Why All Calories Are Not Created Equal

You have probably heard the adage “A calorie is a calorie”. It suggests a calorie is the same regardless where it comes from. The problem is the adage is all wrong! While all calories are the same in regard to the energy content in each, how the body processes each type varies. Here are five things to keep in mind when trying to manage your weight.

Energy required to process calories

We all know that our body burns calories to digest, absorb, and metabolize food into energy. But what you may not know is that your body uses a higher number of calories to process protein than it does for carbohydrates and still a lower number for fat. This suggests your body stores less calories on a high protein diet than one high in carbohydrates or fat due to the extra calories it takes to process protein.

Effect of calorie restriction

The often-advised 3,500 calorie per week deficit to lose a pound will work for a while. But soon you will find you are losing less weight each week even though you are consuming the same number of calories. Why? It is called metabolic adaptation or “starvation mode”. Your body recognizes the calorie reduction and it begins to work more efficiently – doing more with less. In doing so, it in effect increases the value of each calorie. Your body gets more mileage out of each calorie now than it did before.

Protein is your friend

Protein satisfies you better over a longer period of time. If you don’t feel hungry, you are less likely to eat. This further supports the theory that not all calories are the same. If you eat junk food loaded with saturated fat and simple carbohydrates, you’ll not only end up consuming more calories at the time, but you’ll be looking for something to eat sooner than if you would have eaten turkey breast, chicken breast, tuna, or lean beef.

Fiber slows absorption

Even though most fiber comes from carbohydrates, it is not absorbed by the body, so in effect, it keeps you fuller longer and reduces your desire to eat. So calories in a high-fiber diet are more satisfying than ones in a low calorie diet – yet another way calories are different, even within the same macronutrient.

Timing your meals

A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the thermal effect of food – the energy used in the digestion and absorption of food – is higher in the morning than during other times of the day. As a matter of fact 16% higher! Food calories consumed right after waking from a sleep are more likely to be used and not stored.

Even though these five things do have a minimal effect on weight management in the short term, just understanding how your body processes different types of calories can make a difference over the long haul. As the saying goes “Every little bit helps.”

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