Friday, April 30, 2010

All Calories Are Not Equal

Time after time, whenever I write or read other sites that discuss diet, nutrition and weight loss, invariably someone will always log in and repeat one of the biggest fallacies ever promulgated: that losing weight is a simple equation of burn more calories than you eat.

Calories Out > Calories In.

As one Anonymous commenter wrote in my last post: "The problem isn't where the calories are coming from so much as the amount."

This is fallacious. gallier2 made some excellent responses with links to Gary Taube's work to back it up.

That being said, I'd like to offer another perspective, from Mike Furci, the fitness expert and columnist for the online Men's magazine, Bullz-eye:

Many so-called experts think there is only one thing that matters when trying to lose weight: calories consumed versus calories used. They try to lead you to believe that a calorie of protein is equal to a calorie of fat is equal to a calorie of carbs, and that all you have to do is cut down the amount consumed to lose body fat. In order for this to be true, the physiological processes by which the human body transforms food into energy – metabolism – would have to be the same for every type of food. This is a simplistic, unscientific and untenable view.

All macronutrients -- including fats, carbohydrates and proteins -- contain energy. The energy contained in food is expressed as calories. We tend to associate calories with food, but in reality, calories apply to anything. For example, a gallon of gasoline contains approximately 31 million calories.

A calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius at sea level. What does this mean? A Double Whopper with cheese contains 960 calories. If we were to burn this burger, it would produce 960 calories -- enough energy to raise 960 kilograms of water 1 degree Celsius.

Calorie is a shortened name for kilocalories, to reflect the simplified math. A kilocalorie contains 1,000 calories, so the Double Whopper with cheese is actually 960,000 calories. Now don't get your panties in a bunch -- this simplified math also applies to exercise calorie charts. If the piece of cardio equipment you're using says you burned 200 calories, it's simplified for 200,000 calories. However, don't rely on exercise equipment charts -- they are grossly inaccurate. This is due to several factors, mainly genetics, because the rate at which individuals burn calories varies greatly and cannot be measured on a piece of cardio equipment.

Calories can and are measured in a sealed device called a "calorimeter" which locks in heat of burning food. A small vacuum container of water is contained above the food. Once the food is completely burned, the temperature of the water is measured. The rise in temperature will determine the amount of calories. While the calorimeter can show the total amount of energy in a serving of Fruit Loops, it cannot account for what the human body doesn't absorb, or the energy used in the digestion and assimilation of it. It also cannot show one's ability and efficiency to use food as energy, as opposed to storing it as fat.

Does counting the number of calories consumed matter, or is it even necessary when trying to lose weight? No! Counting calories is completely inaccurate and a waste of time. Our bodies do not process food like a calorimeter. The assertion that macronutrients are all processed the same between individuals is just foolish. Yet, this is the basis for the calorie theory.

To reiterate...


Does your stomach look like this?

Furci continues:

As discussed earlier, a calorie is not a calorie. A calorie of a carbohydrate does not equate to a calorie of protein when being metabolized in our bodies. Protein calories are not likely to be stored as fat, as compared to carbs, because protein requires more energy to metabolize and assimilate and has numerous functions. Carbs are simply an energy source, and if not used as fuel, they are stored as fat without much effort. Carbs, unlike protein, also stimulate the release of high amounts of insulin, the fat storage hormone.

Tom Naughton, a comedian, was inspired to make a movie called Fathead, after he saw Michael Spurlock's famous anti-fast food film Super Size Me. In it, he offers a simplified animation that demonstrates how eating too much carbohydrates leads to your body storing fat tissue.

Finally, commenter John Smith (Blog author of recklessness and audacity) recommended that people check out the movie Food Inc.

Solid recommendation, brother! I've seen that movie as soon as it was available on Netflix. It basically re-affirmed everything I've studied, researched and applied into an easy to understand film.

That movie details precisely why our food supply and the conventional wisdom regarding diet and nutrition has been so thoroughly corrupted by the fascist conglomeration of big agricultural corporations and their cohorts in the Government.


Alun said...

All of the things you said here are likely to have an element of truth about them. None of them disproved that burning more energy than you consume would result in weight loss. It may not be that simple, but nor is it false.
Regular exercise is possibly the best weight and health tonic available, and can be had for next to nothing.

Anonymous said...

Our nation's obesity epidemic is an historical anomaly... And a disgraceful one at that! In no time in the entire 5000+ year history of human civilization has there been so many fucking fat people! I envy archaeologists from the year 4010... They're going to have a field day looking at all of our bones from so many fat people!

Every now and then when I overhear something from the idiot box about anorexia being a problem in this insane asylum that passes for a country, I want to laugh... If anorexia and the like were truly as great of a problem that hollywood is making it out to be, then our nation's cardiologists would be dancing in the streets!

People are fat because they are lazy! Pure. And. Simple! The bloody laws of thermo-fucking-dynamics prevent ANYthing from coming from nothing. Fat cannot just magically appear in one's body! The fault for someone being fat rests squarely on one's own shoulders!

Eat less, exercise more! There you go! Any fatties out there reading this, I just saved you a bunch of money you might have spent on dieting and exercising books/movies that would have collected dust in your closets!

Put down the Big Mac and go for a run! Put down the Ho-Ho's and pick up a carrot! Put away the milkshake and go lift some weights! Throw the alcohol down the drain and go for a fucking walk at least! After that walk go ahead and eat a small salad with some broccoli and lettuce! And while you're at it, throw out your TV, and read a fucking book!

Yes, I'm being hard on the fatties! Because in 20-30 years, I'm most likely going to still be here, while many of the fatties today are going to be dead of heart failure, or liver failure, along with any number of things that comes with being overweight! And before they die, people like me are going to now have to (Thanks to Obamacare) pay for their fucking medical expenses! If they would just die off in peace, I wouldn't have a problem, but now their fat is my fucking problem!

Okay... Rant over...

Anonymous said...

What an arrogant fool.

Nuance and science are both clearly wasted on most of the "eat less, exercise more crowd.". It is at best a half-truth.

A diet of mostly carbs leave you feeling starving most of the time. A protien/dark vegetable diet won't. Unless you have an inordinate and abnormal amount of willpower, you will eventually get fat on a carb diet no matter how much you exercise.

Anonymous said...

H.L. Mencken said: "For
every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple--and

Nowhere is this more apparent than the "just eat less, exercise more" intellectual lightweights.

The book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" cited by the video is an excellent eye opener to just how much the US governement has been actively promoting unhealthy, non-scientific diets for 60 years.

Anonymous said...

I read it up and they do seem to account for fiber in the food but not for the metabolic differences.
Though they were using the same way that you mention.

WOW, if this is true then, damn, that's some pretty ridiculous stupidity.

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with the title of your article. Calories are all equal. A calorie is ultimately just a unit of energy. The thing that is important is understand that your metabolism breaks down foods in different ways.

Keoni Galt said...

Good point anonymous, I meant to imply that the human body doesn't treat all calories equally.

For the record, I do believe exercise is an important part of attaining good health...but in terms of obesity, if you eat the foods your body was designed (or evolved, whatever you believe) to thrive on, you don't NEED to exercise to lose weight.

The entire law of thermodynamics pushed along with a "plant-based" diet are designed to keep the masses in a constant state of thinking guilty about the food they are eating, so they think they simply 'owe it to themselves' to work out harder, while continuing to eat all that junk food the processors and manufacturer's profit on.