Are you caught up in the calorie craze? For a long time now we’ve been told that losing weight (or gaining for that matter) is a simple math problem. If you consume more calories than you burn you gain weight and vice versa. It’s what I was taught in school and what most diet/nutritional programs are based on.
The problem is, YOUR BODY DOESN’T ACTUALLY WORK THIS WAY! The human body is a biochemical system and whether your body burns or stores the food you eat is up to many different factors. The fact is, a calorie isn’t even an actual thing, although we tend to use it as if it is. A calorie is a specified measurement or unit of the heat put off of by a substance when it is burned. That is how those numbers are derived for different foods. The food is literally burned (with fire) and the heat generated is measured.
This is a thermodynamic principle:
CH4 + 2 O2 → CO2 + 2 H2O + energy (this energy is heat that is measured when dealing with calories)
Discussing the number of calories in food is like discussing the number of gallons of gas that your gas tank holds. You would never say that you are going to go out and burn some gallons on the drive to work (gallons of what?). It sounds silly, but that is exactly what we are doing when we discuss calories as if they are a noun.
A meal that has 500 calories and a workout that consumes 500 calories are not the same thing. While the meal produces 500 calories of heat if you burn it with fire and your body generates 500 calories worth of heat by breaking down chemical bonds during your workout that is where the similarity ends. Like I mentioned earlier, your body is a biochemical system, summed up in this chart:
A little more complex than the simple combustion equation above!
Dr. Diana Schwarzbein in her book The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy, and Feeling Younger discusses the physiological (aka biochemical) reasons behind the fallacy of trying to lose fat on a low calorie diet.
Your metabolism dictates whether food energy is stored or consumed, not the mere presence of food. Your metabolism slows down when calories are scarce which causes the body to become greedy and store as much energy as fat as possible
When attempting to lose weight on a low calorie diet this is what happens
Because not enough is being eaten, the body’s sugar stores are slowly depleted. Once the stored sugar is completely gone most people give up on their diet because they feel bad.
Low calorie, or starvation dieting is physiological sabotage that leads to metabolic problems, emotional disorders and disease. Eating this way does not provide enough energy or nutrition to sustain life. Most low fat diet programs are also low calorie programs.
Breaking the Cycle
Choosing to eat a physiologically balanced, real food diet, like that found in NRG Your Diet and Lifestyle Compass will build and sustain you while helping you reach your goals of weight loss and optimal health.
For More Info on this topic check out Dr. Curtis’ series of posts on protein