“ A Tip To Lose Weight…..That IS NOT True!!”
I give talks to the general public often. One of my favorite talks is titled “ Ten Tips To Lose Weight…..That ARE NOT True!!” One of these ten myths that I try to deconstruct is the old dogma “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie.” It is not unusual for a person battling weight gain to hear from a dietitian or a physician that slogan implying to lose weight it doesn’t matter what one eats as long as one cuts back on the total calories consumed.
Indeed, outside of our bodies a calorie from orange juice is the same as a calorie from chicken or chocolate. But inside our bodies that old dogma doesn’t hold up. That is because foods are not just consumed, they have to be digested as well. The process of digestion or integration of nutrients into the body is not equally efficient for different food types. For example, fat is 95% efficient. Meaning of 100 calories of fat consumed, 95 calories are stored in the body (mostly in fat cells.) Carbohydrates are about 85% efficient meaning 15% of calories are lost during digestion. Finally, protein is only 70% efficient. Our body cannot store fish, beef or chicken protein. It has to break down all amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and re-assemble them into human proteins. This process wastes about 30% of the calories consumed from protein. That is one reason that all calories are not the same.
Another reason calories are not equal in our bodies has to do with our metabolism – how our bodies decide to process food at any given time. For example, studies have showed that eating the same amount of calories (in on study of college students it was 2000 calories) in one meal in the morning versus in the evening have different effects on body weight. Eating more of the total intake at night causes more weight gain.
Also, high-protein foods are more satiating than high-carb foods. That is because protein is a strong trigger of the satiety hormone PYY which tells the brain “we ate..” Carbohydrates do not release this hormone as much. Also, different foods influence blood chemistry including inflammation, in variable ways as well.
Finally, the time and the type of food in relation to exercise matter too. We will discuss this important topic soon. But for now, just remember it not all about calories and calorie counting.