Testing the Calorie Myth

I want to run an experiment on myself to test the calorie myth. I've been following a mostly Bulletproof and paleo diet for about a month now, and I feel much better on this diet than I did before. So I'm willing to tell my friends about it, and go further down the rabbit hole. But people are reluctant to revisit longstanding beliefs. Even I'm not certain I believe it myself. I want proof, and I've got the time and motivation to get it.

So I'd like to try to change my body composition while eating a large number of calories. Specifically, I want to trim some of the fat and put on a little muscle, but without going overboard in the exercise department, all while eating far more calories than a normal diet would dictate. And I'm willing to accept some radical diet changes to accomplish this.

But here's the catch: I'm already very fit. I'm 5'10", 160lbs, and about 11% body fat. The month I spent on my current diet hasn't changed my body composition, which is already very interesting to me, given the amounts of eggs, butter, and fats I've been consuming. But to really be a convert, I want something more substantial.

Therefore, my question are thus:

1) Is it even possible to lower my body fat further on this diet? I ask because my body already seems pretty happy and healthy in its current state.

2) What changes from the standard Bulletproof diet would you recommend to get down to 7-8% body fat?

3) What can I add to my current choices to ensure I'm going overboard with the calories?

If I do the experiment, I'm going to photo blog about the whole thing. I'm planning to include pictures of myself along the way, as well as pictures of my meals, including calorie info for everything I eat. Which is going to be a pain at first, as I measure everything to ensure I know the calorie information, but excess information is the only way I can be certain of the results.

For full disclosure, here's the types of foods I've been eating over the past month, including what are probably the worst offenders:


Vitamin D3 5000 IU

Cod Liver Oil 100mg

Protein shake (mix of Muscle milk light and whey protein isolate),

with 6 blueberries, half a banana, and 1 tsp of flax seeds.

I've recently started adding 2 tbsp Coconut Protein powder (from the bulletproof site) and 2 tbsp MCT Oil to this shake.

Cup of Earl Grey tea, with 1 tsp honey. (Have not tried Bulletproof Coffee -- willing to try it, but don't much care for coffee, and didn't want to hunt for good coffee.)

Lunch or Dinner if I have to eat out (from most to least common):

Chipotle burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans (sometimes), chicken, barbacoa or carnitas, hot salsa, sour cream (rarely), cheese, guacamole.

Steak and eggs (from my work, so the steak is not great, and I'll only eat the lean parts)

Tilapia with rice and vegetables (also from work)

Sushi (tuna, salmon, avocado, California roll)

In-N-Out Burger double-single, ketchup and mustard instead of the spread, protein style (maybe once a week).

Lunch or Dinner if I'm cooking at home:

Eggs and spinach (using lots of grass-fed butter)

Ground beef and spinach (using coconut oil and grass-fed meat)

Salads with the above thrown in for good measure

Bacon with any of the above (though I haven't yet gone out of my way to purchase grass-fed bacon, if such exists)


Protein shake (no fruit added at night, though I will add coconut oil and 1 tbsp almond butter)

I have been considering using milk instead of water for the protein shake for extra calories.

I also snack on veggies regularly (celery, cucumber, broccoli, snap peas) and almonds and cashews a little less often.

The hardest thing to give up on this list by far would be Chipotle. Also, the meals from work would be difficult, as it's tough to get away to find something good, and nearly impossible to bring something there to eat (as they will search my backpack at the door each day).

Finally, exercise is not a problem. I'll continue to play tennis twice a week for 2-3 hours each session, and I'm comfortable doing some moderate lifting as well. The only reason I would limit this is to test the myth.


  • Not an expert, but have been doing some research...please jump in if I mess something up:

    1. I would definitely say that it is possible, but more likely with alterations to your foods you mention, and definitely would be easier with the exercise in place (specifically resistance and or power training over cardio).

