Is there anything wrong with ‘just counting calories’?


In early August 2018, I (Jonno) asked our Instagram and Facebook communities to tell say what comments about Low-Carb absolutely infuriate them.

There is a common misconception that academics and scientists are the only people whose opinions count in a any argument. When I dipped my toe into the academic community I was appalled by how much arguing happens over scientific papers instead of looking at what is right in front of them. There are many debates about nutrition that can be won on pure personal experience, and often, as little as plain old common sense.

Erik Van Wyk said the irritating thing he ever hears about low-carb is:

‘Just count your calories’

Usually this comment comes attached to another comment like, it doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you ‘just count your calories’.

Sure, why don’t we take a closer look.  

Let’s look at two meal examples.

Meal 1

One meal when you eat 150g of lamb chops and 500ml red wine. I would say that’s realistic for a lot of men in particular. The ratio happens to work out to what low-carbers consider a to be spot on. You can see 10% carbs, 21% protein and 69% fat – on paper, this meal fits two paradigms – it is a 550 calorie meal, and it is technically LCHF according to the ratio.

The macro nutrient ratio happens (below) to work out to what low-carbers consider a to be spot on. You can see 10% carbs, 21% protein and 69% fat – on paper, this meal fits two paradigms – it is a 550 calorie meal, and it is rock solid LCHF according to the ratio.

Now, let’s look at a second example.

Meal 2

In the second meal we have 100g of steak, 150g spinach, 30g (2tbsp) butter and 100g broccoli. By Paleo, Low-Carber and dare I say dietitians’ standards, this would be considered ‘on-the-money’. A small portion of protein, two generous helpings of green vegetables rich in fibre and a small serving of ‘natural’ fats.

The fat could be debated at this point, but that’s for another conversation.

What you will notice in the macronutrients of this dish, are that they are also a perfect LCHF meal, as it sits at a 60% fat, 31% protein and again, 9% carbs. This is slightly higher in protein (interestingly) than the chops and red wine, but it fits within the LCHF paradigm.

And, this also happens to be a 550 calorie meal.

On the surface, we have two meals that are both 550 calories. They are also both ‘high-fat’ and the are both most certainly low-carb – clocking in 13g and 12g of GROSS carbs respectively.

Back to discussion at hand – As a non-scientist, can you honestly look at these two 550 calorie meals and say that they will have the exact same impact on the body and the mind?

If you answered yes, did you forget that a pint of wine was in the first meal?


OK, what about this as a compromise: Just count calories, but also watch out for alcohol.

Great, so let’s swap the wine for some sugar and assume we managed to find the same ratio and calorie count.

Then watch this:


Now we’re looking at a meal of lamb chops and sugar with a similar calorie count, but if sugar does what it says in the video, maybe we should watch out for sugar too?

If you’re a calorie counter, you’ll be OK with me compromising again. How’s this?

Just count calories, but also watch out for alcohol, and also watch out for sugar.

I could throw in stuff about carbs and good fats here too, but by now, you should get the point, which is this:




Everything has calories and it is obvious that every different calorie will have a different impact on the body. If your clarity of mind can be messed with by taking in ‘calories’ from one type of beverage (or mushroom), who is to say that your body’s ability to store or burn fat can’t be messed with, or improved by taking in calories from another type of food or beverage?

Even petrol has calories. Sit with that for a while.

And then, if you’re interested in finding out which calories are good and which calories are very very bad,  download the Low-Carb Real Food Lists, and get to grips with the green list.