What is a Calorie?Let me talk to you about the truth about calories. A calorie is the unit of measurement for energy. It’s the amount of heat that is required to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.
But here’s the thing: our bodies are not burning the food we eat. Our bodies are incredibly complex biochemical machines that perform thousands of processes every day, using various chemicals and compounds with different levels of efficiency, based on our unique genetic and epigenetic differences.
Let’s discuss the composition of the human body, specifically the ratio of fat and protein. Our body is roughly 50% fat and 50% protein by dry mass(g), assuming a healthy body. However, this ratio can vary for individuals who are overweight or obese.
It’s important to understand that the body is not simply “burning” calories, and categorizing foods into macronutrient groups is an oversimplification. Protein, for example, is made up of various amino acids with different purposes. Collagen is used for bone structure and skin elasticity, cysteine for building sulfur compounds, and so on.
Therefore, the macronutrient group “protein” is not as straightforward as it seems. Additionally, the caloric value of protein is lower than that of fat. This is because we need different proteins and amino acids for different functions in the body, and if we have enough fat stored, the body will burn that instead.
While fat is also used for structural purposes (such as omega 3s in our nervous system and cholesterol for our brain), it is primarily used as an energy source. In fact, fat has over twice the metabolic energy of protein. This is the truth about calories – fat is the most efficient fuel source for the body.
MetabolismWe discussed that our body doesn’t “burn” calories like in a lab test for nutrient values on food labels. Instead, our body undergoes a chemical reaction that is similar to burning, but much more complex. The efficiency of this process can vary greatly and has a significant impact on the result.
Many people unintentionally harm their bodies by severely malnourishing themselves, often to keep their calorie intake low and lose weight. However, this flawed way of thinking leads to a decreased metabolism, slowed healing and repair, reduced energy and brain function, and difficulty losing weight. Your body’s response to this extreme calorie restriction is to conserve energy and lower your metabolism, which makes weight loss even more challenging. This is the truth about calories and weight loss. Therefore, it’s time to change our approach to health and weight loss.
Digestion Takes Energy
Let’s talk about bioavailability, which is the amount of nutrition your body can absorb from the food you eat. For instance, you can get 15g of protein from chicken breast or spider venom, but the nutritional value you get from them is different. Chicken breast will be easier to digest than spider venom due to the absence of carbonation and caramelization that can make digestion harder. Antinutrients can also impact bioavailability, making it harder for your body to absorb protein from plant sources due to lectins and tannins. Animal proteins have a more complete nutritional profile, which is why they are more bioavailable.
The truth about calories is that they are not everything. Focusing too much on calories can be counterproductive. Instead, focus on consuming whole foods, pay attention to your eating/fasting window, and make sure you eat enough food. If you want to learn more about anti-nutrients, I have a whole article on it.
Calorie deficits over a long period can severely harm your metabolism. Prioritize your health and let your body find its balance and weight naturally. Thank you for reading. If you gained knowledge, share it with others. Your support is much appreciated!