    2. I don't think you would have to modify the diet at all, just your position on the spectrum. If you moved your foods to the left in each category, I think you will be optimized. Since you are not doing a ton of exercise, I would err more towards a much higher fat diet, and really limiting the carbs.

    3. Fat is the easiest (and tastiest!) energy source, and also happens to be very convenient and efficient. Adding roughly 1 stick of butter to your morning coffee will certainly give you a start (and yes...you should switch out your honey tea for BP coffee..you will not regret it!)

    Just a few tweaks to your diet might give you the desired body fat percentage (IMHO):

    BREAKFAST: Ditch the "light" muscle milk, always go for high fat, and using the whey to make your own is a much better idea. Also, banana's make great smoothie material, but see if you can skip that part, or maybe reduce the amount. Replace with berries if you feel you need sugar. Why the fish oil? Nothing wrong with it, but it seems that most of your meat contains optimum omega 3's. You may be able to skip that part (again, in my opinion). Also, worth another plug for the coffee... I have been on it for a week and will NEVER change that improvement!

    LUNCH/dinner: Look for "uncured" bacon. Also try to find bacon that has no sugar added. US wellness is a good place to buy this. Skip the rice, beans, an cheese. Go for the steak at chipotle (they claim to get their meat from more "natural" sources, but I have not heard them mention grass-fed exclusively... the steak however seems to be the less of the processed meats, and has a better 3-6 ration. Chipotle seems to be your best "out" food, skip the CAFO burgers! Also, I would look for fish other than tilapia, it is almost definitely farmed and fed grains/feed.

    I would eliminate milk. If you are going to add something to the shake, look for coconut milk. It will add quality fats, and less of the milk proteins that cause issues. It is hard to find, but favor the high quality organic stuff in the can, over the stuff in cardboard, it has less "stuff" added to it to keep it from separating.

    Exercise (strictly from your point of losing body fat) consider switching to high intensity exercises over the tennis. For example do some sprints/interval training/ power exercises instead. Go 20 minutes 2 times a week instead of 3 hours. You will likely increase lean muscle mass, and decrease inflammation.

    Where do you work that you can not have your own food?
  • First, thanks for the replies. I'll address points individually below:

    I understand that with a lot of my current diet, I can move to the greener end of the spectrum, and it'll be a little more healthy. My current diet is a blend of what is good for me and what I enjoy. Giving up bread, pasta, and sugar was fairly easy. Getting rid of rice, beans, and cheese completely will be much harder, so I followed an 80/20 rule and this is what I've got.

    Using coconut milk for protein shakes is a good suggestion, and I'll give that a shot.

    I play tennis because I enjoy it, and the health benefits are a side effect. But I also play competitively, and used to do so at the collegiate level, so it's not exactly low intensity.

    As far as Muscle Milk goes, why is it crap? What makes the whey protein concentrate in it worse than other sources? What sources do you recommend? Details here would be very helpful.

    Finally, I'm not actually interested in changing my body for the sake of health or fitness. I'm in good health and good shape. My interest is in disproving the calorie myth in a very substantial way. And to some degree, what you say makes sense. If my body is quite content at 11% body fat, then it's not going to get rid of any if I don't deprive it of resources and make it start burning that fat. So it may be the case that I can't run this experiment on myself, and must be content with my current status, which entails eating a lot of fat calories without gaining weight. But if there was a way to get lots of calories and *lose* weight and/or fat, that would be very interesting to me, and a nail in the coffin in the calorie myth (for me, anyway).

    I'll freely admit that most of my interest in this is the possibility that I've been giving erroneous information to people for a number of years. I've been fit my entire adult life, and lots of people have asked me about it, and I've always given them the 'calories in, calories out' response. And had very little sympathy for fat people, always believing they just had no willpower around food, or not enough willingness to exercise. I am reassessing these beliefs. Getting the data myself may be the only way I'll truly believe the theory espoused on this site.
  • edited August 2013

    Also, what would you recommend eating before playing 3 hours of tennis that is Bulletproof approved that will provide enough energy? Bulletproof intern, what do you eat before triathlons?

