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A Calorie is NOT a Calorie

Posted by Joel Marion

Eat less than you burn and you’ll lose weight – it’s preached as the “be all, end all” of weight loss and it’s completely WRONG.

Truth is, the numeric value of an individual’s caloric intake is not the only factor that affects body composition.  In fact, there are at least 5 other factors that need to be considered, including:

  • The thermic effect of the food ingested.  The thermic effect of food (TEF) measures the amount of energy that is required to support the processes of digesting, absorbing, and assimilating food nutrients as well as the energy expended as a result of the central nervous system’s stimulatory effect on metabolism when food is ingested.  Of the three macronutrients, protein carries the highest thermic effect.
  • The fiber content of the food ingested.  Due to its chemical makeup, fiber is classified as a carbohydrate; however, it is unlike other carbohydrates in that it is a mostly indigestible nutrient.  Even though each gram of fiber contains four calories, these calories will remain undigested and will not be absorbed.  Therefore, if one were to consume 300 calories of red beans (a food in which nearly 1/3 of the caloric content is from fiber), approximately 100 of these calories would pass through the intestinal tract undigested.
  • The glycemic and insulin indices of the food ingested.  The glycemic and insulin indices are scaled numbers that refer to how quickly a particular carbohydrate source enters the bloodstream as sugar and how much insulin is needed to rid that sugar from the bloodstream, respectively.  Generally speaking, there is a positive relationship between the two; that is, the quicker sugar enters the bloodstream, the more insulin is needed to rid that sugar from the bloodstream.  When high levels of insulin are present within the blood, fat burning is brought to a screeching halt, which is anything but desirable for those whose goal is just that.
  • The macronutrients present in the food ingested.  Although insulin’s primary function is to shuttle glucose (sugar) into skeletal muscle, it also carries many other nutrients to their respective storage sites; this includes fat.  Since carbohydrate ingestion stimulates a large insulin response and fat ingestion gives rise to blood lipid levels, the two, when consumed together, promote the greatest fat storage.
  • The size, frequency, and time of ingested meals.  Large, infrequent meals tend to promote storage of the ingested nutrients as the body is unsure as to when the next feeding will take place.  Conversely, consuming smaller, frequent meals will result in increased fat loss and utilization of the ingested nutrients.  Also, ingesting a large amount of carbohydrates before bed spikes insulin, deters overnight fat burning, and increases fat storage during sleep.  On the contrary, consuming a great deal of calories early in the day does not bring about this problem; rather, these calories are likely to be used as energy to support daily activities.

As you can see, someone could be eating a relatively small amount of calories daily, but at the same time promoting a great deal of fat storage by 1) making poor food choices, 2) combining macronutrients in a nonproductive fashion, and 3) consuming food infrequently and at inopportune times.  To illustrate this further, let’s take a look at a recent study conducted by Demling et al which analyzed the diets of 38 police officers.  Demling found that although the officers were consuming a hypocaloric diet (fewer calories than they burn), they all had unhealthy levels of body fat and had been gaining fat mass over the past five years.  If all you had to do to lose fat was consume fewer calories than you burn, then these individuals would be losing fat, not gaining it!  And to confirm the importance of the factors that I previously mentioned, let’s take a look at some of the other things that Demling noted:

  • Only 15% of their diet consisted of protein, the macronutrient with the greatest TEF.
  • Their diet contained very little fiber.
  • Over 50% of their carbohydrate intake was derived from simple sugars, which have very high glycemic and insulin indices.
  • They didn’t note this, but I’m willing to bet that they didn’t avoid the fat-carb combo.
  • They ate infrequently, only 10% of their caloric intake was consumed at breakfast, and over 50% was consumed right before bed.

By now, it should be obvious that fat loss isn’t just a matter of calories in, calories out.

Enjoy today’s post?  Questions?  Comments?  Post your reply below!  At least 100 comments and I’ll be back tomorrow with more killer content for ya!

Keep rockin’,


P.S.  My buddy Jon Benson just posted a 30 second tip that will literally net you an extra 8 lbs of fat loss with practically NO effort…check it out here:

Lose 8 lbs with this 30 second tip <——- Click here


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