Forget About Calories

Monday, May 22, 2017 • North Canton, OH 44720

Recently a spin instructor told me how a couple mentioned to her that they burn the most calories during her class compared to the other instructors. I laughed and said "good stay away from my classes." I want my clients to focus on more important things than just calories counts which are often inaccurate. Here’s why.

The entire focus on calories is overrated. The reason why I believe our society puts way too much emphasis on calories is because over 2/3s of Americans are overweight


Many diet programs constantly talk about calories as the issues. For starters diet is what you consume, not what you restrict. Also calories are the energy your body needs to function/work properly. Calories are fuel to the body like gas to a car. The problem with America’s weight problem lies in eating big of portions, eating too often, lack of sleep, too much sugar, eating too much prepackaged foods(crap), and not enough movement. Simple.

There are times to count calories, yet for most I strongly discourage the practice. It can turn to extreme OCD, or it is CDO? Counting calories can be beneficial for high end athletes or bodybuilders, yet for most it can can make eating tedious.  

When it comes to getting a good workout calories have little importance other than fueling the workout. You can get a great workout in, and not burn many calories. If you constantly focus on numbers you can be missing the entire purpose. We all need cardio for heart health. Yes cardio will help you get smaller by burning fat, yet it also helps you burn muscle, which is bad. It is muscle that helps keep your metabolism burning calories. The more muscle mass you lose the less calories you burn. Focusing on strength training will help you get more muscle growth which in turn helps you burn more calories in the long run. Also the more muscle mass you have the more calories you burn.

I often have people run up to me at the gym (literally, some walk) saying “Philip I burned ____ this many calories. I smile and in my mind I’m really laughing. If you’re a calorie counter I have to say most machines are extremely inaccurate.

With all this being said The American Council on Exercise did a great study on the accuracy on the wearable activity trackers which is worth a read.


If you’re a calorie counter you might be skipping on some healthy yet high calorie foods. If you say nuts are too high in calories you’re missing a good source of healthy fats. Avocados? Again super healthy fats that are filling and taste great. With all this being said there are times to watch the calories such as how much calories are coming from sugar content or liquid calories in a beverage.

All in all the the couple earlier who said they burn the most calories well that’s fine. I would rather have them stay away from my classes if all that is all they care about. I care more for my clients and sometimes I do things that isn’t the most popular. As a spin instructor who teaches a class on "steriods" I understand sprints get the heart rate high and burn the most calories yet I would rather focus on arms.  Some call me an arm killer and I have no problem with that. For clients, if you have questions why instructors do what they do... ask them! All instructors should have a reason and you might learn something new from them.

At the end of the day just remember not all calories are created equal. There are healthy calories and unhealthy ones. Choose wisely.