  • I think the "muscle milk is crap" is a great explanation... I did not know that it was a low quality source of protein, but it was the other useless junk that came with it that I found at fault. I do know a few people that "love" the stuff, but it tastes like garbage to me. My former co-worker claimed it tasted like strawberry quick or chocolate yoohoo.

    For the nutrition for exercise, I actually have read (and experienced) a number of sources that suggest exercise during a fast, and replenish afterwords. The primal/paleo people equate this with going on the hunt, and then feasting afterwards. I read in Mens Health Mag (about 10 years ago) that your testosterone "advantage" (I think that is even the title of a book by mens health) is in the late afternoon. Although testosterone levels are highest in the morning, I believe that there are other hormones that dampen the affect on testosterone in the am. However, I have also heard that there are significant benefits to exercising early. In my experience, it is more stressful to me to get up early and force a workout. However, the body is also great at adapting, so perhaps getting past the initial stress may be worth it?

    The "tennis" suggestion was a bang fur buck suggestion. As a PE teacher, I would NEVER recommend not giving that up, but your interest was in body fat %, and your time would be better spent with the power training, and you would likely have less inflammation as a result of cutting your tennis time down (assuming you are in constant over-training cardio mode for the 3 hours).
  • I definitely agree with the real food thing.

    Question... I just thought about the cortisol thing...would taking the salt water lower the effects of the cortisol in the am? If so, that might make the am a better time to work out. The other reasoning for the late afternoon (5pm I think?) was because after you eat you could go to sleep, and supposedly the "rebuilding" of the muscle happens during sleep. This assumed that bed time was 8pm, and over 8 hours of sleep was ideal (which multiple studies have suggested otherwise).
  • I tested myself the bulletproof diet beyond what I thought possible in terms of calorie intake. I started taking 3,500 or more calories from saturated fats daily, distributed through the day (Grassfed Ghee> Coconut oil> MCT oil> Beef tallow> macadamia nut> Fish oil> avocado oils) with additional calories from proteins and vegetables and on fridays I had high carb intakes after fasting (sometimes those carbs were not bulletproof like a nice medium or large pizza with everything you can imagine). I stopped exercise completely two weeks before and during the experimental two weeks. I even ate a whole large ghee bottle every 2 days and After the 2 weeks I ended up losing 3 pounds. NO WEIGHT GAIN. The fact is the body is not mathematic in terms of calories, but is systematic in terms of food needs. If you provide the body with what it needs to function correctly, it will use it for that function and not store it.

    With that said, calories In are not Calories out (as I experimented, because I should have gained like 10 pounds of fat). Calories are a good measure of energy, and they are cool to play with for fun (I do that as a hobby). But the thruth is that it all comes down to A GAME OF HORMONES. Glucagon is your friend in this type of diet, and insulin is your friend also if you get to know him better. If you want to lose weight, you turn on glucagon more often. If you want to gain weight, you call insulin with some carbs. If you want to stay the same, glucagon can do it better than insulin. And so On.

    And yes, I believe toxins have a lot to do with losing or gaining weight. I believe Those things get stuck in fat cells (Like THC from marijuana does), and they probably dance in the body until the person finally stops eating them and the liver can trash them. Fat cells now don't save them so moving fats out should be easier and more convenient for energy.
  • I stopped the experiment at the end of the two weeks because it was actually a little tedious to eat fat all day long while doing other stuff (studying, etc). Also my palate got tired of those fats shots i took (i melted tallow, ghee, coconut oil, butter, and drank it as a shot in a glass; and most of the oils were drunk

    By the tablespoon--> so i could measure "calories". And also my main goal besides proving that calories didn't matter was to see the full effect of high fats on my sleep, which proved not to improve the quality as expected. So I quited and retried other approaches, like timing of fats/proteins and carbs if necessary. I kept my 1300 calorie breakfast because I enjoy it a lot: 2-3 poached eggs, 2 scoops whey protein + bulletproof coffee with 3 tablespoons of ghee, 3

    Tablespoons coconut oil, 1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil, 1 tablespoon mct oil and 1 tablespoon almond butter + 1/4 cup coconut milk. With that morning snack i get a lot of healthy calories to go on my day.

