The Calorie Myth

When it comes to exercise, calories are completely irrelevant. Saying that ‘I ate a 200 calorie bag of potato chips, so now if I go burn off 200 calories I’m good’ is as accurate as saying ‘I just smoked 2 packs of cigarettes’ or ‘I just snorted 2 lines of cocaine, now I’m going to go exercise to cancel that out.’ We know you can’t exercise off what cigarettes do to your lungs, but we’re led to believe you can exercise off what coca cola does to your pancreas. And you can’t.

A study compared an indigenous hunter gatherer community with a similar group (ages, etc) in America to compare caloric expenditure. The hunter gatherer community burned way, way more calories when they were out hunting. However

The total calories burned between the individuals in the more active hunter gatherer group and the less active Westerners group was not statistically different. How can one group be more physically active and not burn more total calories than the group that is less physically active? Here’s why: When the group that was more physically active wasn’t being physically active, their body ran slower. There’s a reason you sleep better after exercising. Your body is trying to conserve and make up for the calories you just burnt off. So not only is it extremely hard to burn calories through exercise, it’s extremely hard to burn calories. Your body will then do everything it can to make you burn less for the other 99% of your life when you’re not exercising. It will also try to make you eat more. Even more reason not to beat yourself up on the treadmill.

The Calorie Myth @ Bulletproof Radio

6 thoughts on “The Calorie Myth

    1. Sorry, I read/replied too hastily. I assume you’re referring to the second quote. I’m really not well versed in exercise theory, but I’ve come to value the Bulletproof Radio as reliable. I try not to promote silliness on my blog 🙂
      I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have time to listen to the whole interview


      1. You certainly don’t promote silliness… 🙂

        The title of your post peaked my interest. Bodybuilders have been manipulating calories for 60 years with great success. There is a science behind it – though it is not exact and not the same for everyone. I’ll try to listed if I can make some time for it.

        Sorry about the harshness of my comment.


        1. The history of science shows that science often works even when the theory is false (which it always is). So I’m sure bodybuilders have benefited practically from the the calorie theory… but it doesn’t appear that’s the best explanation for how our body deals with food and weight.

          I’ve heard so many silly things over the last 12 months that have turned out to be acurate (don’t avoid saturated fat, eat tons of it, etc) that my guard isn’t up anymore when I hear things from the sources I’ve come to trust.


  1. sacker

    Interesting. I think you’re misunderstanding calories. Metabolic activity. What our cells need and how the body breaks it down into usable stuff and how it gets delivered to cells.

    Stop listening to diet/fitness stuff. It’s all nonsense. Eat when you’re hungry. Don’t wait because you’re too busy to eat. Snacking all day is better for you than three large meals. Eat good stuff, not candy and chips. Simple wholesome food, real food, not food products marketing gimmickry. It doesn’t have to be labeled “organic” or come off a shelf in the “natural foods” aisle.

    Eat the food the hunter/gatherers you’ve mentioned would eat. Drink water. Moderation and common sense.


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