Often when we talk about nutrition, we talk about calories. This is especially true when it comes to weight loss and weight gain. So do good, or bad nutrition and calories go hand in hand?
First of all, let’s look at what calories are. A calorie is a unit of energy measurement. It measures that amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.
Nutrition And Calories
Nutrition and calories are not the same thing. Nutrition is the process of providing the food necessary for our body’s health and growth. Calories are just one out of many necessary resources our body needs. You also can’t really say calories are (or are not) nutritious. Calories are energy.
1 calorie equals 4.184 joules.
1 dietary Calorie (kilocalorie) is 4184 joules.
Your body has to store a lot of this excess energy to form fat. 1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories.
Fat is stored energy. In other words, fat is stored calories. So does this mean that someone with significant body fat is eating way too many calories? Maybe, but we’d argue that for whatever reason their body isn’t burning enough calories. We need to burn calories to burn fat. That doesn’t mean we have to count every calorie we eat to make sure we are burning it off to lose weight. Not only is it frustrating to count calories, but it is highly inaccurate. It’s hard to know the exact number of calories we eat, and even harder to know the amount we burn. We can make educated guesses, but it isn’t an exact science. A better way to look at food is what you’re putting into your body, and not how much. If you’re eating good food you can trust your body to tell you when it’s satisfied.
Calories are what give us energy. Cutting calories out of your diet to lose weight is the wrong way to go about dieting. To say that weight gain/loss is a result of a disconnect between the amount of calories put into the body, versus the calories put out by the body, is an extreme oversimplification.
While it is true that you have to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight, you need to make sure you’re getting the right calories.
Eating Less And Feeling Fuller
Your body is searching for nutrients, not just energy. Often what you’re craving isn’t calories but nutrients.
Often people focus on eating less and less until they lose weight. However, if you’re not getting the nutrients your body needs you’ll continue to be hungry, and your body will suffer. Instead of looking to eat less, look at getting the nutrients you need. Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you need to eat. You need nutrient dense foods to fill your body and satisfy your appetite. Don’t worry about getting the energy (calories) you need. If you are eating the right foods you’ll get the right amount of energy.
Some calories are easier to binge eat than others. All of the foods in this video have 2000 calories. That does not mean that all of these foods are equally as filling, and they definitely don’t have the same nutritional profile. Calorie’s packaging is not all the same.
Sources Of Calories
Calories come from macronutrients. The three macronutrients in our diet are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Each one of these goes through different metabolic pathways. This is why not all calories are treated the same by the body.
Yes, a calorie is a calorie. 1 calorie in cake is the same thing as 1 calorie in steak. A calorie is a unit of energy. Energy is the same thing in different food. The difference is the package the energy is contained in.
What is accompanying the energy when it enters your body?
When you’re eating the cake you are getting a rush of insulin from the carbohydrates. When you eat steak, you’re getting a hormone release from the protein and fat telling your body it’s full. While the foods may contain the same amount of calories, one will be significantly more filling, and have a completely different biochemical effect on the body than the other.
It comes down to the satiety index of food. Different types of food have significantly different impacts on your appetite and feeling satisfied.
For example, a low-carb diet reduces hunger and consumption. Protein has been shown to be more filling, and a better way to lose fat.
A big problem with our society is gluttony. We want more than we need. We consistently eat more than we need. Food tastes so good that we continue to eat. We need to learn self-control and stop eating when we’re satisfied, not when we’re uncomfortably full.
Fructose and glucose are another great example of how calories don’t act the same. Despite both being sugars, the same amount of calories in fructose has shown to cause more fat gain than glucose. This is because they have a different chemical makeup, and the body uses more energy to process the one than the other.
There is also the trouble with cutting calories to lose weight because of your body fat setpoint. This is your body’s way of regulating the amount of calories you eat. So if you cut your calories (or increase) by 10% you will see slight changes in weight for a period. However, these will be temporary. Your body will correct itself and adapt to the new calorie level. What your body needs to lose weight is good food and activity.
Check out this great video by Jonathan Bailor. Bailor looks at how counting calories is the wrong way to go about losing weight. He looks at what to put into our body and what to avoid.
In the video, Bailor makes a great comparison between the human body and a drainpipe. The more junk we put in our body the more it’ll plug up. We need to eat well for our body to run well.
Here are Bailor’s four factors to good SANE food:
- Satiety: How quickly the food satisfies your hunger.
- Aggression: How likely those calories are to be stored as body fat
- Nutrition: How many nutrients those calories contain
- Efficiency: How many of those calories can be stored as body fat
Water, fibre, and protein foods are SANE. Starches and sugars are some of the inSANE foods that will clog our system. The more natural, the more SANE
Nutrition and calories are both important, yet different. Concentrate on eating good nutritional food, and spend less time worrying about how many calories you’re pumping in and pumping out.
Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals. Please follow any dietary guidelines prescribed by your doctor.