Once upon a time there was a man named Wilbur Atwater, his nickname was H20 (actually I made that up, but that’s what I would have called him if he was my friend)
Anyhow, Wilbur was an American Chemist.
He was very smart man.
So smart in fact, he created something that has literally revolutionized the Chemistry and Nutrition industry.
In the late 1800’s Wilbur invented the respiration calorimeter, to measure precisely the energy provided by food and created a system to measure that energy in units, known as food calories.
And so the calorie was born.
Before we get into the meat and veg of this article, (pardon the pun) it is important to note that this article is in no way designed to attack Wilbur and his amazing achievements.
As I said, he is a very smart man and has created a tool that if understood correctly will have profound differences on people’s lives.
This article is more designed to bring awareness around what most peoples perception is when it comes to calories. And what you can do about it.
Firstly lets define what a calorie is.
A calorie is a unit of heat energy, it is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (confused? I know right)
Basically as most people know it. A calorie is used to measure food energy.
Now that we have got that out the way, lets get back to why you are reading this.
“Calories are stupid” is a pretty interesting headline right?
I have no doubt that I will receive some constructive feedback from all the calorie counters out there saying I am crazy to say that. Some may even say I am stupid.
Well just in case you missed it, I will say it again, but I would like to add something to it this time.
Calories are stupid if they are not understood!
I bet Wilbur will be happy now that I said that.
Nutrition expert Charles Poliquin states that calorie-based weight loss system doesn’t work for two principle reasons.
First, the different macronutrients produce different hormone responses that directly influence the metabolic rate and whether the body is in a fat burning or storing mode.
Yes, different foods produce different hormone responses that will determine whether or not you will burn fat.
Second, the amount of calories—known as the thermic effect of food— required for the body to break down different foods varies greatly.
For a simple example, your body burns significantly more calories digesting a meal of animal protein and fibrous leafy greens than a meal of carbs such as pasta with tomato sauce.
Even fewer calories are required to digest processed foods like cookies, white bread, or potato chips.
The effect of different sources of calories on blood sugar and hormones like insulin is one of the most important concepts in nutrition, and one which dieticians still haven’t figured out.
If you eat a bar that is 100 calories of sugar. Within minutes your blood sugar levels jump through the roof. In response to this your pancreas lets rip a big shot of insulin, whose job it is to bring your blood sugar back to normal levels.
Unfortunately for some people this doesn’t work to well. They are now left with high blood sugar and now high insulin levels. Both of which are enemies in the fight against fat storage.
Chronically elevated insulin makes the cells resistant to the insulin, which drives up levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which is predominantly responsible for stomach fat) causing cellular aging. This can also cause diabetes.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to age faster than I have too!
On the flip side, say you eat a 100 calorie bar that contains protein, fat and fiber. I will bet you 5000 burpees non-stop that you will see a totally different internal response.
The protein provides necessary building blocks for health, lean muscle growth and development.
It also provides the feeling of fullness unlike the sugar bar, which puts you on the hunger rollercoaster, which leaves you feeling hungrier than you were before you ate it.
The good fats (non trans fat) will be used to strengthen cellular levels and the fiber will help slow the entrance of sugar into the bloodstream.
Triple bonus right there.
Ok, so I think we have established that not all calories are created equal.
Lets move on.
A study in the American Society for Nutrition conducted research where 16 lean and 14 obese men participated in.
The study aimed to compare the differences in chewing activities between obese and lean subjects and to examine the effects of chewing on energy intake and gut hormone concentrations in both obese and lean subjects.
Compared with lean participants, obese participants had a higher ingestion rate and a lower number of chews per 1 g of food.
The subjects ingested 11.9% less energy intake by chewing 40 times as opposed to 15.
TIP: chew your food properly.
Furthermore, the group that chewed there food 40 times vs 15 also resulted in lower energy intake and postprandial ghrelin concentration (the hormone that increases hunger) and higher GLP-1 and CCK (the hormone that decreases feelings of hunger) in both lean and obese subjects.
