A Calorie Is A Calorie … Is It?

I must confess before the age of 19/20 I never once in my life bothered to check the calorie content of any food, it didn’t make a difference to me. A part of me wishes I hadn’t looked to be honest, it definitely makes your food choice decisions a lot more time consuming.

And I’m not really into the calorie counting thing, I check some foods just out of interest.

Is that bad for a personal trainer and nutrition coach? Maybe, maybe not.

The weight loss formula is:

If energy in (calories from food) is greater than energy out (calories burned) = Weight Gain

If energy out is greater than energy in = Weight Loss

That’s the rule and science suggests it does work, of course if you want to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit.

I’ll quickly tell you what a calorie is. A calorie is a measure of energy. We usually refer to calories as Kcal (kilocalories). One Kcal is the energy required to heat 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

The reason I’m not too into counting calories is:

  1. Because I’m not trying to lose weight
  2. I question whether it’s as simple as suggested
  3. It’s too time consuming

Here is my scenario:

A lady burns a total of 1800 calories a day through working, exercising etc. she then consumes 1600 calories through eating salad, chicken, fish and vegetables through the day. She has created a 200 calorie deficit which is going to point to weight loss.

Another lady burns a total of 2000 calories in one day and then consumes 1800 calories through eating a kitkat chunky, bowl of chips, piece of toast with cheese on a pizza slice and some ice cream, she has created a 200 calorie deficit which suggests she is going to lose weight, but will she have the same results as the first person?

Just looking at the figures you would say yes but I just can’t believe that’s true.

Is a calorie just a calorie?

Will you get the same results from eating 100 calories of carrots compared to 100 calories of cake?

Of course you won’t there is a tonne of goodness in the carrots whereas the cake may taste nice but it’s just basically empty calories which will lead to storing fat. Also what will fill you up more? What will give you more energy? What will affect your long term health more?

Fibre is important and fills us up, the healthier foods like nuts and veg will have more fibre in which will keep us full for longer compared to the processed foods.

This is my problem with calorie counting because I think there is more to it.

Would you get the same results if you ate 1500 calories of protein compared to 1500 calories of fat a day? Both would be dangerous as you need to balance out your intake of macronutrients but of course you wouldn’t have the same results.

Our body requires energy to process all of the food that comes into the body, generally the body uses more energy to process protein than carbs, and more energy is needed to process carbs than fat. So effectively a protein diet adds fewer calories to the body than carbs and carbs add more than fat.

Not all calories are created equal.

That’s why I’m not really into the calorie counting diets. I know places like weightwatchers and slimming world have fantastic results and is a great system but they are quite concerned (or they used to be at least, apologies if things have changed) with calories.

So people are set a target of how many calories they can consume and then as long as they don’t go over it they are fine.

Clearly big food companies get in on this and make billions of pounds just from advertising food as low calorie, there are low cal pizzas, ice cream, crisps, cheese, yogurt, pretty much everything.

Does that mean that these pizzas, ice cream, crisps etc.. Are good for us?

No it just means that they are slightly lower calorie than the original, which probably isn’t always better. They got it lower calorie probably by taking out some salt or sugar but have replaced it with other unnatural substances so they don’t lose the taste, so it could even be worse for you.

Low calories diets aren’t good for us, yes you will lose weight but will you have energy? Will you be happy? Craving free? Probably not. Your body will probably think it’s starving so your metabolism will slow down which will force the body to hang onto the energy it gets as fat which will prevent weight loss.

There is even more too it but I don’t want to write too much.

Is the timing of the meal important?

Is the size of the meal important?

Do the frequency of the meals matter?

Of course they all do and I think this proves that there are so many different variables to suggest that A Calorie Is Not Just A Calorie.

So basically I can’t dispute that if you burn more energy than you take in you will lose weight, the reason I’ve written this article is so people can see that it isn’t quite as simple as that. Eating bad foods is still going to affect your body in a bad way just as good food will do the opposite regardless of how many calories are in it.

I think if you are eating junk food all the time but still creating a positive calorie deficit then eventually you will get ill as you are not consuming enough good foods.

If you eat clean natural foods then they are going to contain less calories, as this is the eating structure I suggest my clients eat I don’t need to count how many calories are in it because it’s easy to create a calorie deficit.

I just think that the processed is too oversimplified.

Just because our weight is low does it mean we are healthy? No.

I think there should be more focus on eating clean, natural foods than simply trying to eat below a certain number of calories each day.

I really enjoyed writing this article and could have gone on really, it’s a very interesting topic so please let me know what you think below and remember to share this article with people who you think may benefit.

Take care,

Jamie Stedman


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