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All Calories are not created Equally

In a previous Q&A regarding whether you should lose fat before building muscle, I believed that it is more effective to lose fat WHILE trying to build muscle as this will help burn more calories leading to greater fat loss as oppose to trying to lose fat first before any muscle building.

Today, the Internet has become the world’s largest arena for debate. The topic of nutrition is no exception pitting everyone from personal trainers all the way to doctors, each one vying for a voice on what seems to be the best or quickest way to lose weight. Sometimes the amounts of contradictory opinions can lead to information overload, often leaving us where we began…confused and even worse, having more questions than answers.

There are many approaches a person can take in order to lose weight. The most popular being counting calories. Simply put, if we eat fewer calories than we burn, we lose weight. What most people overlook is that weight loss doesn’t necessarily lead to fat loss. If we obsess over calorie counting, we then start to subscribe to the notion that WHAT we eat isn’t as important so long as it fits within our daily caloric recommendations. This can not only lead to unwanted results but also unhealthy eating habits.

How calories can be tricky to the eye

A 1500-calorie diet consisting of fat or carbs and a 1500-calorie diet consisting mainly of protein will both yield weight loss, but with 2 very different looks. The person eating 1500 calories coming from sweets and soda will look “skinny fat”, having lost the weight, but sporting a soft look. Person B who ate mainly protein with little carbs and fat will be the same weight but will look harder and more defined due to the increased protein and decreased fat.

Knowing that you need to ingest 1500 calories isn’t enough. The foods you eat are way more important than the calories they possess. That is why not all calories are created equal.


Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • The thermic effect of food is a measure of how different foods increase energy expenditure. This is due to the energy required to digest, absorb and metabolize the nutrients.
  • Proteins thermic effect on the body is higher than that of carbs and fat. This means that it requires more energy for your body to metabolize protein therefore burning more calories.
  • Refined sugars have what doctors refer to as bliss points. This is the level of sweetness in a food that makes a person crave it even more. When a diet consists of refined sugars, your body not only metabolizes it quickly but then starts to crave more.
  • Nutrient dense and low calorie foods such as vegetables or lean proteins rank high on the satiety index, a measure of how certain foods curb your appetite in comparison to others. Eating 500 calories from white bread is way easier than eating 500 calories from popcorn.

So the next time you’re at the grocery store and turn over a box of cookies or bag of chips, don’t let yourself believe that the low calories per serving is enough for you to include them in your diet. Instead, look for stuff that really matters like sugars, protein, carbs, and fat. Stay healthy my friends, stay healthy.