    When i started I was on 167 and dropped to 164 by the end of the two weeks. I did not own a way to see body fat percentage by the time. But overall I looked more slim.

    One warning though. Once I got used to so high calories I noticed That without exercise my body had a little trouble readjusting to carbs (when I reintroduced them constantly at The same times again to see the effect) I quickly regained the weight because I kept such a high calorie fat diet with the carbs. The weight was more in the

    Belly area. But 1 day of fasting following to 2 days of more ketogenic dropped the weight

    Dramatically back. So lesson learned: high fat with carbs is not a good idea.

    Finally now I'm experimenting with increasing muscular mass while dropping fat weight. Its actually very challenging, because of the timings of meals, and combinations of food items, that have to be bulletproof (except the ocasional pizza like the one tim ferris uses) but it is possible. I have gained 10 pounds so far, with a 2% body fat decrease in just a week. But best of all I'm regaining my deep sleep which is very motivating. My best bet is to carb load before sleep (along with protein)with NO fats and especially NO mct fats (no mct oil, coconut oil etc). It just works for me ;)
  • ClownFishClownFish
    edited August 2013

    K Bulletproof intern thanks. Use my comments as needed.

    One last idea: after running this experiment I learned that people get fat not because of overeating or not exercising, but because of the wrong food choices. The food pyramid= goverment plate is completely retarded and basicly will keep people fat forever.

    Ok after that said, calories dont matter, food does.

  • edited August 2013

    Hi Bulletproof intern,

    Carolyn here. We did a partial phone consult together several weeks ago. Thanks for that. When we spoke I had been eating paleo for about 1 month, it's now been 2 months on paleo. I gained weight about 13 lbs. I dappled in Dr. Krus's Leptin reset and esentially stopped exercising as part of his plan. Crashed and burned in depression and overwhelm. Picked myself back up, started reading Primal Body, Primal Mind and began to do moderate walk/jog again. I have made an appointment with a naturopath to test hormone levels, to see if so many years being obese caused some difficutly in this area and contributed to the rapid weight gain.

    Over the past few weeks, I have cut way back on protein. I think I was overdoing it in this area. Following Nora Gedgoudas's approach, I have calculated that I should eat about 56 g. of protien per day and have 75% of my calories be comprised of fat. What do you think about this ratio? All of my carbs are from veggies, avocado, olives. Weight dropped from 158 to 153. Depression has lessened. Can squeeze into my jeans again.( Whew! That sucked.) Would love to be 135, but mostly just want ease with food and not to be experiencing bouts of hunger.

    Anyway, I can't get my head around the idea of a stick of butter in the morning. Really?I can't eat butter anyway, due to dairy intollerance, but I do currently eat about 4 T of coconut oil/day. How much fat is too much? Do calories count for fat? Can I really eat as much fat as it seems to quiet my hunger? I'm confused about this issue and would welcome your thougts or referral to other sources of information. I'm still getting hungry between meals and feeling blood sugar drop. Okay to put some coconut oil in my tea or coffee and tide myself over between meals during the day? Let me know if you would rather I do the second half of my phone consult with you to answer these questions. That would be fine.

    Thanks, Carolyn

  • edited August 2013

    Hey Bulletproof intern,

    thanks for your quick response. I will send you an email to set up a consult time.

    Regarding your suggestion of the weight loss being water weight, I don't think so. I had been eating primal, and low carb for 1.5 months, gaining weight on the approach. I have begun to loose with less protein and more fat, or so this is what I attribute it to.

