3

votes

Am I proof that calories in/calories out is a fallacy? AKO: Hack my RMR (and DEXA scan).

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 26, 2011 at 7:16 PM

I'm not sure what I can or should glean from this other than that I'm a testament to n=1 and the fact that CI/CO is a fallacy.

I've been paleo since about July/August. In that time, I've lost a lot of weight (down now below what I was before I got pregnant 11 years ago!! From abt 158 to 134.9 today), and I was tracking calories. I would slowly lose on anywhere from 1400 to 1850 depending on the macronutrient ratio (with best losses being when carbs were super low and protein was very high). Not huge losses, but the scales moving down almost daily and about .75 pounds per week. Haven't tracked for about a week, and still staying right around the same number on the scale.

I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer writing. I do a lot of moving, though, as I homeschool my kids, so I'm constantly up and down, doing house stuff, herding children, etc. I've added in a Mark Sisson/Robb Wolf kinda exercise gig. I get good sleep.

I got a wild hair to get my bodyfat tested as accurately as possible, and since I live near Austin I have access to the DEXA test at UT for a reasonable price. So I signed up for that and for the RMR testing (Resting Metabolic Rate) as well.

The DEXA result was what I expected: My bone density is above average, which is great as I'm 46. As for bodyfat, I'm pearshaped:

Arms 17.1 % Legs 37.5 % Trunk 25.9 % Hips 43.5 % Abdomen 25 %

Overall number was 28.8, with 90.5 pounds of Lean mass

I'm 5'7" (and female).

They gave a chart re weight/body fat and to get to 22% BF (which is where I think I'd like to be, give or take), I either need to get down to 123 pounds losing only fat, or with 2 pounds of muscle, get to 127 pounds, or with 4 pounds of muscle, get to 130 (that sounds about right to me).

So that's all just info, but to add a question in the middle, what types of exercise are the best for building muscle in your legs, gluts and losing fat from your hips?? Just keep up with what I'm doing? Lift heavier? (I'm mostly doing bodyweight and lighter handweights--which are hard for me; I'm definitely on the still building strength side)

Now the really weird part of the day:

I also had my RMR tested, as I mentioned above, and while every online calculator puts it at about 1400ish, the test (breathing into a little thingie, which I did twice and both times gave consistent results), I tested at a RMR of 1080, with a total daily expenditure guesstimate of 1352 based on how I described my life to them. As noted above, I've been losing weight on way more calories than that.

So here are my questions:

1) What pearls of wisdom do y'all glean from this. Will I need to go to about 1000 cals/day if I want to lose that last chunk of body fat? Is the Daily Expenditure guesstimate just waaay off? (Possibly, but the 1080 seems really, really low as a starting point...)

2) Do I need to make sure I eat 3 meals to build up my RMR? (That seems like CW to me, and I don't IF on purpose, but I do eat a huge breakfast and often nothing or just a bit of tuna or yogurt for lunch and then a huge dinner; the gals at UT seemed to think skipping of meals in the past had a negative impact on my metabolism).

3) Should I see an increase in my RMR by building lean muscle tissue (my understanding is yes, but how much change would a 4-5 pound muscle increase produce?) And can I build lean muscle tissue while losing fat? Or do I need to lose the rear and thighs and then concentrate on building muscle? (I tend to think it's all one ball of wax and as I lose, I'll also be building if I continue with HIIT, lifting heavy things, and just moving).

4) Do I even need to be concerned about such a low RMR? The gals at UT expressed a great deal of surprise, especially after they saw that my lean body mass was in a good range. They'd expected it to be really low with such a low RMR. So clearly I'm bucking conventional expectation. I didn't tell them that I've tracked calories significantly higher; had I not had to fast without coffee, I might have opened that door, but I honestly just wanted to go get some caffeine and breakfast!

5) Can I build LBM doing just body weight and light weights (5-10 pound hand weights) or will I not see a change until I'm able to ramp that up to significantly more heavy things?

Basically, my big goal here is to be fit and lean (and less able to grab chunks of flesh around my rear end) and active as I age. The RMR is a curiosity more than a concern, as I certainly don't seem tied to it in order to lose weight/fat. If that will change now that I'm hitting those last few pounds, though, I want to a) know, and b) ramp up the RMR!

