One of the things that turned me off to the book “The Four Hour Body” was that the author claimed a calorie wasn’t just a calorie. Basically, that you can’t eat a low-calorie diet of whatever you want and lose weight.
The reason I disagreed with this was because it worked for me. In order to lose over 100 pounds I counted all of my calories every day–including liquid calories, the butter on my toast, EVERYTHING. It worked! I started to lose weight and was so happy that I was finally seeing results, I continued to count my calories.
Even now, after almost 3 years of maintaining my 110 pound weight loss, I still count my calories.
When I was first losing weight there were many times I would save about 300 calories for dessert at the end of the day. Giving up sweets entirely was something I couldn’t do, so I always made sure that I had enough calorie wiggle-room to enjoy a treat. There were several times I’d eat two Rice Krispie treats instead of just one (180 calories for the two) simply because I had the extra calories!
I never felt like I was restricting myself of anything because in MY world: A CALORIE WAS A CALORIE. Whether or not it’s a calorie from an apple, a piece of chocolate or bread, it was 70 calories across the board no matter what.
This book claims that it’s not that way. Since I saw results with MY way, I’m not sure if I believe that a calorie is not a calorie…
The following was taken (word for word) from the book “The 4 Hour Body.”
WHY A CALORIE ISN’T A CALORIE
“Calories are all alike, whether they come from beef or bourbon, from sugar or starch, or from cheese and crackers. Too many calories are just too many calories.” — Fred Stare, founder and former chair of the Harvard University Nutrition Department.
The above statement is so ridiculous as to defy belief, but let’s take a look at the issue through a more rational lens: hypothetical scenarios.
Scenario #1: Two male identical twins eat the exact same meals for 30 days. The only difference: one of the subjects just finished a strong course of antibiotics and now lacks sufficient good bacteria for full digestion.
Will the body composition outcomes be the same?
Of course not. It’s not what you put in your mouth that matters, it’s what makes it to your bloodstream. If it passes through, it doesn’t count.
The creator of the “calorie” as we know it, 19th century chemist Wilbur Olin Atwater, did not have the technology that we have today. He incinerated foods. Incineration does not equal human digestion; eating a fireplace log will not store the same number of calories as burning one will produce. Tummies have trouble with bark, as they do with many things.
Scenario #2: Three females of the same race, age, and body composition each consume 2,000 calories daily for 30 days. Subject 1 consumes nothing but table sugar, subject 2 consumes nothing but lean chicken breast, and subject 3 consumes nothing but mayonnaise (2,000 calories is just 19.4 tablespoons, if you care to indulge).
Will the body composition outcomes be the same?
Of course not. The hormonal responses to carbohydrates protein and fat are different.
There is no shortage of clinical studies to prove that beef calories do not equal bourbon calories.
One such study, conducted by Kelwick and Pawan, compared three groups put on calorically equal semi-starvation diets of 90% fat, 90% protein, or 90% carbohydrate. Through ensuring compliance was a challenge, the outcomes were clearly not all the same.
1,000 cals at 90% fat = weight loss of .9 lbs per day
1,000 cals at 90% protein = weight loss of .6 lbs per day
1,000 cals at 90% carbohydrate = weight gain of .24 lbs per day
Different sources of calories = different results.
Things that affect calorie allocation — and that can be modified for fat-loss and muscle gain — include digestion, the ratio of protein-to-carbohydrates-to-fat, and timing.”
And then I started running a few years ago and my opinions changed in terms of food science. I still believed in calorie counting but I did change my mind in terms of FUEL. I started looking at food as fuel to propel my body forward when running. If I ate the right foods, the right combinations of foods I had energy and strength. It was one of the reasons I stopped being a vegetarian! I was working out a lot, I was running a lot and I was craving protein.
I started to learn that if I ate an apple with peanut butter before I worked out in the gym, I wouldn’t be hungry. If I had chocolate milk with protein powder after lifting weights, I’d be less sore. If I ate a carb-heavy dinner the night before a long run, I’d have much more energy and speed. Food science really does work and it changed how I looked at eating for fuel.
So now I’m faced with the question: is a calorie just a calorie? Could I eat only 1500 calories of ice cream a day and nothing else and maintain my weight loss? Or lose weight? Probably not. I do think calories from protein, fiber or carbs are way different than sugar calories. In that way, not all calories are equal.
Will this change how I eat or track my food? Probably not. I will still count calories, I will eat what makes my body happy and try to limit sugar intake but still enjoy treats once in awhile. What I did to lose weight worked; and what I’ve been doing to keep the weight off works too.
Now on to the experiment….!
QUESTION: Do you think a calorie is a calorie?