Keto & Banting Vs ‘Just Counting Calories’?


I (Jonno) asked our Instagram and Facebook communities to tell say which comments about Low-Carb absolutely infuriate them. ‘Just count calories’ came out tops. 

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.

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

Well, I put the science down and used our meal tracker and some good old common sense to see if this advice stacks up.  

Let’s look at two meal examples.

Meal 1

The first meal example is 150g of lamb chops and 500ml red wine. In 2014, I think the uprising and Noakes’s crucifixion arose from the popular belief that this is actually what Banting was. Unfortunately many of the people who were actually Banting believed the same.

In this case, though, the ratio of macronutrients happens to work out to what low-carbers consider a to be spot on. You can see 10% carbs, 21% protein and 69% fat – so, on paper, this meal fits two paradigms – it is a 550 calorie meal, and it is technically LCHF according to the ratio.

These are screen shots taken from the meal tracker in our Online Keto and Banting Course.

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’ for a good meal. 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 they sit 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.

If I was supporting the ‘Just count calories’ argument, I would need to prove that a a pint of wine and lamb chops is equal to steak and greens for losing weight. I would take a step further and say that if I was arguing in favour of ‘Just count calories’ I would also have to defend the health benefits of greens vs the health benefits of a pint of wine. The wine will make you drunk, damage your liver, damage your resolve, dehydrate you and it will also offer you limited nutrition.

You may want to argue with me and say that wine is an extreme example, and I’m glad. Wine is low on nutrients, high in calories, and it contains alcohol. Including wine in a meal is not really practical. And that is the exact point I am making.

All foods have varying nutrient densities and wine is just an extreme example. To say that you just need to count calories to lose weight is plain stupid. Calories are important, sure. If you go crazy on calories you will not lose weight.

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?

If you agree that alcohol should be avoided too, what about this as a compromise: Just count calories, but also watch out for alcohol.

Now, let’s revisit the exercise and swap the wine for some sugar and assume we managed to find the same ratio and calorie count as Meal 1.

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, is it fair to say that even if we’re counting calories, calories from sugar might be more damaging than say, calories from broccoli?

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. My point is that every food or beverage has properties that have a far greater impact on your hormones, your psyche, your appetite and your overall health than their calorie count. Please write the next sentence down, so you can empower the people around you to wake up to what they’re saying or believing. 


Everything has calories and it is obvious that calories from different foods will have different impacts 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.

There does come a point when total calorie consumption still matters. It doesn’t matter what you eat, if you’re eating 6000 calories a day or anything, you will put on weight. Conversely, if you’re eating 1200 to 1800 calories a day, it ABSOLUTELY matters what you eat, because every system in your body needs different macro and micronutrients to operate and too many of some or too many of others will mess with your energy, your appetite, your mind and your hormones, which impact everything above.

What now?

First, please send this post to anyone who thinks counting calories is all there is to it. If someone sent this to you, you’ve got work to do.

Second, shift your mind from a quantity paradigm to a quality paradigm. If you can only fit so many notes in your wallet, surely you would want all your notes to be $100 bills. Well, if you can only fit a limited amount of calories in your body, wouldn’t you want the $100 bill equivalent in nutrient density and nourishment? Great, now go do that.

And if you know all of this but you need help with implementation, check out our Online Keto and Banting Course or give us a call on +27 82 445 3028.