“A calorie is a calorie and to lose weight eat less calories than you burn”. This is the no-nonsense diet advice that I’ve heard since I first started to get into fat fuck territory in my early teens. When I started my weight loss journey, I did it using an ultra-low carb ketogenic diet based on “Eat less than 30g of carbs every day, don’t bother with calories, they don’t matter.
Keto has worked amazingly for me and most of the weight I’ve lost has been on a keto. In fact, I’m still using keto-diet basics in my current program. Now, one of my bigger peeves with the “fitness industry” is that everyone who wants to sell a product has to invent a new and revolutionary way of doing it.
Whether it’s Dr. Andreas Enfeldt and keto, Dr. Robert Lustig and “Don’t eat sugar” or Dr. Jason Fung and fasting, or many of the others, everyone has to find something unique to their product. I get annoyed with this because it confuses people.
There are 3 ways you can look at a calorie:
Calories As Units of Energy
A calorie is a measure of how much energy is stored in food. From the law of thermodynamics we know that energy can never disappear it can just change form. This is what people talk about when they say “eat less than you burn”. Eat 3000 calories every day and burn 2000, then 3000 calories go into your tank, 2000 leave your tank, and the 1000 in excess are stored in your body.
Calories As A Source of Nutrition
I try to visit my grandmother every week, because I know that she gets lonely these days and I enjoy talking to her. Since I’ve lost a lot of weight, and the grandmother instinct is to fatten you up, we ended up talking about my diet. I love cooking, also I make wine, cider and beer, so my grandmother asked if I was just going to keep making wine, cider and beer since I don’t drink when I’m losing weight.
So, I told her that I’m going to start drinking again, but since my caloric deficit is currently 750 calories every day, and I only eat 1500 – 1600, I would rather spend my calories on protein, healthy fats and fibrous carbs, that are loaded with micronutrients I need, than on alcohol that is more or less empty calories.
If I was eating the 2800 – 3000 calories I burn every day, then I would have space for some beer or a glass of wine without it affecting my nutrition goals.
Calories As a Metabolic Trigger
The third way to see a calorie, is as a trigger of metabolic effects in your body. Sugar triggers an insulin release, and insulin is anabolic (makes you build mass), this is why strength athletes take in dextrose or other simple sugars with protein as a post-workout meal. If your muscles and liver are already full of glucose, and you haven’t done strength training, excess calories are more likely to be stored as fat.
Everything you eat has hormonal and metabolic effects, as a man if you’re not getting enough fat and cholesterol in your diet, your testosterone level drops because fat contains cholesterol and cholesterol is required to produce testosterone.
A Calorie is a Calorie… sort of
If you want to lose weight, you have to consume less calories than you burn (a calorie as a unit of energy). To make sure your body stays as healthy as possible during weight loss, you have to make sure you eat the right foods to meet your macro nutrient and micro nutrient goals (A calorie as a source of nutrition). To maintain optimal health, avoid bad hormone effects, and make your weight loss easier, you want to make sure that you avoid bad hormonal effects (a calorie as a trigger for hormones and metabolic effects).
So, a calorie is a calorie if you just want to lose weight. If you eat a 500 calorie a day deficit from twinkies and protein shakes, or if you eat a 500 calorie a day deficit from chicken, broccoli and olive oil, you will lose the same lb of weight. You will get a lot less nutrients from twinkies and protein shakes than from olive oil, broccoli and chicken. The twinkies will trigger insulin releases, and various other metabolic effects, and the protein shakes will not supply the micro nutrients required for to make certain hormones, but the weight loss will be the same.
You can get fat from healthy foods and you can get thin from unhealthy foods.