounds like a wannabe Tim Ferris. "Spent 15 years and $250,000 to hack his own biology."

Notice how it says he presented at the "University of California."

Was it UCLA or Berkeley? Or Riverside?
Thomas said…
The example of Dave Asprey (provided by Richie Rich) is a good example of a "not of this world metabolism" that I find simply hard to believe, or at least not relevant to most people. Yes, he may have lost some weight initially on 4500 cal/day (that's 15 cal/lb of body weight, but to maintain body weight on 21 cal/lb of body weight with no physical exercise (this is assuming he didn't actually decrease his intake over time, that he is 210 lbs, and that he isn't doing some other continuous high energy output activity that he doesn't consider exercise) is possible (I suppose) but unlikely for the average Joe. Even still, it's unlikely due to his macro ratios and more likely due to other mechanisms related to energy output (like NEAT). I dare anyone to try and lose significant weight on 15-21 cal/lb of body weight (especially increasing the calories/lb as the weight comes down). Most will fail miserably, regardless of the macro ratios.
rodeo said…
Thomas, regarding thanksgiving:

Good luck with the pig-out :-)
Amy said…
On Science Daily there is an article up today on Enzyme Reducing Weight Gain in Mice. It's interesting because the mice that had this enzyme had lower sugar levels.
Galina L. said…
Just a little bit more of another anecdotal evidence. After I lost 20 lb on LC and went on a 2 years plateau, I had a foot surgery. I was scared that I would gain all lost fat, so I cut carbs even more, but also I slept as much, as I wanted, and as a result managed to move from that plateau, it was a suprise. I think my experience is related to Nigel's comment.(Hello, Nigel, nice to have you back!). The weight loss could be explained by either lowering carbs or the eliminating of a sleep deprivation. My point is - there are other factors that may be influencing a weight loss or a weight gain besides calories. After years of dieting, I can tell there is no one single universal magic bullet, but by looking what works for other people and experimenting, one can get an idea what to try next. Most solutions work to a degree, and the combination of several solutions tailored to ones personal case works better than just following one single approach. It is my main problem with counting calories - it is not universally effective and complicates life too much.Besides, it stopped working for me after I turned 45 yo. LC is not universally effective as well, but at least counting carbs accurately is more realistic that counting calls-in-calls-out, and hunger is not an issue for most, so life is easier. Who cares if someone manages to pig-out on LC and loose weight, if it is not a universal experience? So far the only universal advice that could be given anyone for health - eliminate wheat and all refine carbs, don't live a sedentary life. Not sure about smoking because Kitovans smoke.
Thomas said…
@rodeo-thanks! I did read that one already. I have several of Lyle's books and trust his advice overall.

@Galina-Agreed. There are many variables involved in weight loss. I just happen to feel that reducing intake below expenditure happens to be the most important (followed by nutrition and finally hormones)-if intake is above expenditure for a significant amount of time, fat weight will be gained without fail, all other things being equal. If intake increases and fat is lost, there is an increase somewhere in expenditure over and above the increased intake. In other words, those calories were used for something. This could be for energy production or for raw materials to make stuff (muscles, organ and other tissue, enzymes, whatever). This expenditure isn't always in voluntary exercise and for those who lose weight easily, is likely less due to exercise than involuntary movement increases (NEAT). These are the lucky ones. Anyway, no matter how burdensome it is to count calories, CICO still works-every time. And by the way, once you've done it for a while, counting calories is really not that difficult, certainly no less than counting carbs.
Anonymous said…
Kent wrote;
'I documented it at the time with amounts of food I was eating and what I did with exercise. So just because science did not document the "black swan" existence and all I can provide is photographs, does not mean they don't exist.'

I'm guessing that Kent reported this to his doctor. His doctor presented this at a conference and there was a Power Point presentation. Then all was verified by replication of Kent's diet and there is a book in the works. I look forward to reading it!
Tonus said…
'Just because I can't prove it doesn't mean it didn't happen' leaves us at square one. What is the old saying about extraordinary claims?

If Kent did manage, somehow, to gain weight on a 1000-1500 cal/day diet and then lose weight on a 3000-4000 cal/day diet, then is it safe to assume that he is currently maintaining his weight on 3000 to 4000 cal/day? If so, why not have a doctor or researcher verify it? Kent either has an amazing (or badly malfunctioning) metabolism, or he has stumbled upon some amazingly good and bad food/nutrient choices that could help lots of people in their search for better health and longer/better lives.

