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Clearing The Calorie Information Confusion

By Phil Kaplan
From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Over the past few months, eDiets has posted my articles on some of the newest supplement offerings, fat burners and fraudulent muscle miracles. These stories provided some clarity to help people understand the realities behind the too-good-to-be-true weight loss offerings.

If you're an eDiets member, I'm sure you're no longer a victim of fitness fraud. You've learned. If you've learned what NOT to do in order to lose weight or improve fitness, you're a step ahead of the game, since most people attempt to change with ineffective approaches. By now, you should also know what TO do. Eat, move aerobically and challenge muscle. It's really that simple, regardless of your fitness goal.

Amazingly, even with all of the information I disseminate, people contact me every day in search of a calorie restrictive diet. Yes, they are still caught up in the belief that calories are somehow evil and that the trick to losing weight is to avoid them.

There's one breed of product on the market right now that is promoted as a miracle pill, but it's more like a wafer. It has 18 calories and promises to replace meals and eliminate the sensation of hunger. Instead of eating, just pop a wafer in your mouth. It's advertised on the Internet and through magazine ads. Let's do a little math.

Suppose you normally eat four times a day (people I work with lose fat eating far more than four daily meals). If you're going to replace all four meals with one of these wafers, you'd be taking in a total of 72 calories per day! Will you lose weight? You bet you will, but you'll regret that weight loss for months and years to come!

Let me explain a simple concept: the calorie concept. Everyone knows the word calorie, and when I ask at a seminar how many people know how many calories they eat in a day, all the dieters chime in with numbers. "1,000!" "1,400!" My next question is usually, "what's a calorie" and rarely does anyone offer an answer. The masses of “weight loss wanters” are attempting to count calories -- but they don't even know what calories are!

By definition, a calorie (more accurately, a kilocalorie) is the amount of heat required to raise 1 kg of water 1 degree Celsius. What does that have to do with food?

We have to think of food as fuel. Right this minute, your body is maintaining a core temperature near 98.6 degrees F. That heat generation requires calories. Every time you blink, swallow, type, or roll over in bed, additional calories have to be burned to provide the fuel for movement. Calories aren't something to be avoided, as much as they're something to be understood.

Don't worry. I didn't forget about the weight loss wafers. I'm just laying some groundwork to provide a complete "A-ha!" When the body is at rest, bodily functions continue. You breathe. Your heart beats. Your brain sends out chemical signals and impulses.

Your internal organs are all performing their respective "jobs." Just to give you a rough idea of the number of calories you require for optimal performance and to maintain a healthy and efficient metabolism, let's take a look at the number of calories some of the internal organs of a 150-pound man would burn in a 24-hour period at rest.

His lungs alone will require about 150 calories, yet the lungs make up only 9 percent of resting metabolic function. The heart will likely burn 180 calories, and the heart's role makes up only 10 percent of resting metabolic function. If we had nothing but an empty shell of a 150-pound man with a fully operational and functioning cardio-respiratory system (heart and lungs), that man would require at least 330 calories per day to keep the heart and lungs functioning, and that's assuming nothing even mildly strenuous was attempted.

The kidneys burn calories, the liver burns calories and the organ that burns the greatest number of calories is the brain. That 150-pound man will attribute 21 percent of resting metabolic function to gray matter, which would amount to 365 calories in a 24-hour period.

Suppose this 150-pound man decided he was going to try these magic weight loss wafers. The first day, he consumed four of them spread out throughout the entire day. That's 72 calories. He's already in a severe calorie deficit, yet his heart, his brain and his lungs have to burn something, and even at rest that 72 calories fails to come anywhere close to adequate.

His body has two options: Stop functioning (not a good option), or find an alternative source of fuel. In order to keep him alive, his body begins to break apart muscle tissue to provide a source of fuel. That means that 150-pound man might soon weigh 140, and while that may sound desirable to some, his body achieved the weight loss by destroying metabolism. That's a sure-fire method of setting the body up to accumulate a great amount of fat in the very near future.

Muscle is metabolically active tissue. Muscle is the fat-burning machine. Lose muscle and your body becomes far less efficient at burning fuel. The idea, therefore, of cutting calories to lose weight is limited and flawed thinking. I've been teaching people for nearly 20 years to boost metabolism by eating supportively and applying the right exercise stimulus.

That's what works. Eat, move aerobically and challenge muscle. A pharmaceutical is being studied, which is presently referred to as C75. It appears to interfere with leptin signals, which are directly correlated to appetite. The drug companies are all clamoring to release the next weight loss pill. Unfortunately, as long as they provide offerings for curbing appetite, cutting calories, or preventing you from eating (as C75 appears to do with laboratory rats), they're providing you with an excellent manner of destroying metabolism and increasing your perceived need for the next weight loss miracle.

Next time something shows up that offers you a way to "cut calories," whether it's a diet, supplement or a drug, grab hold of your common sense. You don't want to avoid calories. You simply want to optimize the use of the calories you ingest. And, of course, optimization includes improving body composition and metabolic function with a sensible and result-oriented program of exercise!

Phil Kaplan has developed a reputation as one of the world’s most in demand fitness professionals. Find more information at

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