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Nutrition & Dieting/Counting Calories - waste of time


Hello Tim,

I'm not a nutritionist or food expert, but I am a personal trainer and I'm looking for some clarification on calorie counting.

I have a married couple as clients, 1 wanting weight gain and one wanting weight loss.

Previously they have been calorie counting to try and get their results through diet alone.

I told them to forget it, calorie counting is a waste of time, there are no secrets or sums needed; just eat fresh food as part of a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Your body will change its shape and make-up to suit what demands you put on it. Diets are gimmicks.

For example repetitive muscular endurance training will make you leaner with toned muscles made up with slow twitch muscle fibres and a slim physique. Where as explosive high resistance low repetition exercise will make you grow bulkier muscles made up with lots of large fast twitch muscle fibres. Your food is fuel for this exercise and the fresher the fuel the better. The more you exercise and the better you eat and your body will naturally want to shed the burden and it will not want to carry any going forward as long as it knows it has a regular supply of quality food coming in.

We then moved on to supplements. And my question is, hypothetically:
If you have a weight gainer that has 1000 calories but only weighs 100g and a weight gainer that has 500 calories and weighs 100g surely you can only put on 100g if the exercise done is the same; for example push-ups to exhaustion. I donít see how the weight gainer with more calories can put on more weight if everything else is kept exactly the same compared to a weight gainer with less calories. Which got me thinking about calories and now Iím really confused about them.

I hope Iíve made sense, I know Iíve waffled to try and make my point. I just want clarification on my own knowledge that calorie counting isnít important.

Many thanks for your help.

Hey Mark,
Ok let me start off by saying this is one of the best questions I've received in a year of doing this.

Here is my position on calories...
I don't think the majority of people understand what a calorie is, hence obesity and confusion about fitness. Not sure about the UK but the U.S. market is really crazy. The fitness industry, as great as it is, is poorly regulated. Hence you have people go out there with outrageous claims. All this crap confuses people.
Ok I'm getting off subject.
My view is that people need to worry about calorie content, not count. It is true you need a certain amount of calories for your body type and activity level. But I think its a loose number. There are formulas to pinpoint the requirements pretty well, but its not in stone.
I'm more concerned with content, meaning where the calories come from. For instance, you can go all day eating six clean meals and get to 2100 calories. However you can eat 2 fast food meals and get to that same 2100 and do that before noon.

As you know, to lose weight you need to expand more calories than you take in. A lot of people do this by eating hardly anything. I've heard of people eating 800-1200 calories, that's insane. The better approach is expanding more over putting in less. Of course you expand more by more exercise.
Same goes for weight gain. Its all about energy balance.
Also if you eat too few calories, your body shuts down the metabolism as a defense mechanism and stores as much fat as possible.

Now on to your weight gainer concern.
Again it depends on that energy balance. Weight gainers can be good for people with utlta high metabolisms and for those who put out a lot of effort. Like bodybuilders. some bodybuilders need in excess of 3000 calories and there are times it is quite hard to eat that much food.

The metabolism is a factor too. There are those annoying people who can eat truck loads of food and their body burns through it like an inferno. I used to know a girl who weighed 98 pounds yet she ate 24-7. And she ate crappy food 24-7 and she was still rail thin.

The weight gainer with more calories is just denser. It has more protein and carbs in it. again its that example I used above. Like comparing a fast food meal to broccoli. You can probably eat pounds of broccoli compared to that one burger, fries and drink.
When you look at the food labels, look at the macros first. How much protein, fat and carbs are in it.

Does any of this make sense?
I think the short version is knowing a generalized number as to how many calories you require is important.
What is important is the calorie content and the output of those calories.

As an aside, I notice you say about not being an expert with nutrition. I am certified as a Specialist in Fitness Nutrition. If you are interested you can e mail me at and possibly we could help one another out.  

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Tim Santoro


I can answer questions regarding the following. Confusion about basic nutrition, explain how to improve diet, when and how to eat better, eating for weight loss, eating for health, eating for fitness. I will answer questions about nutritional and workout supplements. I will not endorse any fad diets, however I can explain the draw backs to them and explain why they are the wrong way to go. I will not give advice relating to medications and/or their interactions with food and supplements.


I have earned certifications in Fitness Training and Fitness Nutrition from ISSA. I also self taught and stay current on the fitness industry. I lost 70 pounds training my self.


SFN- Specialist in Fitness Nutrition from ISSA CFT-n Certified Fitness Trainer from ISSA

Awards and Honors
Just the thank you from people I get to help.

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