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  • Writer's pictureGiulianni Giraldo

Is A Calorie A Calorie?

The idea that a calorie is a calorie holds some truth to it, but it can be quite misleading, so let me explain...

When we talk about losing or gaining weight, yes, we do talk about calories in vs calories out, because at the end of the day, its this energy balance that matters, and it will determine how your weight will behave. But, its imperative to understand the different functions, benefits and impacts that different sources of calories have on our body. Therefor, saying that a calorie is a calorie can be irresponsibly misleading.

But lets put aside the health benefits and functions that different sources of calories have for one second and lets look at them from a macronutrient and BODY COMPOSITION perspective... When we compare 100 calories from table sugar to 100 calories from whole wheat bread, is a calorie just a calorie? Yes, it actually is, table sugar is no more fattening than whole wheat bread, and just because you choose a "healthy" carb over a not so healthy carb, doesn't mean that you will lose weight faster or that you will put on unwanted body fat.

Now I cannot stress this enough... Yes, 100 calories coming from fruits, vegetables and whole grains is probably going to be better than 100 calories of straight sugar in virtually any scenario, because there's more to food to consider than calories alone.

Now what if we compare calories from different macronutrients (Fats, protein, carbs and alcohol)?

Well, saying a calorie is a calorie isn't entirely accurate...

Technically speaking, carbohydrates are more fattening than protein when you compare them gram from gram. Because protein has a greater TEF (Thermic Effect of Food).

*TEF is the calorie cost of digesting and processing each macronutrient.

So from that alone, saying that a calorie is a calorie, regardless of the macro it comes from, is wrong. Now if you also consider the role that each macro plays in our body, you will find that they are very different.

Protein is essential for muscle growth, carbs and fats are not. Carbs are more energy efficient than protein, because they are more readily available for fuel, but contain less energy per gram when compared to fats. Some vitamins cannot function without an adequate intake of fat grams. You cannot achieve an optimal intake of fiber for a healthy digestive system without carbohydrates in your diet. And our needs for each macro can vary widely depending on our body composition and what our goals are.

One of the reasons why high protein-low carb diets have shown to be successful is because of their thermic effect. Also, when you compare the satiety level of these nutrients, you will find that protein is more satiating than any other nutrient. So you're less likely to get fat on protein, simply because you're going to feel fuller, making it less likely for you to overeat. Now am I recommending a high protein-low carb diet?

Not really, my suggestion will always be a well BALANCED diet that does not cut out entire food groups. Why? Because having a good amount of each of these nutrients will ensure a healthy, nutritious and sustainable diet.

Because realistically speaking... How likely do you think it will be for you to successfully sustain a low carb or low fat diet for more than a few weeks or months? The greatest pleasures in life are high fat and high carb!

So set up your diet with a good amount of each of these macronutrients, in a way that you can sustain a healthy metabolism, enough fuel to power your daily activities, and enough micronutrients and fiber for a long and healthy life.

And don't forget to feed your soul! Give into to those cravings every once in a while and enjoy your diet, and as always, keep it in #MODERATION!

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

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