#1 Your scale indicates your level of health
#2 Your daily workout ”routine” will make/keep you fit
#3 All calories are created equal.
In my last two blogs, I discussed why your scale weight is not the true measure of your level of health and why a daily workout routine will not make you more fit.
Today I will discuss the myth of the calorie.
All calories are created equal…don’t believe it
We’ve been sold on the idea that we can eat whatever we like (and favorable health and fitness will result) so long as we stay within our predetermined calorie count. Going over that number means we will gain weight; going under that number means we will lose weight.
This idea is the driver behind Diet Coke, Snackwell’s low-calorie cookies, and Breyers fat-free ice cream (low calorie foods with nonetheless horrific health consequences)
All calories are not created equal. A calorie from chicken breast has a fundamentally different hormonal effect in our bodies than a calorie from M&Ms. A calorie from yogurt has a different hormonal effect than a calorie from avocado, and a calorie delivered from fruit juice precipitates a different hormonal effect than a calorie obtained from pistachios. These differences in hormonal effects makes calorie counting nearly meaningless.
Here’s how it actually works:
• There are three macro nutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Each plays an essential role in hormonal balance and the subsequent regulation of blood sugar, and you need all of them. In my examples above, chicken is a protein source; M&Ms, yogurt, and fruit are carbohydrates; and avocados and pistachios are fats.
• When you consume carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises. This provides energy for immediate use, with sugar being used first at local muscle sites and within the brain, and with any remaining sugar then stored as body fat. • • Storage is accomplished via insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas.
• When you consume protein, stored body fat is mobilized to provide energy. This is accomplished via glucagon, another hormone secreted by the pancreas. You can think glucagon as a counterbalance to the insulin storage mechanism.
When you consume fat, you slow digestion and increase satiety (the feeling of being full). In practice, fat consumption slows the rise of blood sugar in your bloodstream caused by eating carbohydrates, thereby slowing insulin release and limiting fat storage while simultaneously signaling that you should stop eating.
Generally, we want storage (via the carbohydrate/insulin mechanism) and mobilization (via the protein/glucagon mechanism) to be balanced.Too much storage, and you get fat. Too much mobilization, and you won’t have the energy reserves necessary to sustain daily activities. Further, we want to take in significant enough amounts of fat to curb our appetite and slow the entry of sugar into the bloodstream.
Notice that none of these effects are calorie dependent. Rather, they are determined by hormones. Therefore, it is not excess calories that make us fat, but rather more carbohydrate storage resulting in rises in blood sugar. Thus, the source of each calorie is profoundly important in determining body composition — and a calorie is never just a calorie.
The takeaway: Forget calorie counting, and learn to balance your macro nutrient intake, consuming proteins, fats, and carbohydrates at every meal. Aim for consistent protein consumption and eat low-glycemic index carbohydrates such as fibrous fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens), and if you’re consistently hungry, increase your fat intake. I provide clients with an easy-to-follow system call “The Metabolic Effect “ to accomplish just that.