Calories…. #s or Quality?

Here’s a post I could not pass up, written on the site of Trainer Alfonso Moretti, – phenomenal

And as you’ve already noticed in your own searches, you’ll find varying opinions on the subject of calories. It seems as though nutritionists, dieticians, doctors, even trainers and coaches all have a different idea about food, nutrition and the almighty calorie. Even Weight Watchers recently changed their way of thinking and remodeled their famous points system to one that assigns value to foods nutritional value and calorie content.

First of all, calories are a unit of heat. 1 calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water to 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. So basically calories are energy and supply much needed fuel to your body through some pretty cool body processes. Simple right? You’re a machine, and you need fuel to run.

The calorie vs. calorie debate is really silly in my opinion. Why do I say that? Because if you eat a healthy nutritious diet, I don’t think that your daily calorie totals are all that matters. In other words, who cares if an apple or a cookie contains the same calories? Just stay away from the cookies and you’re good. We all know the latter has fewer nutrients and is full of sugar and fat. So no, of course all calories aren’t created equally, because although they may contain the same amount of energy, where and what that energy is derived from can be very different. When each food is digested and processed, it provides a unique hormonal and metabolic benefit.

Simple sugars process very quickly and provide little work for your body to digest and especially in junk food they’re “empty” calories, meaning they provide next to no nutritional value. Plus they raise your blood sugar levels very quickly only to crash just as fast which can provide unstable energy levels. Plus as insulin levels rise our ability to burn fat is blunted and our fat storing mechanism is turned on. That’s never a good thing. That’s why I always say “eat fruit, don’t drink it”. Whole fruit generally also has fiber that will slow digestion, keep you satisfied and get the metabolic machinery turning. Drinking juice is just liquid sugar, and you’ll drink far more than you’d eat. Whereas complex, fibrous sources of carbohydrates require a lot of work to be broken down and used for fuel and can contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and all sorts of other great stuff. They actually cost your body calories to burn them and can also supply a slow, stable release of energy.

So if some foods and the calories they contain burn calories and support a healthy metabolism and other foods don’t, then it’s clear that total calories is not what’s most important and the end all – be all in maintaining weight. I’m a bit disruptive in my thinking in that I believe you can actually consume more paper calories ( your daily calories added up on paper ) than you burn and still lose or maintain weight.

Let’s just try this for an example – For two weeks, one person eats 500 calories per day OVER their maintenance level in the form of cookies. Another individual eats 500 calories of broccoli over their maintenance. The calorie excess is the same, at least on paper, but do you really think anyone is gaining bodyfat from eating too much broccoli? Now what about cookie lover? If weight gain or maintenance is strictly based on counting calories, how is that scenario possible? Do you see my point? The answer is clear –

A calorie is NOT a calorie.

And check this out –

Some foods are negative calories meaning it costs your body more calories to digest and burn the food than it actually contains! So you tell me, is a calorie a calorie? Yes, the energy is technically the same, the calorie count is equal, but how you use it, what you get and what the benefits are can be totally different.

Proteins have long been considered a thermic food, meaning it raises body temperature when consumed. Protein, especially from meat sources takes longer to break down and digest. And healthy fats are needed for heart health, vitamin uptake, healthy eyes, hair etc, and can provide an alternative source of fuel. Dave Grotto, renowned registered dietician turned me on to the catch phrase “Active Calories”. What it means is for you to make food choices that make your body work, or earn its food; choices that run the metabolic machinery and get things moving. At the end of the day Dan, I keep repeating myself over and over. Just eat a healthy, nutritious, whole food diet with the occasional cheat and you’ll be golden.

I find the idea of counting calories to be arduous and unnecessary if you’re eating a natural, whole food, unpocessed, low sugar diet.

As for how much protein, as I’ve said before you’ll hear varying suggestions ranging from 1 – 2.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. In my earlier days I definitely ate too much protein, but now plan to eat about 1 – 1.5 grams of LBM.

So just in case I’m not clear – I DON’T believe all calories are created equal. I’ve had numerous discussions and arguments with people who insist that where calories are sourced from is unimportant and that only the the calorie count is what’s matters most for health, fitness and weight maintenance. Frankly the notion that anyone would suggest that is just ignorant and educational remnants left over from decade old textbooks. My suggestions on how to eat are all over the site; unprocessed whole foods, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. You can’t go wrong eating that way in more opinion.

Let me know how it goes and if any of you out there would like to book a more in-depth consultation with me – just drop me a line via the How To Book button in the sidebar.

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