Oh, last piece of info. They also said that w/ such a low RMR, I should have my thyroid checked. I've never had poor TSH results. In fact, I had blood work done on 9/2, and the result was 3.4, with a reference of 0.3-5.1 (that means nothing to me other than that its in the normal range). I had a reverse T3 done recently, too, and though I can't find the results, it was also in the normal range, so I'm not really concerned about thyroid issues.

Thanks for hacking my bod!

E6c14efded576a0bea38a2fe2beced6a

(689)

on January 17, 2013
at 03:11 PM

"Insulting Truism" That should be a label put on every "DIET" food sold. How move more and eat less turned into an attack on one of the most basic laws that govern all energy systems is beyond me

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 28, 2011
at 10:17 AM

The EE is Energy Expenditure.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 11:40 PM

LOL! Just for the record, though, I'm not in any huge hurry. I'm at a point where I've battled back my body issues and think I look pretty good in my jeans. I just want to look *better*, be firmer (there's still a lot of grabbable flesh on my rump), and have more stamina. Though I CAN now do over 20 girlie pushups, and when I started, I pretty much collapsed after 3. Yay me :)

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 11:37 PM

Thanks. Appreciate the answer -- TDEE is Total Daily Estimated Expenditure, I'm assuming??

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 27, 2011
at 01:44 PM

concise, accurate answer. nice one

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:44 PM

I'm guessing you're simply just very efficient when it comes to your metabolism at rest, you're still a unique flower! ;)

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 27, 2011
at 10:57 AM

Travis it sure as heck does provide actionable information. Indeed if a person is struggling probably the best info they can get is what Paleo-ish did: Get their RMR measured. The BodyBuggs and such aren't perfect by any stretch, but they can help people more conscientiously up activity energy expenditure during the day. But the information is actionable unless you believe humans can't deliberately eat less and/or move more. If that's the case many in the NWCR apparently don't exist.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 27, 2011
at 02:35 AM

RMR is only a reference point. And I'm glad to see that someone else here observes the effect of slow steady movement on metabolism. The more I move the more I can eat without weight gain.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:57 AM

My favorite meals tend to be surf and turf. Big-ass steak with some kind of crustacean..

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:56 AM

Was the RMR test done in the fasted state before breakfast?

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:51 AM

Well, damn! And I wanted so to be a unique flower! But yes, what you say makes perfect sense. Even if I were sitting on rear all day, I didn't think about the thermic effect of food. 1080 still seems low to me (every calculator I've ever run across puts it much higher for a woman my height and weight and lbm). But w/ activity and thermal effect a caloric deficit does make sense.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:47 AM

Cool. Thanks. I'll add that one in. I'm OD'ing lately reading about paleo and fitness. What I really want is a program that lets me work out at home (even if we have to buy more equip). With homeschooling 2 kids and a fulltime job, getting to a gym would be a pain.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:45 AM

I actually eat a lot of fish, shrimp and crab, but I'll add another ocean meal in each week. The last few weeks have been lean on seafood as we just purchased 1/2 a grassfed cow and have been chowing down on beef :)

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 26, 2011
at 10:50 PM

It's a very unhelpful truism that does little to provide *actionable* information.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 26, 2011
at 10:19 PM

Hi Travis, I don't understand why the word "insulting" needs to be used here. Metabolisms are what they are, and the cold hard reality is that if someone wants to lose fat mass they need to take in less than they expend. If I tell someone ... or someone tells me ... they/I need to eat less or expend more energy it's not an insult, it's the truth!

6868f693020e11146e6e239af91a661c

(0)

on October 26, 2011
at 09:29 PM

As a fellow lady I would highly recommend The New Rules of Lifting for Women as a place to start. It will teach you not to be afraid of the free weights and that you become way stronger than you think. It really focuses on lifting heavy and full body moves (barbell squats, deadlifts etc.).

