Question: How many calories do you need to consume a day?
Your Answer: It depends, 2500kcal if I am not exercising (Government recommendation), 3500kcal if I am exercising, 5000kcal if I am “bulking”, 2000kcal if I am “cutting”.
The Answer: As many as your body tells you it needs.
Keeping the theme of weird as the site has led you to believe, lets start with the weird. How has it got to a point in humanity where we need to count calories? Lets look back through history…
The creation of Humankind by God (lol): Daily struggle to find food.
The Palaeolithic age: Daily struggle to find food (note: ever heard of the Palaeo diet?).
The Neolithic age: Daily struggle to find food – starting to figure out agriculture and farming.
Beginning of civilisations: Just enough food to feed the rich, the poor? Daily struggle to find food.
Industrial Revolution: Plenty of food for the rich, the poor? Daily struggle to find food.
Fast Food Revolution: Plenty of food for the Upper and Middle class, the poor? Daily struggle to find food.
Today: Everyone; Wait, how many calories are in that?!
Lets think about every other animal in the world. They wake up, stretch their legs and if they’re hungry, go and hunt for food. It could take them an hour, a day, maybe a week? Homo Sapiens (some form of animal) wake up, go back to sleep, wake back up, walk to their kitchen and make breakfast, go to work and sit all day (the majority), have lunch, go home, have dinner…maybe a takeaway tonight? Go to bed and repeat.
For Homo Sapiens, food is just there and if it’s not, I bet they could get it within 5 minutes without even breaking into double figures of calorific expenditure.
Its kind of weird…
I’ve never seen a lioness chase down a Zebra, look at its label and then put it back because it has too many calories. We like to use the analogy of “what would aliens think” here. If aliens came down and asked us why we have had to label food with how many calories it contains, they would think us the stupidest animal ever to be developed by Darwinian evolution. We are voluntarily eating ourselves to death, we are our very own predator.
Lets get away from weird and try to contemplate a few things, I’ll lay them out so you can have a think about your own opinion first before you are led down a thought path:
- How many calories do Homo Sapiens require in todays climate?
- Our body self regulates everything using hormones and feedback loops – hunger included. Do we really need to eat until we are “stuffed”?
- Do our bodies really need Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Supper and everything in between or is that a societal/commercial construct?
- Is there a commercial value to your weight?
Had enough time to think about these 4 simple questions? How about we start at…I don’t know, 1?
Here’s a really simplified and quick Physiology explanation for those of you who have somehow not been caught up in the fitness craze that has been sweeping the world.
Basal Metabolic Rate: The energy required for our bodies cells to function just to keep our bodies alive and kicking.
Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): The energy required to do our day to day things like fidgeting and thinking.
Exercise: I’ll leave this one to your imagination.
The combination of these 3 elements = your daily calorie expenditure (kind of). So in theory, if you are the ideal weight and healthy, your calorie intake should be equal to your expenditure, which the government has stated is 2000kcal for woman and 2500kcal for men. Oh, just for reference, these calculations were based on male factory workers in the 1920’s (something like that, don’t quote me but it hasn’t been updated in a long time). So from getting out of bed, walking to your car, sitting down all day at work, walking back to your car and then sitting down to watch your favourite TV show at night which you’ve “earned” after a hard days work and then going back to bed, do you think you’ve hit your calorific quota of 2500kcal? I’ll help you out, it has been estimated by Medifast that an average person burns 2,600kcal running a marathon. Oh my…to think you probably wouldn’t even reach the 5 mile mark.
The short answer to question 1: You don’t require NEARLY as many calories as you believe.
Now how about question 2. This one will be kept short for fear of going down that old rabbit hole of Physiological fact. In essence there are two hormones that combat for your love; Leptin and Ghrelin.
Simply put: Ghrelin = Hunger, Leptin = Fullness. If there is more of one than the other, that one wins.
There are many ways in which they change their levels, however eating food causes Ghrelin to go down and Leptin to go up resulting in fullness. The issue is, we have such an abundance of food, high calorific food, which doesn’t give our hormones a chance to play catch up. Further to this, because of the days gone by where we didn’t know when we’d get our next meal, we eat until we feel we are close to exploding. Next time you are eating, ask yourself continuously throughout your meal, am I eating because I am still hungry or am I eating because I can still see food? The main point of this question is to enlighten you about the brilliance of your bodies mechanisms. If you’re too hot, you sweat. If you’re too cold, you shiver. If you’re ill, you rest. If you’re body is saying “I’m hungry” then eat, if it’s not…don’t!
Which leads me nicely onto question 3. Do we really need breakfast, lunch and dinner, all at those specific times? Do you always feel hungry at those times or is it habit? Do you eat because other people are eating at those times? Where has the idea of breakfast, lunch and Dinner come from? My best guess? Companies trying to sell you food products. It’s breakfast time… BUY CEREAL! It’s lunchtime… BUY A SANDWICH! It’s dinner time… BUY McDONALDS! In reality it should read: It’s breakfast time… am I hungry? It’s lunchtime… am I hungry? It’s dinner time… am I hungry? If you play by your bodies rules, it will self regulate itself into perfect health. If your answer is yes to all the “am I hungry” questions, your body has conditioned itself to expect this level of food however it can easily be reversed. There are so many metabolic safeguards in place to self regulate your weight that its actually impressive that Homo Sapiens are losing the battle of obesity.
And finally, question 4. My favourite. Conspiracy theorists gather round, its your time to shine. Lets look at this objectively. What are some of the most profitable companies in the world? Coca-Cola? McDonalds? The Pharma industry? Health Insurance Companies? The Food Industry? Medical Devices Industry?
Lets work through this step by step:
- Buy Coca-Cola
- By-product of Coca-Cola / McDonalds over indulgence = Heart Disease (#1 killer preventable disease), Type 2 Diabetes (#2 killer preventable disease)
- Pharma Industry most profitable drugs? Statins for Cholesterol and Insulin for diabetes
- Who pays for these drugs? Insurance companies which without you cannot be treated (in Americas)
- Medical device manufacturers create devices to test for these ailments at a large premium.
If the food crisis disappeared tomorrow…would the economy collapse? I’d say so, but what do I know?
There is so much more to be said about this crisis, even within the confines discussed above BUT you have to begin somewhere and that somewhere starts with the question:
Are you hungry? We shouldn’t need to chase calories.
P.S. The calories they label on food aren’t even accurate, so even if you are counting calories…you’re not. Don’t believe me? Have a look for yourself.