Randoms thoughts from me, Mike T Nelson

Category: Rants

RANT – Why the 3,500 calorie rule is wrong for weight loss

People like to argue about “is a calorie a calorie.” One of the rare things that we actually know in nutrition due to physics and stuff.

Yes, calories matter. They matter a lot.

Are calories EVERYTHING then? Nope. Far from it.

Most of this resulted from the “3,500 calorie rule”

Burn more than 3,500 calories and you will lose 1 lb of weight.

This is ok for rough estimates, but the equation breaks down over many months.

What you actually learn…gasp….is that it is really nonlinear, just like almost every freaking thing in physiology.

The error goes all the way back to the 1950s from” Wishnofsky M. Caloric equivalents of gained or lost weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 1958;6:542–546.”

The Calculus of Calories: Quantitative Obesity Research

A great talk on this by Dr Hall

Which is why I always laugh at the simple linear thinking.

Plus if it was that simple, I would be out of a job and I would not see obese people everywhere.

The amount of people who argue over the physics of this who have never taken a math class beyond HS geometry. Which is totally fine but don’t argue about math then.

Take Away

Calories are important but they are not everything.

3,500 calories to lose one pound is at best, a rough estimate.

Obesity is not a simple linear problem, If it was, we would have it all figured out by now.

Ranting off
Dr Mike T Nelson

Rant: But There Is No Science To Support Your Answer

Does there HAVE to be science to support it?

Do I think most of my clients expect a randomized controlled trial on the new program I just wrote for them?

Of course not!

They are wanting to get the results from my USE of science and data, extended to its logical conclusion to get them the result.

What I do with client is based on the principles of science.

Hyperactive Science

Source: The Science of Coffee | Black River Roasters

Source: The Science of Coffee | Black River Roasters

It seems the fitness world loves polarization to one extreme or the next.

The dude brahs are in in the camp shouting:

“I know it works, screw your books, data, lab coat and expensive education. I know what works in the gym so shut up, you geek, and just go lift stuff!”

The extreme science/research people on the other end cry:

“How dare you write about a topic where we don’t have RCTs (randomized controlled trials) and mislead people?! You are turning your back on science and selling snake oil to just make money. How you even got one advanced degree much less two is beyond me. They should be revoked!”

The funny thing is I have received similar emails from BOTH camps.

When you have an advanced degree with published research, and you work with real clients, you end up in this massive cavern between the hardcore science people and the dude brahs lifting.

And I am ok with that.

I made an active decision to live in that space. . . To help close the gap.




The truth is my clients care about “the what” and not much about “the why.”

They want to know why it works and want to get better; however, they are not expecting me to drop my thesis on them as they are on their way out the door for some late night reading.

If everyone could pick up an exercise physiology textbook and have everything figured out, we would never need trainers/coaches.

The truth is that science by itself is not helpful.

My favorite exercise physiology book (Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and Its Applications by Dr. George Brooks et al, in case you wanted to know) only serves as a good doorstop if what is written in it is not applied.

The key is the application of science/data.

The key is the application of science/data

Physiology is complex, and not everything is the same for each one of us. While we are all human and certain principles apply, the RESPONSE of each one will be different.

If one program worked for everyone for fat loss, I think we would know what that one program is now.     And everyone would be doing it.

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”–Albert Szent-Györgi (1893-1986)


I love science.

I love data.

But more than those, I love the APPLICATON of science and data.

That is where the rubber meets the road.

I also love results and getting better. Both for myself, and for my clients. It is what I was born to do and feel privledged to be doing it, every day.

And currently, the application arena is the area that we have the least amount of hard science to guide us.

In the meantime, I will apply how I see the data to get clients the fastest results in a safe manner.

Even if there is not a RCT to prove it.

Dr. Mike

PS – I have a couple openings in my private 1:1 M3 online training program where you work directly with me to reach your goals (fat loss, strength and/or muscle gain).   Fill out the application HERE

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