Anecdotes are a dime a dozen. Heck, they're much cheaper these days when anyone can post an anonymous testimonial on the web. With an opportunity to share an incredible discovery with the world, one wonders why we can't get more out of people like Kent than 'well, I did it, and if you don't believe me, too bad.'
Muata said…
This whole "magic metabolisms" talk reminds me of a story my mechanic once told me. He said that his mother-in-law, who was a Holocaust survivor, was usually the nicest old lady you'd meet until someone would mention around her that they just could not lose weight. He said she would look sternly at the person and say, "There were no fat people in the concentration camps. You simply eat too much food!" Over the years, her words have stayed with me .....
Unknown said…
I'd put myself in the column that my daily calories have decreased because I'm so satisfied on the ancestral diet. I lose weight when I count calories but become certifiably insane with cravings. I'm losing now without counting because my appetite is so calm--but when I do a quick mental count, I realize I'm eating significantly fewer calories than I did before.
M & M said…
Much depends on the type of fuel. Then 1500-1700 kcal diet is enough
Depending on the type of combustion of component, the same amount of oxygen might give more calories or less. The body burns only carbon and hydrogen.
One gram of carbon when burned gives 7.87 kcal and one gram of hydrogen 34.3 Kcal. Hydrogen is therefore much better fuel than coal

. The saturated fatty acids with the longest chain of 1 carbon atom 2 hydrogen atoms fall. In the unsaturated hydrogen is the less they are more unsaturated. The amino acid - Choline, as well as ketone bodies account for more hydrogen to a carbon atom than the fatty acids.
A gramoatom coal weighs 12 g. 1 gramoatom hydrogen weighs just over 1 g. gram molecule of methane is therefore weighs 16 grams.
1 g of coal, when burned with oxygen gives 7.87 2.7 kcal.
1 gram of hydrogen burned with 8 g of oxygen gives 34.3 kcal.
Thus, 12 g of coal burned with 32.4 g of oxygen provides 94 calories, mostly heat.
A 4 grams of hydrogen burned with 32 g of oxygen provides 137 calories, especially energy "electricity".
A total of one gram molecule of methane weighs 16 grams after burning gives 231 kcal.
A 1 g of methane gas after combustion gives 14.44 kcal.

The amino acid choline, containing 3 CH 3 group, formerly called factor against stłuszczeniu liver is also an excellent fuel, better than the free fatty acids and is found in highest concentration in these products exactly where it is most ATP and other phosphorus compounds active.
Sue said…
I thought of Lyn Marie Daye's post when reading this:

"Like me, I’m sure you’ve read some version of the above belief a few times before – that is, the idea that all excess calories from fat and protein are dispelled from the body as heat when one is on a low carbohydrate diet. But as you can see from the theoretical elephant, creating heat is not always a good thing. Heat generated internally will raise core body temperature unless it is dissipated via the body’s surface area into the external surroundings."

"Thyroid hormone is the primary regulator of thermogenesis; if the body wants to burn off excess calories, it must produce and release more thyroid hormone. Too much thyroid hormone can have deleterious effects on health including coma and death. According to Hirsch and Van Itallie, problems with severe hyperthyroidism begin when one's BMR increases above 50% of normal. It appears some (lucky?) individuals can rev up their metabolisms to that point before they start storing fat. Most of us however cannot and maybe that's not such a bad thing after all."
Tonus said…
@Galina L. "The weight loss could be explained by either lowering carbs or the eliminating of a sleep deprivation."

Another possibility is that a sudden shift in your eating habits helped as well. I am of the belief that changing your diet can force your body to adapt and that it can lead to quick short-term weight loss. The downside is that you may regain the lost weight if you return to your normal eating habits and the body 're-adapts.'
Galina L. said…
Tonus, I definitely agree about that "sadden change in eating habits" must be a huge factor. There are some stories that drive me crazy too, like somebody is annoyed by Kent example, about a couch-potato, who suddenly decided to be healthy, started to walk around the block for 30 min,began to eat fruits and veggies, replaced regular coke with the diet one, then quickly lost 50 lb as a result.While I lived a healthy life-style all my life and it doesn't prevent unwonted pounds on my body. Sadden change here is the key. I wonder, is it possible for someone to recreate that wonderful experience, when you go LC after regular diet, probably, low-fat would be even better, and effortlessly losing 20 lb. I think I will try such experiment in a future.

