The Calorie In vs. the Calorie Out Debate

July 15, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Meredith Root

As with almost every topic regarding health, nutrition, and fitness, the concept of calorie balance (how much we eat vs. how much we expend) as the primary regulator of body weight has created polarized camps. 

On one hand, there are people who believe that gaining or losing weight is straightforward – eat more or less calories than you expend on a daily basis. On the other hand, there is a group who will argue, this approach is too simplistic and doesn’t consider hormonal status, insulin resistance, PCOS (a hormonal disorder), thyroid issues, or other complicating factors that impact metabolism. Additionally, they might argue that some foods confer some sort of metabolic advantage that help a person manage weight without concerning themselves with calories.

When you work in health and fitness long enough, you start to learn that dogmatic approaches are problematic. Tying your belief system as a professional to one school of thought creates blind spots and prevents you from seeing the big picture. In this case, it can be true that calories in and out and those physiological factors impact weight management. They are both correct. This is because energy balance includes calories in and out but also a number of other factors that influence our energy in and the energy we expend.

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