Increased chewing can release nutrients from food more efficiently, which subsequently affects gut signaling, physical actions, and ultimately digestive and absorptive processes.
One study indicates that chewing almonds 40 times resulted in higher GLP-1 concentrations than did chewing almonds 10 and 25 times.
Firstly we discovered that all calories are not created equal.
Now we have discovered that by changing the way in which you chew your food can have an overall impact on your energy consumption.
Lets take a look at the low calorie diet debate.
It is well known that low calorie diets can result in body composition changes. Many studies have proven this.
There is even evidence that calorie restriction in obese and lean subjects alike improves insulin sensitivity.
A study in the New England Journal of medicine put the low calorie diet into perspective.
For 8 weeks, participants were instructed to replace all three of their daily meals with a very-low-energy dietary formulation (Optifast VLCD, Nestlé) (another reason shake diets are not great) and 2 cups of low-starch vegetables, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, which provided 2.1 to 2.3 MJ (500 to 550 kcal) per day.
During weeks 9 and 10, participants who had lost 10% or more of their initial body weight were gradually reintroduced to ordinary foods, and weight was stabilized to avoid the potential confounding effect of active weight loss on hormone profiles. Meal replacements were stopped at the end of week 10.
The weight loss from baseline to week – 10 was 13.5kg on average, not bad on paper. However due to severely altering their metabolic hormone responses they regained on average 5.5kg the following year.
On average 9.8% of fat was lost in the first 10 weeks, then 4.5% of fat was gained. That’s half the amount of weight regained.
Caloric restriction results in a rapid, profound reduction in circulating levels of leptin and energy expenditure and an increase in appetite.
Other effects of diet-induced weight loss include increased levels of ghrelin and reduced levels of peptide YY and cholecystokinin.
The study also discovered that a greater-than-predicted decline in 24-hour energy expenditure (ability to burn calories) after weight loss also persists for 1 year or more after the loss in weight has been maintained.
“These findings indicate that in obese persons who have lost weight, multiple compensatory mechanisms encouraging weight gain, which persist for at least 1 year, must be overcome in order to maintain weight loss” the researchers wrote.
A perfect example is if you take a look at all the biggest loser contestants. A very small percentage of them ever keep the weight of for good.
Another study compared the effect of a whole foods meal with a processed foods meal that contained equal calories and equal macronutrient content.
The thermic effect of the whole food meal was almost double that of the processed food meal.
Participants burned 50 percent more calories after eating whole foods!
Furthermore the participants who ate the processed food meal had their metabolic rates drop below their average resting metabolic rate RMR (the rate at which you burn energy at rest) during the fourth hour after eating, while the whole food meal group never fell below the RMR.
So this is where the real challenge starts.
You have lost the weight, but how do you keep it off?
And this is where the concept of Clean Eating is born.
- Eating foods that are non-processed and non packaged foods is a great start.
- Eliminating high GI cho, such as sugars.
- Eliminate Tran fats found in most deep fried foods and takeaways.
Ok, so it looks like I have given calories a bad wrap. Well in a way I have.
But here is the good news.
Calories counting can be very beneficial to certain people, such as athletes who are performing at high caliber events.
However for the average punter who is simply looking for fat loss. Then in my opinion, calorie counting is going to be more hassle than what it is worth.
The more you become more fixated on what number you need to reach, you actually take focus of what the real goal is.
To live a healthy, long fruitful life. So you can then educate your children on how to live healthy active life, so they too do not get trapped in the calorie debate.
And if you have to stop every time you eat and pull out an application that tells you can eat a certain food or not, based on its calorie content… WELL that ain’t living.
If you simply eat nutritious vegetables, lean meats, fruit and nuts. You will never have to worry about counting a calorie again.
To be honest I have never counted a calorie and I do not plan on starting anytime soon.
I urge you to make your own decisions when it comes to the calorie battle.
Do what works for you.
At the end of the day, that is all that counts.
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