Probably, if you pre-screen participants, the group who never try to diet LC-style, preferably males, will loose the most weight, compare with seasoned LCarbers.
Anonymous said…
Maybe (once again), gut microbiota (although results in the study below were HIGHLY variable):

"...20% increase in Firmicutes and a corresponding decrease in Bacteroidetes were associated with an increased energy harvest of ≈150 kcal."

One weakness its the lack of correlation in obese subjects, which can be explained by the degree of overfeeding (and hence, the effect on microbiota structure).
Kent said…
@Kent, Did you weigh and measure your LC foods?

I tracked my foods pretty religiously the first four to five months on Fitday. When you are eating a 16 oz package of sausage or ground beef, it is hard to over or under estimate the amount Calories or carbs you are eating. FYI - a 16 oz package of sausage is ~1500 Calories. That was the majority one meal with some vegetable choice.

>>> If you can eat that much and lose weight you have a serious fat malabsorption issue. In met ward studies they control intake, they measure metabolic rate, they look at excreted nutrients.

That is why it is unfortunate that one can't go back in time. I know what I tracked and the accuracy of what I tracked. I fully realize that I will never be able to convince you otherwise or the accuracy of my weight loss experience will never meet scientific standards, but dismissal of my reality is only at the expense of your scientific validity.

>> Do you think no "Kents" ever made it into a metabolic ward study, or even into one of these diet comparison studies

I think those that enter metabolic ward studies are often not the ones who achieve long term success and often treat the study as externally-generated or motivated factors. How many 100 or 200 pound losers success stories are found in metabolic ward studies?
cwaiand said…

when tracking calories on fitday,how do you account for fat lost during cooking?i think there are huge variables when it comes to the actual caloric amount of what you ingest.
on bodybuilding sites(reputable ones)they tell you to reduce by the old standard of around 500 calories a chech at three weeks.if losing around 4 to 6 lbs then you are on the right track.if gaining or remaining weight stable then cut more.this is one reason i think you need to eat a very consistant diet(i,m talking type and quantities of food here)so when you need to make changes you just adjust amount of food eaten as oppossed to actually trying to track the calories.
my guess is your weight loss was due to unrealistic or flat out wrong calorie lost because you cut calories farther than you realized.

CarbSane said…
@Swede: Well, they don't call it woo woo for nothing 8)

@Lucas: I'm very wary of gut microbiota having much of an influence on energy balance in humans. Health, incretin secretion/signaling, etc. is another story. Do you have a full text? What does "energy harvest" mean exactly? Is it good or bad bacteria that get more from otherwise unusable energy. At the end of the day, even if we're talking this amount, I don't know how going low carb changes energy balance by thousands of calories.

@Kent: Do you still eat a pound of sausage for a meal?

I've no clue what is going on with you, but it is beyond belief that you can eat 1500 cal for one meal on LC and lose 200 lbs, but when you were over 400 lbs you didn't lose weight on 1500 cal/day. This is the stuff of pure fantasy. Even Jimmy Moore lost 170 lbs in 9 months on a low fat diet in 1999. The subjects for metabolic ward studies are recruited from the general population ... sometimes specifically looking for the "diet resistant". The story is always the same: Metabolic rate goes down as weight is lost, and you cut someone's caloric intake in half (a la Biggest Loser) and lo and behold, the pounds come off. I can't imagine that in all this time, nobody like you has found themselves in such a study, or even a free living study where metabolic rate was measured and intake reported. Surely this would have gotten the attention of the investigators! I think it's wonderful that you were able to lose the weight and I hope that LC was a way to reduce intake and not due to a serious fat malabsorption problem.

@Sue: Nice Find ... I hope to get the time to edit in some additional math ;)

@All: Not trolling or even being all that serious here. Mostly I plan to link to this post every time I hear the "well I couldn't lose weight on 1000 cal/day but then I went low carb and lost 100 lbs eating 3000 cal/day"
CarbSane said…
@M&M: The Atwater calorie factors were determined for bioavailable energy in humans. Carbs, fats, ketones, amino acids all go into Krebs at some point and thus essentially the same metabolic pathways. And the mass yielded on combustion? Umm ... we exhale CO2. I just don't get what you're getting at. Theoretical calculations? In studies they can measure metabolic rate. Where are all these supermetabolisms?