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:12 PM

I'm not aware of any reliable iodine/selenium tests. If you don't eat a fair amount of ocean creatures though, you can assume that you're deficient. You could try just eating more of them and getting a thyroid panel again down the road.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:10 PM

Thanks for this, especially for the info re TSH. I'm seeing a new doc on Friday (with a reputation for being pro-Paleo) so I'll add this to the list of questions/concerns and definitely ask about testing iodine and selenium (along with finally, maybe, hopefully getting my LDL particle size checked). And I wouldn't be surprised if the daily metabolic rate is higher than the guesstimate, so that may well be the difference. But that low starting number just seems so ... well... low.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:06 PM

Thanks! I've had my eye on BBS...will break down and buy/read it.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:06 PM

ha! (That's all I have to say, but apparently I have to type more to post)

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8 Answers

4
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on October 26, 2011
at 07:55 PM

1.) I don't know if I'd trust the RMR, necessarily. A lot of those tests are known to be inaccurate. Mark Sisson had his bodyfat measured by the most "accurate" technique & the result was obviously incorrect.

2.) Eat when you are hungry. IF if it feels good.

3.) A lot of moving slowly along with lifting heavy has appeared to increase my metabolism (48, 5'6", 125 lbs) I walk 1.5 - 2 hours daily when I am wanting to drop a pound or two. Sprints are good, too!

4.) See #1.

5.) No. You need to lift heavy to stimulate muscle growth. Check out "The New Rules of Lifting for Women" or "Body By Science".

6868f693020e11146e6e239af91a661c

(0)

on October 26, 2011
at 09:29 PM

As a fellow lady I would highly recommend The New Rules of Lifting for Women as a place to start. It will teach you not to be afraid of the free weights and that you become way stronger than you think. It really focuses on lifting heavy and full body moves (barbell squats, deadlifts etc.).

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:06 PM

Thanks! I've had my eye on BBS...will break down and buy/read it.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:47 AM

Cool. Thanks. I'll add that one in. I'm OD'ing lately reading about paleo and fitness. What I really want is a program that lets me work out at home (even if we have to buy more equip). With homeschooling 2 kids and a fulltime job, getting to a gym would be a pain.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 27, 2011
at 02:35 AM

RMR is only a reference point. And I'm glad to see that someone else here observes the effect of slow steady movement on metabolism. The more I move the more I can eat without weight gain.

3
24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 27, 2011
at 11:07 AM

Your RMR sounds about right. In most people RMR is ~60% of TDEE and 1080/0.6 brings you right to ~1800 cal/day. You say you were losing and now plateaued eating an average of around 1600 cal/day -- sounds like you're the poster-lady for CICO rather than some enigma. You're eating to your maintenance levels. Yes, to lose more you will need to eat less and/or move more. Resistance exercise to build some lean mass may bring back some RMR over time.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 27, 2011
at 01:44 PM

concise, accurate answer. nice one

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 11:37 PM

Thanks. Appreciate the answer -- TDEE is Total Daily Estimated Expenditure, I'm assuming??

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 28, 2011
at 10:17 AM

The EE is Energy Expenditure.

3
Medium avatar

on October 26, 2011
at 07:59 PM

TSH should ideally be below 1.0, so I would call that result hypothyroid and it explains why your RMR is so low. The question is whether you're hypothyroid as a result of a nutritional deficiency (iodine/selenium) or some other cause.

Regarding calories in/out, it's definitely not a fallacy but it definitely is an insulting truism. Telling someone who wants to get leaner that they need to release more energy than they store is a bit like this:

"I want to do well on this upcoming test."

"That's easy, just know all of the answers to the questions."

"Thanks a lot, asshole."

From an objective, removed perspective, humans, like all other form of life, are a simple energy system. That's great, but it doesn't account for 1) nutrition/health 2) satiety 3) the efficiency with which certain foods are processed or 4) the dynamic nature of metabolic rate.

Plugging some numbers into an equation and getting a RMR and then eating whatever number of Pop-Tarts results in your desired energy deficit sounds good in theory but it's garbage in practice.

Luckily, as you've seen, a (preferably lean) meat-based diet addresses 1-3 and often 4 as well. When people say that they are not subject to CICO, they are either 1) absorbing a different amount of energy than they think 2) releasing a different amount of energy than they think and/or 3) totally off on their RMR calculation. In your case, I think it's likely that you simply release more energy than you think in a day, in spite of your low RMR, or that your RMR is only recently that low and was actually quite a bit higher as you were losing fat.

