The Potential Benefits of Skillfully Managing Your Calorie Intake

by The Fitness Enthusiast on March 21, 2013

The importance of caloric manipulation:

Most people associate dieting with losing weight, and so they should. Like a profitable business, it’s all the bottom line, in this scenario its about calories in versus calories out. To diet properly would infer you are in a calorie deficit and living in that state for a period of time would cause fat loss and then weight reduction. Simple enough right?

So then why else is caloric manipulation so important? Well other than losing fat, which is the most talked about and most obvious, there are other benefits for healthy adults to live in a modest calorie deficit.

Now, this may seem counterintuitive at first. How does not nibbling and resisting those supposed hunger impulses give you peace? It’s annoying and even stressful, especially during initial attempts. Most people also don’t realize that stress actually releases cortisol in your body which in turn inhibits fat burning, so why then is dieting beneficial?? It makes no sense. Or so it would seem. But dig deeper.

First and foremost most of us are way too lenient with ourselves. When we feel “hungry” we eat something, when in fact we may just be thirsty or tired and that is the real root of the craving.

Like most things the longer you do them the more you get used to it. Just as in working out and exercising, your body acclimates itself to the exercises eventually and you need to change up what weight and movements and frequency you exercise to keep your body challenged and avoid plateauing. Similarly, when you diet for long periods of time your body adapts and adjusts to the new conditions. Your start to realize if you get enough sleep and drink plenty of water you aren’t hungry nearly as often as you once thought you were. You train your body to not graze while cooking dinner or nibble between meals, and eventually it becomes second nature to resist the cupcakes at your office party or a midnight snack. Additionally you are actually teaching your taste buds what to crave (healthy whole foods rather than processed preservative filled junk or water instead of other processed drinks.)

For many healthy adults living in a mild and healthy calorie deficit is not only in my own experience a positive thing for overall health but a 2007 scientific peer-reviewed study further underlines the benefits of a consistent calorie deficit and actually correlates a caloric deficit to anti-aging & increased lifespan.

Yes you heard me. Not only will you be healthier and not constantly need to worry about fitting into your skinny jeans, you could look younger and live longer as well.

Here is a brief excerpt of their conclusions:

“The current study investigated the impact of caloric restriction on muscle mitochondrial function in healthy overweight but non-obese humans. The study provides, to our knowledge, the first evidence that a 25% caloric deficit either by caloric restriction alone or by a combination of caloric restriction and exercise …improved mitochondrial function… Our results suggest that caloric restriction induces biogenesis of “efficient” mitochondria as an adaptive mechanism, which in turn lowers oxidative stress.”***


Oxidative stress is a precursor to decline in normal healthy bodily functions (this is what we generalize and refer to as aging). A decrease in oxidative stress from adaptations brought upon by living a moderate calorie deficit in healthy adults is therefore correlated with anti-aging and better overall health due to adaptations in our mitochondria. Much like our muscles adapt and respond to workouts, this study illustrates that our mitochondria actually positively adapt to dieting as well. Another way to think about it is that less oxidative stress is linked to positive mitochondrial adaptations which could cause increased lifespan via decreased risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc.

Now this isn’t to say I don’t have a cheat meal with my husband about once every week or 10 days. Or that I don’t have a big piece of my mom’s pecan pie on Christmas Eve. No, I’m not a robot. Quite to the contrary I love French fries and chocolate and definitely have a treat here and there. But I am extremely aware of when I allow myself to cheat and I don’t let it get out of hand. Not because I’m obsessive about my weight, to the contrary I love my body. Whether I am up a few pounds with a bit more junk in my trunk or if at tip top shape and bikini ready, I love myself first and foremost. Calorie counting is secondary. It’s important but there are more important emotional foundations that need to be established not based off of physical appearance. But with that said, I can definitely say that I am happier and feel healthier when I am exercising and eating right and getting enough sleep and in a calorie deficit 90% of the time.

So this is some food for thought. Feel free to check out the entire scientific study at

At the end of the day, whether you were in a calorie deficit today, or whether you will do better tomorrow, be at peace. Taking care of your mind AND your body is also key to anti-aging.

***Citation: Civitarese AE, Carling S, Heilbronn LK, Hulver MH, Ukropcova B, et al. (2007) Calorie Restriction Increases Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Healthy Humans. PLoS Med 4(3): e76. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040076

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