@Nige: I'm with Thomas here. Yes, hormones can alter parts of the equation, but for the long haul ultimately, as in Muata's example, compensation cannot trump the deficit.

Look gang, our metabolic rates can vary -- it's why I think pretty much all of the calculators are worth nothing. I would love to get my RMR measured so I know what I'm working with. Another way would be some diligent tracking for like a month, but right now that's just not a high priority item on my list.
Swede said…
This post reminds me of an informercial that was frequently on in the early part of the 2000s. It had Steve Garvey in it and was for for some type of pill (I can't remember the name. Fat Trapper?) that trapped the calories from what you ate and allowed you to eat whatever you wanted without gaining any weight. It showed buff guys and bikini models along side piles of hamburgers, fries, huge sandwiches, desserts, etc... Of course, they ran afoul of the FTC and the product was removed from commerce.
Frank said…
Actually, Evelyn, there are individual wich metabolism increases while loosing weight, at least in the short term. See this study and look at the individual results.

But that is not in any way an exscuse for the magic metabolism of LC folks...
Muata said…
@Swede - Oh yeah, I remember those commercials. It was for the "fat trapper" and their other product, which I thought was classic, "exercise in a bottle"! LOL!
CarbSane said…
This is interesting Frank, thanks! I hope I can get a hold of the full text. Every study I'd seen to date seemed to indicate lowering RMR was inevitable (even with exercise, TDEE stayed higher and RMR may be depressed somewhat less in some studies).

OK ... So I'll change the challenge: I'll spot the low carbers a 500 cal/day advantage. If they don't lose on 1500 cal/day HC, they will lose a pound a week on 1500 cal/day LC ;-)
M & M said…
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Until research can be classified by any person who uses at least one year Optimum Nutrition and is in good health (ie no diagnosed diabetes, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, thyroid disease or other chronic diseases). The results will benefit not only you, will also contribute to the spread of knowledge about diet Kwasniewski, because they constitute the basis for a dissertation that is entirely devoted to optimum Nutrition. During the tests we guarantee a friendly atmosphere in a nice group of young scientists. Schedule R is as follows:
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short rest
measurement of resting metabolic rate (amount of intake analysis of oxygen and exhaled carbon dioxide in air samples)
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within 2 hours of the test procedure: every 30 minutes. - Collection of blood and every 10 min. analysis of respiratory gases (for 5 min.)
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Marta Steczkowska
Department of Applied Physiology, Institute of Experimental and Clinical Medicine them. M. Mossakowskiego Academy of Sciences in Warsaw."

I know a person who eats 60g of protein, 120 g fat and 30 grams of carbohydrates. Weight 85kg, height 185cm. His body's energy efficiency is very high! If mainly the yolk 10 szt. (day), lard and pork bone broth, and a little pig meat (pork,shoulder ect),offal
Anonymous said…

Energy harvest refers to the capacity of gut bacteria to increase calorie absorption. It is measured as calories lost in stool (in this study, bomb calorimetry). In most studies, an increase in Firmicutes and a decrease in Bacteroidetes is correlated with obesity. In this study, a 20% increase in Firmicutes caused by overfeeding produced an estimated increase in calorie absorption by 150kcal.

Some studies have got evidence against the high Firmicutes/Low Bacteroidetes hypothesis. This underscores the complexity in the microbial structure and the exact components which influence weight loss/gain. A very well defined of fat gain mechanism related to the gut microbiota is supression of FIAF.

You say: "Health, incretin secretion/signaling, etc. is another story."

It doesnt exclude the role of gut microbiota. The more that I read, the more confident I get in that the human microbiota is the key player in disease. Gut microbiota influences all the relevant system/pathways for, in this case, obesity. Dysbiosis started early in life, coupled to a very inflammatory diet which exacerbates an aberrant bacterial composition, plus reduced exposure to normal microorganisms creates a defective immune system. If you add the effect of a high sugar/high hydrogenated fat diet over the years ("direct" physiological effects, such as leptin resistance, ChREBP activation, etc.) the pro-inflammatory phenotype is potentiated. Inflammation and obesity are coupled (cause the former, effect the latter), and the microbiota controls inflammation.