As a final note, I think DEXA scans are overused and are an unnecessary dose of ionizing radiation in most cases.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:12 PM

I'm not aware of any reliable iodine/selenium tests. If you don't eat a fair amount of ocean creatures though, you can assume that you're deficient. You could try just eating more of them and getting a thyroid panel again down the road.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 26, 2011
at 10:50 PM

It's a very unhelpful truism that does little to provide *actionable* information.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:45 AM

I actually eat a lot of fish, shrimp and crab, but I'll add another ocean meal in each week. The last few weeks have been lean on seafood as we just purchased 1/2 a grassfed cow and have been chowing down on beef :)

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 26, 2011
at 10:19 PM

Hi Travis, I don't understand why the word "insulting" needs to be used here. Metabolisms are what they are, and the cold hard reality is that if someone wants to lose fat mass they need to take in less than they expend. If I tell someone ... or someone tells me ... they/I need to eat less or expend more energy it's not an insult, it's the truth!

Medium avatar

(39831)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:57 AM

My favorite meals tend to be surf and turf. Big-ass steak with some kind of crustacean..

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:10 PM

Thanks for this, especially for the info re TSH. I'm seeing a new doc on Friday (with a reputation for being pro-Paleo) so I'll add this to the list of questions/concerns and definitely ask about testing iodine and selenium (along with finally, maybe, hopefully getting my LDL particle size checked). And I wouldn't be surprised if the daily metabolic rate is higher than the guesstimate, so that may well be the difference. But that low starting number just seems so ... well... low.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 27, 2011
at 10:57 AM

Travis it sure as heck does provide actionable information. Indeed if a person is struggling probably the best info they can get is what Paleo-ish did: Get their RMR measured. The BodyBuggs and such aren't perfect by any stretch, but they can help people more conscientiously up activity energy expenditure during the day. But the information is actionable unless you believe humans can't deliberately eat less and/or move more. If that's the case many in the NWCR apparently don't exist.

E6c14efded576a0bea38a2fe2beced6a

(689)

on January 17, 2013
at 03:11 PM

"Insulting Truism" That should be a label put on every "DIET" food sold. How move more and eat less turned into an attack on one of the most basic laws that govern all energy systems is beyond me

2
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:50 PM

Your RMR is about 1080. That doesn't tell you squat about what you actually burn each day. When you add in your activity, you're looking at 1600-1800 calories expended daily. When you take into account thermic effects of food, you're looking at an intake of 1300-1600 calories daily. Seems reasonable that you're losing weight at the rate you are.

Rest assured, you're not an outlaw - not breaking any laws of thermodynamics.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:51 AM

Well, damn! And I wanted so to be a unique flower! But yes, what you say makes perfect sense. Even if I were sitting on rear all day, I didn't think about the thermic effect of food. 1080 still seems low to me (every calculator I've ever run across puts it much higher for a woman my height and weight and lbm). But w/ activity and thermal effect a caloric deficit does make sense.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 27, 2011
at 12:44 PM

I'm guessing you're simply just very efficient when it comes to your metabolism at rest, you're still a unique flower! ;)

2
5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on October 26, 2011
at 07:24 PM

TLDR : Paleo-ish broke the first law of thermo.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 26, 2011
at 08:06 PM

ha! (That's all I have to say, but apparently I have to type more to post)

0
0b7c3e7fd96005f0b2dfd781e512fc2e

(1237)

on January 17, 2013
at 08:56 AM

Like yourself, I'm highly sceptical of the CI/CO hypothesis. Weight loss seems to depend on a plethora of factors such as dietary context, body temperature, digestive capability, cortisol levels affecting fat storage, etc. Another factor is that you mightn't be absorbing all of the calories you take in. Do you eat a lot of raw fruit and veg? Matt Stone has a very informative series on this:

http://180degreehealth.com/2011/12/the-calorie-myth-part-i-raw-food-weight-loss

http://180degreehealth.com/2011/12/the-calorie-myth-part-2-%E2%80%93-digestibility

