Calories vs content - who will win battle?


A topic of hot debate has recently emerged on the blog following the whole ‘calories are not calories’ discussion we have had as a result of my last blog ‘You are not a steam engine’, based on the premise that we are talking about optimising body composition. That log can be found here.

Most recently the debate was re-sparked by various posts ‘you cannot lose fat unless in a caloric deficit’ – whilst on the whole, most of the argument comes from people nit-picking sentence structure and claims (demanding perfection and all that) there are still – all things understood, some people who firmly sit on either side of the fence on the issue.

“What’s my stance?” you ask?

Do I look like I have a target painted on my back? I’m sitting on the fence for this one and keeping my cards to my chest. But what I WILL do is cover a few elements of the points raised and eventually, get to the thought seed from my mind that this whole blog spiralled out from.

At Body Type Nutrition, as well as any other good coaching company, we look at clients on an individual basis. I personally love fasting, it works well for me, but I have plenty of clients who I’m not using it with, we have clients who have all sorts of issues that need to be addressed before we even think about the physique goals.

An aspiring bodybuilder with IBS who inflates like a balloon following each meal? We’ve had it, and no way could we treat this guy as a generic, slap him on a diet and see his abs in 6 weeks. It’s just not that simple. In this case it's simply not just about calories.

Most recently, a client got in contact with me regarding how awesome he felt after switching from his previous trainer (a somewhat, rather successful coach) who followed exactly this protocol, to a somewhat aggressive level. He was advised that his protein intake had to be sky high because he would be in a ‘survival mode’ in which catabolism was a problem, he was eating between 6-8 egg whites a morning with oatmeal, doing HIIT 6 days a week (rant inside a rant! – It’s not HIIT if you can do it 6 days in a row, every week, for 8 weeks!), anyway, a quote from his message speaks for itself:

“I did a program by this guy and yes he got me losing body fat, but I had no libido, I was pale, weak, constipated, and over trained. And by this point it was fed up of turkey and eggs!”


So our client (Henceforth referred to as ‘Chubbs’), was assessed, in much the same way we go about with any client, and here was his history…

Chubbs was currently/previously:

An aggressive dieter: very low calories, attempting to get lean, low fat diet, mostly flax oil, by the single digit teaspoon.

Exercise history: training to failure on multiple sets every session.

Other notes: Currently feels like shit and isn’t losing weight anymore, strength gains were just not happening, although he WAS losing some body fat, every time he stalled, his coach was resetting his diet slightly with a carb-reefed, and lowering the intake of food again. – these carb boosts were to ‘trick the body’ into thinking it wasn’t on a diet.


People really don’t give our bodies the credit they deserve, you don’t lose weight through trickery just as your fat friend doesn’t gain weight by looking at popsicles (here’s the secret, (s)he’s a closet binge eater).


You have to work with your body, it WANTS to burn energy , it WANTS to be a machine, running, jumping and climbing, It WANTS to switch off at night and slumber and it WANTS (for all wives of my male clients, its actually really important) noonies.

If you give your body what it needs and when – you can create the environment for optimal health, and, as a result, get the results you desire.

My biggest gripe with calorie restriction is how it is rarely implemented intelligently and often relies heavily on supplementation (Note that I have not stated my stance yet guys!), It also places a large stress on the body, and hormonal function can be strained.

I contrast, if we look at the approach used with Chubbs earlier, his diet intake was now increased (total overall calories), and damnit he needed it.

He started eating GOOD foods and nutrient dense foods.

Egg whites alone are now a crime and we took him to the point where he was recovering and getting terrified of gaining fat.

We also told him to ditch the HIIT all the time and stop training to failure.

For him, this worked. His body was so beaten down it needed a serious break, it needed fuel and recovery and as a result, he still continued to approach his goals visually, whilst functioning awesomely.

Whilst we still have a LOT to work on here, as well as ultimately shredding the client who aspires to step onto the stage, I think we know where his vote would now lie on the Calories vs Content debate…

So what about you?

Have you been stuck in a rut with the diet for a long time and thought reducing calories or upping your cardio was the only way?

Feels really shit when you do that right?

Try a ‘reefed’ and let us know how you get on, but ensure its good quality food you put in your belly. Of course.

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