PD. I will send you the full text to your e-mail.
Anonymous said…
Kent, I have to post my competing anecdata on the sausage. My experience is that no matter the meat source, cooked sausage is generally closer to 50-60 cals/oz than the 85-100 cals/oz commonly listed on packaged sausage. I got better results in maintaining some consistency of intake by assuming the lower number. 'Highballing' on sausage left me not getting enough calories when I really needed to be pretty sure my intake was high enough (breastfeeding, needed about 2500 cals a day on average to not lose weight).

I found out the hard way that eating 20-24oz (up to 1.5lb) of sausage was nowhere near 1700-2400 calories on its own.

My husband and I did not find cheese to have this measurement problem. 100 cals/oz of cheese on the package is generally pretty correct. So I ate about 5oz of cheese per meal in addition to the other food in the meal (usually meat/eggs, a veggie and sometimes potato as well) to get the average per day to the right place. It was still very hard to do and ultimately my weight did settle out lower than before I had my first baby (currently pregnant and breastfeeding now, food is again a challenge).

Edit: word verification is 'thind'. Hah!
John said…

"...(where excreted nutrients are also accounted for)"

I've never looked into this much, but this is something to consider in "magic" situations, and it often isn't looked it. I mentioned Natsuko Sone's 5000cal claim a fews days ago, but she also says she craps 6 times per day (Ramajit Raghav doesn't mention his bowel movements). My roommate and I have been keeping count of calorie intake lately: he does about 4000, and I do about 4500 (he is 5'11, 165, and I am 5'9, 175, both of us with very low body fat). He eats high carb, and I eat high fat (usually).

I told you in my comment that I didn't necessary think insulin has a significant effect on BMR, but there is no denial that some people can consume drastically different calorie numbers with different outcomes in bodyfat. I have had single digit bodyfat my entire life while consuming enormous amounts of cereal, milk, soda, ice cream, candies, etc (and this was in addition to family breakfast, lunch, dinner).

Whether it's heat, excretion, etc, it happens--this is why focusing on calorie intake per se is pointless or at least incomplete.
Thomas said…
@John-you are one of the lucky ones (I am too, to an extent). Focusing on calories for you seems to be pointless, at least for now, which is a very nice situation to be in. You CO situation is very primed and apparently meets the demands of your CI. Others, however, do not regulate as well and for them, counting calories is not pointless at all, but necessary (OK, maybe not counting calories but at least being very aware of intake-whether this be in the form of calories, points, carbs, whatever). Really, being able to maintain single digit body fat while eating 4500 calories a day is a total blessing and not, as far as I can tell, common (that's roughly 25 cal/lb-jeesh).
John said…

I do work out, but it's short sprints or weightlifting--sometimes pickup basketball or tennis. I eat two or three meals, usually very high fat. Every few days I eat lots of sweet potatoes or bananas after a glycogen intensive workout. I don't mean that calorie counting is pointless for those people to lose weight, but it should be, and it should be only a minor part in a having a proper understanding of obesity; otherwise, I and others would be obese. What is going on that makes it effortless?
Anonymous said…
Harry said…

I notice that your stats are 5'9 @ 175 pounds, with single digit bodyfat.

As a trainer who's looked after a number of bodybuilders, I can tell you that these numbers are quite impressive. In fact, they are pretty typical of a very well-muscled bodybuilder about 6 weeks out of competition (assuming the 'single digit' bodyfat means something in the 8-9% range).

Is this correct? Are you a competitive bodybuilder?

If not, where did all that muscle hypertrophy come from? Are you on hormone replacement therapy? If so, this may explain your relatively low body fat at your weight (as testosterone's effects on nutrient partitioning are well known; it preferentially up-regulates protein synthesis and down-regulates lipogenesis). Are there any other pharmaceuticals that influence metabolism that you are being treated with (e.g. thyroxin, human growth hormone, amphetamines etc.)?

I don't mean to imply that you're being dishonest, but I think people should get a full account when you use your own body as an exemplar to support your extraordinary claims (i.e. that you can eat 25 cals/lb and be lean).