What about Jon Gabriel who eats lots of raw nuts and seeds, sprouts, and eats everything in a big, giant salad? With lots of protein? We absorb fewer calories from protein due to the increased cost of digestion, and fewer still from raw foods – to the point that the Giessen raw foods study done on raw foodists showed a horrifying frequency of underweight and amennorhea directly proportional to the degree in which the percentage of the food eaten was uncooked. This obviously explains away the raw vegan waifs as well, along with the known hypermetabolic effect of protein restriction and calorie-wasting effect of fat restriction. Big parts of the 80-10-10 Low-fat raw vegan diet. Oh the irony of calorie restriction bashing while inadvertantly restricting calories!

If you understand "calories in" as simply "going into my mouth" then the absorption factor invalidates CI/CO. If you don't, you might as well construe reduced absorption as a form of inadvertent calorie restriction.

0
Medium avatar

on January 16, 2013
at 10:57 PM

Not sure how any of that proves you're outside of CI/CO laws of the universe.

I don't understand how anyone can argue calories don't matter; all the efforts to show a calorie isn't a calorie isn't a calorie just says some food has more bang for the gram than others, but does nothing to negate the FACT:

All food is stored energy from the nuclear process of the sun. Plants convert and store it, animals eat plants and store it, animals eat animals and store it. A little bit is lost each translation. Eat more energy than you burn, whether by your metabolic furnace or your physical work, or in the thermogeneic effort in actually digesting the food, and you too store that solar energy in your FAT and LEAN TISSUES. Accounting folks. In and out, after all deductions and credits, you either gain or lose, period.

Then there is the "I'm different" argument (rationalization). No one is outside this absolute law of in and out, physics. Granted, your particular efficiencies affect your deductions and credits for sure. So 2000 calories for two 150lbs humans with seemingly similar physical expenditure rates will yield different energy balances; one may lose a bit, the other may gain a bit.

Does this make them so different? Slightly I'd argue. People seek to discredit the accepted norms for energy content of a particular macro nutrient found in varying foods; the calorie. Folks you have to start somewhere and create a baseline, like agreeing how much gold a dollar will represent. Then you can compare.

So bottom line, you must be scientific and use controls. An individual should eat a consistent selection of the same nutritious foods, in consistently the same amounts. Use calories and grams to figure this. So the above individual eats 2000 calories per day and exercises consistently. Fat isn't lost. So reduce to a fixed lower calorie amount, and test. Fat comes off a tiny bit. Reduce a lot. Fat stays the same, muscle comes off. It's easily figured using a tape measure in the same spots and a scale, daily.

Find the sweet spot. But regardless of varying degrees and efficiencies, in the end, it's ENERGY IN - ENERGY EXPENDED. Period.

That said, personally, male or female, I think Martin at Leangains has the best and most effective plan.

My.02

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 27, 2011
at 02:23 AM

Out of my head (9x weight for women) I would have guessed 1100-1200 for your RMR, so 1080's not that far off. I'd guess also that at your size going down to 1000 cals/day food is not going to give you much weight loss kick. You say that you eat lots more than that, so prove the CICO theory wrong. Eat all you want and the weight should just fall off!

More to the point, I lost 2 lbs/week steadily for 6 months using the CICO principle without knowing precisely what my RMR was. But I started out obese, you're starting pretty skinny. If I wanted to lose more weight I'd have to get a lot more active, and cut my food a little. From where you're starting, more activity is about the only way I see to remove weight in a short time frame. Think about 20 miles on the bike daily or 2 hours a day of steady lap swimming. If that and 1200 cal/day food doesn't do the trick in 2 months I'll be surprised.

E06dcdb3f856057025e9776e038d8072

(305)

on October 27, 2011
at 11:40 PM

LOL! Just for the record, though, I'm not in any huge hurry. I'm at a point where I've battled back my body issues and think I look pretty good in my jeans. I just want to look *better*, be firmer (there's still a lot of grabbable flesh on my rump), and have more stamina. Though I CAN now do over 20 girlie pushups, and when I started, I pretty much collapsed after 3. Yay me :)

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