Unfortunately, this is not that simple a topic. Sure, calories play a role, but making caloric intake the end-all, be-all of weight is way to simplistic and could lead to pitfalls based on the foods you choose to consume.
Using the simple formula calories in= calories out is not the best way to look at making lifestyle changes involving food.
Looking at weight loss with the emphasis strictly on caloric restriction is misguided and overblown today. Calories are measured using a device known as a bomb calorimeter. Essentially what this means is they place a certain food in this device, and it measures Calories. Now, let’s define a Calorie. The Calorie you see on a food package is actually a kilocalorie, or 1,000 calories. A Calorie (kcal) is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius.
In its simplest terms, that is the definition of a Calorie. Now, if we looked at food as simply an input-output exchange, if we eat X amount of calories, you will get X amount of energy. Furthermore, we can extrapolate this idea, and this is where “counting Calories” became more popular. Take this example, using this logic, “If I lowered my daily caloric input from 2200 Cal/day to 1700 Cal/day, I will continue to lose weight.”
Unfortunately, it is not that simple. This theory assumes I can eat any food I want, and I can lose weight and continue to be healthy. In this scenario, 100 Calories from a candy bar is the same as a piece of fruit or a vegetable. That is simply not true. This methodology completely ignores the multitude of hormones in play and the nutrient densities of the foods we eat. It also doesn’t take into account the effects of the gut microbiome and how much of the foods we eat are actually absorbed. These things are much harder to because they are unique to each person and change based on lifestyle, genetic, and epigenetic factors.
Consider this as well: one pound of muscle requires six Calories of energy to sustain itself daily. This energy requirement is three times as demanding as fat (two Calories/day). Therefore, the more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn, which increases your ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Therefore, in an answer to your question, as you build more lean muscle mass (via eating properly, and using a proper workout regimen, sleeping properly, etc.) your metabolism will increase because you have more muscle mass to maintain, even when you are at rest.
When you simply restrict Calories and are not paying attention to what you eat, you will lose weight in the short term as you will go into a starvation mode. However, once you begin to eat an adequate amount of Calories again, you will simply put the weight back on.
Another thing to consider here: humans cannot get an adequate amount of nutrients needed for optimal function without eating at least 1600 Calories/day, and that assumes that you are eating foods that contain all the nutrients you need.
Looking strictly at caloric intake is a dated way of thinking. While it is important to monitor, it is not the most important thing to look at when it comes to weight gain.
Instead, it has a lot more to do with the quality of foods you are eating. Looking at the types of foods you’re eating will shine a major light as to what could be causing weight gain.
Most often, those who are obese tend to have low fiber intake, a lack of vegetables, and a lack of fruits, nuts, seeds, and other nutrient-dense foods in their day-to-day eating. Instead, this tends to be replaced with low-quality, processed carbohydrates and simple sugars in the form of breads, pasta, pizza, white rice, etc.
These sugars enter the bloodstream quickly, and actually leave your hungrier more quickly than whole foods likes fruits & vegetables. Then, you ultimately end up eating more and craving those foods and it leads to this downward spiral.
Ultimately, it comes down to the foods you are consuming. Transitioning to whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables from processed and packaged foods will make a huge difference at the molecular level, which in turn affects how we look and feel.
In order to build a healthy background to support healthy weight loss that is sustainable, here are some guidelines I give all my patients.
· Eat real foods, with 50% of each plate being vegetables.
· Eat a diet primarily of vegetables, fruit, protein, and good fats.
· Drink clean water.
· Eat fermented foods to balance your gut flora.
· Cut out inflammatory foods.
· 80% of the time eat right, allowing yourself 20% “wiggle room.”
· Drink lemon water in the morning, it helps boost metabolism and liver function.
· Look for foods that are high in fiber (whole foods) and low in sugar.
· Eliminate all packaged foods, if possible. Be sure to read ALL ingredient labels.
· Never eat out of a box or bag.
· Eat greens at least twice per day.
· Choose organic foods as often as possible.
· Choose lean proteins and healthy fats.
· Listen to your body!
Hope this helps.