If you're not a bodybuilder, may I suggest that you take it up? I've been training for over 20 years to look as good as I do now, and I'm 5'9 @ 168 lbs @ approx 8% bf (see avatar). I consume about 2200 calories/day to maintain this state. These results are fairly typical of the natural bodybuilders I have trained and trained with. If you can achieve similar results eating more than twice as much food, you really are a metabolic freak.

Anonymous said…
For perspective here, a 12 egg omelette with 4oz butter and 4oz cheese is maybe 1600 cals.

I think it does boil down to misunderestimation, mostly.
Galina L. said…
Hm, looks like I am eating a restricted calories diet most days, with 2 eggs + 2 Tbs of butter for breakfast, and hand-sized meat+ veggies or soup for dinner with some beef fat, there is also a green tea with coconut oil. I am opposite to John, obviously, because I just maintain my weight without being hungry. People are different. My experience proves nothing and pretty much useless for anybody else.
Frank said…

As Harry, i'm a little bit curious of your claim, especially knowing how much food 4000 kcal is. Do you drink down olive oil? I'm trying to pack muscle on a bit since a few months and I can barely eat my 2500 kcals a day, way too much food, and still, as by indirect calorimetry, my RMR is 1800 kcals.

4000 kcal is a lot! That's what heavy pro bodybuilder eat (and not always that much) - so we're talking about a 220-230 lbs heavily muscular man with a high volume training.

In light of your stats, that would mean that your body as found as way to waste around 1 800 kcals a day. The highest value for NEAT that I have seen were around 700-900 kcals. I'm curious by what unknown phenomenom you would be able to waste another 1000-1100.


Btw, could you get the paper? I can send it to you otherwise.
John said…

I do short sprints (60, 100m) now, but I used to be more into powerlifting and weightlifting; I've trained with Joe McCauliffe and Tony Conyers. Also, when I lifted more, I was about 185-188, but I used Epistane, if you consider that unnatural or whatever. My roommate, who plays tennis, is incredibly ripped (like Martin Berkhan) at 5'11/6' and low 160s--he looks more like a sprinter than a tennis player. I know a few people who eat similar to me, my roommate being one. That's actually how we became friends in the first place: in college, nobody else would want to go out to eat as often--now I eat less frequently but more, and my choices are better.


Yea, I can eat 3 of those if I wanted. If I could get some kind of compensation, I would tape myself doing so every day along with stepping on a scale and pictures.


...2500? Fill up a cup with 1/2 coffee and 1/2 heavy cream. I drink it with my lunch, though I use only 1/3 cream.

A meal for me would be 12 eggs with slices of butter that I scatter around (I don't like that much PUFA though). Sometimes I add parmesan cheese, and sometimes I eat 18 or 24. I also eat a lot of full fat Fage, and I'll mix the 15oz containers with lots of cacao powder. I make po cha and coffee, so I'm drinking lots of cream and butter. I don't really eat that much steak, maybe once or twice per week--same with fish. I make stock and add extra geltain and butter to it. Every few days I eat a meal that includes about 5-6lbs of sweet potatoes with butter or cream (there's no conscious reason I do this other than just feeling like it).

Herschel Walker claims he eat a little soup and salad each day, yet he maintains weight.

NEAT doesn't have to explain the difference; did you see my comment above about Natsuko Sone?
Anonymous said…
Ok, so you don't eat that much every day, and a lot of your excess calories are cream and butter, which are not terribly well absorbed for many people. Plus, of course, you exercise intensively. I don't know if the epistane has residual effects.

Also, if you really think you just poop most of it out, it's weird that you'd want to be camped out in the restroom that much.

I also think measuring calories is not useful beyond a general estimate. It's easier to just eat smaller and smaller portions, or do a little IF, or switch out obvious high calorie choies for low ones if one isn't seeing results. Or of course, increase activity. Or both.
John said…

I'm not trying to argue over what I eat and what's being absorbed by me specifically. My point was that it shouldn't be necessary to ever have to restrict calories, so any research focus on calorie intake per se is wasteful and will lead only to poor science and incomplete or incorrect hypotheses. Of course restricting calories works--eating only eggs, only potatoes, w/e...who cares? That's extremely obvious and tells us nothing about obesity/fat storage. Why do some people maintain leanness while others don't?...After we gather enough information about what's happening, maybe we can effect those differences with food & lifestyle; if not, then other interventions are needed, perhaps calorie restriction. But that doesn't mean calorie intake per se tells us anything from the start--I don't get how more people don't recognize that.
Sue said…
12 eggs seems quite wasteful particularly if you're going to poop most of it out.
So epistane is a anabolic steroid which is banned now. I was listening to a podcast show (can't remember his name)he talked about these types of products that get banned and others come out in their place.
Harry said…

Your larger point ("it shouldn't be necessary to ever have to restrict calories") is being supported by your extraordinary personal anecdote (paraphrased as 'I can eat twice as much as other people of similar body composition and exercise habits').