    Interesting your take on my protien intake being too low. So much information out there, often conflicting! How to sort through it all as we strive to achieve a high quality of life for ourselves? I think, in part, it is staying open to new ideas and trusting what we know about ourselves. Our bodies and histories are all so unique.

    Thanks again and I'll send an email.

    Take care,


  • Hi Carolyn:

    Read about your story and found it interesting. I wanted to point out some things that might help in losing weight and being healthy overall:

    1- Protein intake should always be med-high (basicly, eat freely): Whoever suggested to lower protein intake is wrong. Especially in a paleo diet. Protein is not only important to boost weight loss, it is also important because it provides the building blocks for gluconeogenesis: the process of generating endogenous glucose. This is extremely important for erythrocytes, which exclusively feed from glucose and NOT ketones. The brain and muscles can adjust to ketones, but not red blood cells. Also proteins provide building blocks for correct neurotransmitter production (which might help with mood issues). The only exception to lower protein intake is if you have any kidney disease like glomerulonephritis.

    2- Tests for thyroid hormones are important in your case (TSH, T4). Hypothyroidism is a very common cause of weight gain on any type of diet, and is also related to mood disorders.

    3- Do the correct mix and match of foods: Fats + protein = good, Fats + Carbs = not good (except if vegetables), Proteins + carbs = ok. This is important because if you have a very high fat intake (like I did, 3,000 calories per day) and then take fruits along, insulin could help store even the healthy fats (escpecially if you were fat before). So take that into account and space the carbs away from the fat intakes.

    4- Exercise but High-Intensity-low time workouts like tabata. It will help boost weight loss while also increasing the deeper phases of sleep.

    5- Break the paleo diet once a week and eat whatever you want, without restrictions. This also boosts fat loss, but more importantly, it helps psychologically. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, and if calorie restriction is stupid, the same thing applies to dietary restriction in excess. So set a day a week to be not paleo, and have fun. Toxins will be no match to the psychological power of having fun.
  • ClownFishClownFish
    edited August 2013

    Actually, Tabata is very magical and fantastic, and will work for anyone. But everyone has different tastes for exercise types.

    Insulin CAUSES fat gain. But my point was that you just don't want to eat a thousand calories of fat with a bunch of carbs, it's just not a good idea to do on a daily basis.

    I wish to see any research evidence connecting thyroid problems with gluten. If possible post the links so that we readers can learn that. Up to my knowledge there is no direct connection. But gluten is not a healthy "thing" anyways and I personally DON'T eat it (except free diet days) nor recommend it (except I do recommend free diet days).

    There is no problem with eating junk once a week. It's actually healthy. The bulletproof jacket one gets of 6 days on this diet will take care of the 7th day toxins and crap. It also teaches the body to deal with that stuff. People who are strict on diets 100% end up dying of cancer and gonorrhea (lol this is a joke). But yea in my opinion carolyn will benefit from that free day just like any bulletproofer would. I remember in the last podcast the co-host said "i've been eating basicly boring food" which means you also need some of the junk stuff to spice things up a bit.

    Wish the best for carolyn in her quest for better health. Have fun :cool:

  • edited August 2013

    Clownfish and Bulletproof intern,

    thanks very much for your thoughts and well wishes.

    I have a gluten allergy and have been free of it for 5 years. Won't be going down that raod again. I do like the idea of free day, but for me this will probably mean eating a bar of 90% dark chocolate. I eat meat, veggies and fat and really feel satisfied. Just can't quite figure out the right amounts of each for my body to experience weight loss. I Tried L Glutamine today and found that it really helped when I was begining to feel quezzy and light headed between meals. With it, was able to have a bullet proof coffee only morning and cruzed through until lunch. It felt great. Also discovered today that MCT oil works much better for me than coconut oil, which makes sense as I have had my gallblader removed. Coconut oil was causing me to feel a little ill, and i thought I was feeling hungry or was having a blood sugar issue. Took bile acids at each meal.

