An interesting article, and a quick read to help you improve your nutrition strategy. The more we learn about nutrition, the more it seems that balance is key and common sense is typically right. If you “hit your macros” using a bunch of crap food then you are not fueling your body optimally. On the other hand if you eat “Paleo” but include 5,000 calories a day of coconut oil, bacon, and almond butter you are not fueling optimally either. Optimal lies somewhere in the middle where you combine quality food and macro nutrient ratios.
Calories In, Calories Out-Dated
Researchers say traditional weight-loss guidelines obscure the effects of calories from different sources.
It’s a law of thermodynamics: A calorie in equals a calorie out.
Energy is neither created nor destroyed.
“Energy balance requires that the energy that comes in has
to equal the energy that comes out,” said Richard Johnson,
professor of renal diseases and hypertension at the University of
Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.
The body uses calories in one of two ways: general metabolic
requirements—from simply standing and breathing to exercising—
or energy storage. In other words: Calories don’t disappear.
The idea is that as long as you’re eating fewer calories than
you’re expending, you shed pounds. You can do this with a diet
of Twinkies and candy bars or with salmon and arugula.
But food is more than just its caloric value.
“It isn’t just about calories. It’s about the kind of food you eat,”
Johnson emphasized. “All of my research only shows that
calories tell part of the picture.”
Scientists and researchers warn sugar has a metabolic effect on the body independent of its caloric value. And it’s not good. All calories are not created equal. Healthy food contains nutrients—vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and so on—that add value above and beyond calorie content.
Likewise, there’s a significant difference between 200 calories of
chocolate-frosted doughnut and 200 calories of chicken breast,
researchers said. Because they’re providing different vitamins
and minerals, they noted, the body processes them differently.
And when the calories are empty—such as those from soda—
the body receives energy void of vitamins or minerals.
“(Food) can be modified by fiber in the diet, how much you absorb,”
Johnson said. “What the energy balance will translate into is weight.
But it doesn’t reflect body composition. So body composition can
change dramatically even though weight doesn’t change.”
Johnson continued: “You can change your fat to muscle and be
the same weight.” Or, he said, “You can have fatty liver (disease) or not have fatty liver (disease) and be the same weight.”
A Description—Not an Explanation
The problem with focusing on a calories-in-calories-out method
of eating—also referred to as “energy balance”—is that it’s
based on science that is more than 100 years old, explained
Gary Taubes, investigative journalist and best-selling author of
“Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Get Fat.” Science,
needless to say, has made some advances since the 1900s.
“The argument that I’ve been making—and others—is that
when you consume sugars, a lot of things happen other than the
consumption of calories. The fructose and glucose components
of sugar are not only metabolized differently but metabolized by
entirely different tissues and organs,” Taubes explained.
He added: “Why would you expect them to have the same effect
just because they have the same amount of calories?”
Repeated consumption of that 200-calorie chocolate-frosted
doughnut—rather than the 200-calorie chicken breast—can
lead to metabolic derangement that could manifest itself as
anything from being overweight to diabetes to nonalcoholic fatty
liver disease. It’s the content of the food—not its caloric value—
that matters. Cyanide, after all, has few calories.
“So things like soda, which have sugar or high-fructose corn syrup,
have metabolic effects independent of calories,” Johnson noted.
One of the biggest problems with the calories-in-calories-out
equation is that it led to the theory that obesity is simply an
imbalance of energy, Taubes said.
“But the question is why is that happening? And what we really
want to know is why are the fat cells taking in more calories
than they expend?”
It’s like answering the question of “Why is Bill Gates so rich?”
with “because he makes more money then he spends,” Taubes
“It’s weirdly meaningless. It just doesn’t tell you anything that
you didn’t already know.”