The fact is, your story is completely anomalous compared to sedentary people, bodybuilders, athletes...whoever. And you are trying to use this anomalous (and unverified) story as evidence for the veracity of your hypothesis (i.e. the focus on calorie intake is "poor science").

The vast bulk of the metabolic ward trials and the well controlled diet studies show that a focus on calories (as opposed to macronutrients, single foods) is precisely what explains body weight flux.

And, there are plenty of good reasons as to why people are taking in more calories (see obesogenic environment hypothesis) and as to how they can reduce this (see food reward, see NWCR).

We already know what's happening (people are eating more and moving less) and we already know why they are doing so (it's not gluttony and sloth; it's the perfect storm of cheap, ubiquitous, hyper-palatable food combined with the genetic drive to eat to excess in times of plenty combined with the break-down of social barriers to overeating/the acceptance of eating as entertainment combined etc.). In other words, it's a wicked problem; multifactorial, complex and immense.

But the solutions, whatever forms they may take, must include obese people reducing their current calorie, increasing their energy expenditure, or both.

That's not a useless tautology. It's a guiding principle that can usefully inform the design of all our individual and social obesity interventions.

CarbSane said…

Re: My point was that it shouldn't be necessary to ever have to restrict calories, so any research focus on calorie intake per se is wasteful and will lead only to poor science and incomplete or incorrect hypotheses. Of course restricting calories works--eating only eggs, only potatoes, w/e...who cares? That's extremely obvious and tells us nothing about obesity/fat storage. Why do some people maintain leanness while others don't?...After we gather enough information about what's happening, maybe we can effect those differences with food & lifestyle; if not, then other interventions are needed, perhaps calorie restriction. But that doesn't mean calorie intake per se tells us anything from the start--I don't get how more people don't recognize that.

I'm going to channel Sanjeev who has made a similar point here a while back. What should an obese person do then? Sit around and wait for someone to figure out why John eats 3000 cal/day and stays lean while Jane eats 2500 cal/day and gets fat? We know the answer to that already -- LOTS of factors go into a person's metabolic rate and total energy expenditure. It would be nice if your kid starts to chub up that a panel of genetic/metabolic tests could be run to identify if there's an underlying problem or if it is just the environment/foods/etc. But -- to be blunt -- I really don't care why you can eat as you claim (that's a LOT of food) and stay lean while I'd be 300 lbs again in short order. That is not "useful" for me. So ... what Harry said! Or I suppose I could just sit around and keep hoping my subconscious homeostasis will eventually "kick in" .

Personally, I suppose it's great for you that you can eat that much if you enjoy doing so, but it doesn't sound like you have a very efficient digestive system or metabolism.

It's also important to keep in mind that what might prevent obesity in the first place doesn't work to reverse established obesity ... and perhaps vice versa.
CarbSane said…
@paleotwopointoh: You are so right about the undercounting. Most LC'ers are refugees from years of low fat calorie counting and think that bacon has like 200 calories a slice and such.
John said…

"It's also important to keep in mind that what might prevent obesity in the first place doesn't work to reverse established obesity ... and perhaps vice versa."

Yes, I think this is very important to consider--I said that it's very possible that interventions like conscious calorie restriction may be necessary for people who have become obese. And I said that learning about people who stay lean indirectly tells us about obesity for possible treatment interventions. Why would that research not be of use to you? Of course me simply telling you doesn't help, which is why we study different types of people. Do you think it's better to just keep compiling lists of tricks to reduce calorie intake without any further knowledge or understanding?...You can't be arrogant enough to think you already know all there is to know.
Dave Asprey said…
University of California Santa Cruz. For 5 years I ran a program focusing on understanding and troubleshooting complex systems. You know, hacking. The same techniques I use on my metabolism, looking at the body as a system not as a colletion of discrete elements. We are not coal-burning robots.