Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Is a calorie just a calorie?

In a world of indulgence, dieting and weight loss programs are ever growing in popularity and the decision of which is the right one for you is getting increasingly tougher. On the whole, it is said that to lose weight, you need to take in less calories than you burn throughout the day, with exercise and general daily activity, therefore suggesting that if you eat the same amount as you expend, your weight will be stable. In other words, calories in = calories out. But is it as simple as that? Is a calorie just a calorie?

Other favoured diets of the industry suggest having either a low-fat, high-protein or low-carbohydrate diet is the way to go. So surely, if a calorie is just a calorie, it wouldn’t matter which you do as long as the calories you take in is less than you burn? Unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple. A lot of the time when dieting, we disregard how our body uses different types of food and how it affects the body when doing a calorie controlled diet. This is where we’re going wrong. One of the major influences on our bodies storing habits is insulin (a hormone commonly known to regulate blood sugar levels) and its release is affected differently by each food type we eat.

Fats. They’ve been given a bad name seeing as we relate fat to being overweight. But some fats are essential to our health and can even assist weight loss if used correctly. One study even suggested that low fat diets are actually less effective for weight loss than those high in fat. Fat does not stimulate the release of insulin which results in the rate at which we convert sugar and make fat cells, is lower.

Carbohydrates. Often the downfall for most, which give us the energy boost we crave mostly from processed carbohydrates which include sugar and starchy foods. These stimulate the secretion of insulin which in turn, encourages fats into fat cells, slows down the breakdown of fat and stimulates to conversion of glucose into fat. All of which are discouraging for weight loss.

Protein. A filling and important element of a balanced diet, which surprisingly does stimulate the release of insulin. Along with insulin, glucagon is released, preventing the fat-forming effects of the hormone. Protein also has metabolic advantages when on a low-carb diet as it requires more chemical energy to break down protein into glucose as a substitute for sugars and starches.

The Kekwick Paper was the most influential paper relating to the calorie theory. 3 groups ate 1,000 calories of fats, carbs or protein over a week. Those on a high carb diet saw no change in weight, where the high protein and fat groups saw a loss between 0.20-0.50kg per day!!

This theory not only contradicts the majority of the nation’s most popular diet programs, but also many of today’s top fitness and health professional’s nutritional understanding. So just remember, when you’re struggling with your calorie counting and tough diet, consider eating different foods not only to help you strip the fat and speed up your metabolism but to help you stay fuller for longer.

Here are my’s top tips to lose weight without starving yourself or counting calories;
Snack. Snacking is generally put in the same naughty category as fats. But actually, if you pick the right foods, snacking between meals will aid your metabolic function and prevent you eating too big a portion at dinner time. Try nuts; they’re high in essential fats and low in carbs and are proven to aid the speed of your metabolism. So go nuts!

Avoid carbs at bed time. Think about it, if you eat carbs before you go to bed, averagely you won’t eat again for another 8 hours. All that energy (thanks to insulin) will not only be stored but increase your chances of building fat stores.

Protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As I previously explained, protein keeps you fuller for longer, aids recovery and muscle building so all round, a very important element of a weight loss or fitness charged lifestyle.

Supplement your diet. If you struggle to get all those essential nutrients into a hectic day, there are some fantastic supplements to insure you get what you need. Try a good multivitamin, and a good oils and fats supplement containing all the omega’s, and extras like flaxseed or coconut oil to help skin and hair looking healthy too!


Dr. John Briffa, ‘Escape the Diet Trap’, 2012


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