    Still not sure of how much protien to eat. I got the low to moderate protien idea from Primal Body, Primal mind where she offers a formula of body weight devided by 2.2= weight in kg. Then, multiply by 0.8 to get the amount of protien to facilitate weight loss. Mine was 56.36 grams. She says eat as much fat as you want to feel satisfied.

    My food today looked like:

    Breakfast (5:30): bulletproof coffe with 1T MCT oil, 1T coconut oil

    tea with 1T MCT oil

    Lunch (12 pm): 3 oz grass fed beef, 1 bunch of kale and 2 cups spinach steamed with 1T MCT oil and salt on top.

    Snack (2pm): 3 oz grass fed beef

    Dinner (5pm): small head of cauliflower, 1 carrot, T MCT oil (all blended), 1 avocado chopeed on top. (Yumm!)

    40 g of 90% dark chocolate (about 15g of carbs)(1/2 a bar of Lindts 90%)

    Went for 40 minute walk in the sun and taught a very gentle yoga class.

    Full and feeling happy. What do you think?

    Maybe I'm not loosing weight for now, until I get my hormones figured out, but feeling good and could eat this way forever. Not gaining weight and holding steady at 153. That's cool for now. I used to be so damn hungry all of the time on low carb, low fat way of eating. It seems like I figure out a little something new for my body daily.

    Bulletproof intern, I'll contact you after the holidays. Have a good one!

    All the best, Carolyn

  • Hi Carolyn:

    Super cool to know you are feeling better. What you are doing sounds good to me. My only recommendation would be going up with the meat for about 4-6oz per portion, since that is the normal portion recommendations to have with each meal (as recommended by nutritionists and stuff). But if 3oz is working then good. Vegetables can be consumed without restrictions, so have fun with that too like you are doing.

    I'm going to try that chocolate because it seems like a good treat to have :)

    Losing weight is more difficult for some people. Hormones have a lot to do with it, but also the body sometimes needs the correct signal to accomplish it. With that said, a correct signal means any activity you can do that could lead the body to prefer a lower fat accumulation state. For example, exercising daily would trigger fat cells to recognize moving fat for energy is correct, since the body needs it for accomplishing the goal. That signal would make the fat reducing hormones more bioavailable, making the hormone sensitive lipase more prone to initiate movement of fats. But also the type of exercise is important, and is best sometimes to do different kinds of exercises to keep the body confused and ready to keep mobilizing fat. Yoga for example is excellent too :). But a very important signal you already accomplished it, which is being and feeling happy overall.


    ******L-carnitine is important to be supplemented daily (1g-3g) because it helps in mobilizing long chain fatty acids (those with higher than 12 carbons in structure) to muscles for energy. Those fats are present in foods like grassfed butter, palm oil, coconut oil, etc. Also our bodies make palmitate as the first fat produced which would need carnitine to be moved into muscles for energy. Although red meat has nice carnitine in it, supplementing with extra carnitine would be advisable when consuming high fat diets. It might even make the job easier for muscles to use fats for energy.

    Between the aminoacids, L-leucine and Lysine would help keep ketosis running in the body. Those two aminoacids are the only ketogenic aminoacids, which means they cannot be converted to glucose by the liver. So having those once in a while also helps.

    B-complex (better if activated): B vitamins are cofactors in many biochemical reactions involved in the generation of energy. Important to have them exra handy.

    Have a merry christmas Carolyn, best wishes

  • ClownFishClownFish
    edited August 2013

    Bulletproof intern thanks a lot for that input :)

    Even that 20% would be great for me. I actually use L-carnitine more for the chance of increasing efficiency of Long chain fat utilization; not necesarily for fat loss.

    I don't like liver so I best supplement with the Bs. :cool:

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