Is Calorie Counting the Answer?
Everyone’s talking about calories with regards to weight loss, but what exactly are calories?
Calories are the basic unit of energy contained in our food.
So Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates all contain calories.
Calories in / Calories out
We’ve all heard about the concept of counting calories, also know as calories in, calories out. The CICO theory says if the total calories you consume are less than the total calories of energy that you burn throughout the day (through excercise or just siting around), you’ll lose weight!
Calories in < Calories out = Weight Loss!
Calories or Carbs?
It’s actually more about the type of calories we eat rather than the total amount of calories.
For example, the calories from refined (whole grain removed) carbohydrates such as bread, cakes and biscuits are much more likely to cause weight gain, than the same amount of calories from fibre-rich carbohydrates like apples, bannanas or leafy green vegetables.
So 100 calories of cake, will cause greater weight gain than 100 calories of apples.
Yes i know, it doesnt seem fair! 🙂
So why is this?
Recent research tells us that when we consume sugar or refined carbohydrates, the energy is released from the food very quickly (high Glycemic index), and it leads to a flood of high blood-sugars (also known as glucose) into the bloodstream (1)
High blood-sugars are dangerous, so the body quickly releases insulin (I call it the fat hormone) to push this extra blood-sugar into the cells of our muscles and organs to be used as fuel for energy.
The problem comes when our cells can’t absorb any more energy, and the cells basically say “No More!”.
-They close their cell “doors” and this is called insulin resistance.
So at this point, insulin pushes the extra blood sugar into the only other place it can go (our fat cells), to be stored as extra fat!
To help avoid fat storage, it’s generally thought a good idea to focus on foods that have a low glycemic index (low GI foods), which release their stored energy more slowly.
Foods that contain more Fibre (ie the indigestible part of plants) are great, because the fibre slows the release of energy from the food itself.
The Healthy fats in food such as animal fats, cream or medium chain fatty acids (eg coconut oil), can also help to stop insulin from rising too quickly, which in turn helps prevent weight gain. Another thing to realise here is that we don’t get fat by eating healthy fat.
Why Do we Store Fat Anyway?
In the distant past, famine was often a survival issue when food was scarce.
As a result, our bodies learnt to store fat when food was plentiful in the Summer, so that it could be used for energy later, when food was sparse during Winter.
Fortunately in our modern day society, there’s an abundance of food in the Summer and Winter.
However regrettably our bodies don’t seem to have caught on to this yet, so our evolutionary tendency to store fat has remained.
So What to Eat?
To Lose Weight, Eat Less of These…
- Fast Food (rich in carbs and often trans fatty acids)
- Cakes and Pastries
- Potatoes (unless cold)
- Chips / Fries
- White rice
- Fruit juice
- Soda pop drinks eg lemonade or cola
And Eat More of These..
- Vegetables that grow above ground
- Fruit (but not fruit juice)
- Nuts and Seeds
- Brown rice (more fibre means slower energy release)
- Sweet potato (instead of potato)
- Healthy Fats like Virgin Coconut Oil or MCT Oil, Butter and Cream
The Take Home
It’s important to consider the type of calories we are eating (not just the total calories).
The calories from refined Carbohydrates and Sugars are absorbed much more quickly than the calories from Protein or Fibre-rich Carbs such as vegetables.
The resulting excess energy is too much for the body to handle and it is stored as fat.
We lose weight by eating lots of healthy carbs like vegetables and fruit.
We don’t get fat by eating healthy fats.