Do Calories Matter? Is a Calorie a Calorie? (Science of Weight Gain)
This Post is part two of the Transcript. It starts at the 8:38 minute mark.Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcMBm-UVdII
Please see the original for the Footnotes and Citations for the scientific studies.
This brings us to the next point: Is a calorie a calorie?
For a calorie to be a calorie, we would expect all foods to be processed in similar ways in the body without having unique effects on our hormones or other biochemical processes.
But in the case of alcohol a calorie is clearly not a calorie as it has some interesting peripheral effects due to the fact that 10% of the alcohol you ingest is metabolized in the brain, making you drunk and 80% of it is metabolized in the liver, leading to liver disease and other problems.
Another one is trans-fats, which are very different from other fats. The synthetic nature of trans-fats doesn’t allow them to be broken down in your mitochondria and they contribute to metabolic disease and atherosclerosis.
Proteins, get broken down into amino acids in the body, and the liver will use these for either protein synthesis, i.e. muscle growth or convert them into either glucose or fatty acids.
These processes though depend on your insulin levels, whether you have broken down muscle tissue through exercise and how much glucose is stored in the form of glycogen in your body.
And there are all kinds of amino acids, some that are essential and can only come from the diet and some that are non-essential.
Fats on the other hand get broken down into free fatty acids and they will be processed by your mitochondria for energy or stored in the muscle or stored in your fat tissue.
And there are several different types of fat, some good, some bad. For example you have bad ones like trans fats we just talked about and you have fatty-acids like DHA, which is theorized to be what allowed humans to evolve their big brains.
Glucose, the carbohydrate found in things like rice or starchy vegetables passes into the bloodstream and then stimulates the pancreas to make insulin, allowing it to get into the cell so that it can be burned up for energy or it may be stored as glycogen.
Depending on how much glycogen is already stored in the body and how quickly and how much glucose is entering your system at one time, glucose may be stored as fat through a process called de novo lipogenesis.
Keep in mind that fiber in vegetables is going to slow down the rate at which glucose is processed. So your body will react very differently to say 50g of glucose from white bread and 50g of glucose from broccoli.
Now there’s another carbohydrate called fructose (or “frooooctose”) found in sweet things like fruit, juice, honey or table sugar.
The tricky thing about table sugar, or sucrose, is it’s comprised of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose, yet glucose by itself is sometimes called sugar. For example, blood sugar is synonymous with blood glucose. However what I’m discussing is fructose, a molecule very different and much sweeter than glucose.
Fructose is technically a carbohydrate but it is not necessary for any biochemical reaction in the body, so almost all of it is processed in the liver. The interesting thing about fructose is, among other negative effects like promoting the development of fatty liver disease, is it causes insulin resistance, meaning the more you eat sweet things, the more your pancreas will have to secrete insulin to get its job done, leading to higher and higher insulin levels.
Fructose, by the way, is in 74% of all packaged foods in the form of added sugars.
If you’re trying to lose body fat, you’ll want to keep an eye on insulin. When you have high levels of insulin, hormone sensitive lipase, which breaks down fat for energy, is much less active. In this case, if you haven’t eaten for a couple hours you start to get really hungry because you can’t actually use any of that fat on your body for energy.
So your body fat continues to stick around and you feel pretty crappy. Another reason behind the hunger is that high levels of insulin block your brain from seeing the leptin signal – you become resistant to leptin. Leptin again, is the satiety hormone.
This how eating too many things, like packaged foods or refined carbohydrates, that spike insulin levels can cause people to be hungry and lethargic despite having so much energy stored on their body as fat. So yes Pete is fat because he ate too much clearly, “I’m not fat!” but the reason he ate too much has to do with his hormones.
A calorie is a calorie in the way a gram of money is a gram of money. A kilogram of one hundred dollar bills is going to affect your bank account much differently than a kilogram of 1 yen Japanese coins.
For some people, calories have worked as a decent rule of thumb for them, but tracking the macronutrient composition of your food is going to give you much more insight into how your food is affecting your body than just calories.
There’s still a lot more to be said about macronutrients, but you can notice their effects pretty quickly if you pay attention.
- Does a breakfast high in fructose and glucose like orange juice and a big bowl of cereal with flavored yogurt leave you feeling hungry and tired by the time you get to work?
- And does a meal high in good fat, protein and fiber like salmon, eggs and vegetables make you feel any different?
May you Live Long Healthy.
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