nutrition 101: calories
Posted on June 13, 2018
This will be the first of many posts where I talk about the scientific basis of nutrition. My hope for this series is that it eases the burden on women with deciphering the bullshit that the diet industry tries to sell us from the actual scientific truths about nutrition.
We’ll start by talking about the difference between fat loss and weight loss. You’ll hear me talk about fat loss and not weight loss because while we use weight as a measurement, what we are looking for is to lose fat. This is because weight makes up several things such as the amount of muscle, fat, water, waste your body contains. Hence, you’ll notice that the time of day you weigh yourself, whether you’ve had a bowel movement or drank a glass of water or even gotten enough sleep affects what the scale says. Weight is variable and fluctuates while fat loss isn’t as affected by this day-to-day influences and requires time to occur.
Alongside the main goal of fat loss, comes a smaller yet very important goal of maintaining muscle. As you’ll realize, maintaining muscle will be just as (if not more) important as losing fat. When we maintain the amount of muscle we have while in a caloric deficit, we look better. This means we won’t be disappointed when we look like just a smaller version of ourselves after losing 40lbs. Muscles ensure that we look good naked and not just smaller and good-looking in clothes. Keeping as much of our muscle during a fat loss journey is a big goal of ours and will be a big determinant in the approach we take. More on that later.
How do we then achieve this fat loss we seek? I invite you to examine the law of thermodynamics with me. To paraphrase:
Energy in = Energy out + Change in Body Stores
What this means for our purposes is that since energy can’t be created or destroyed, it has to be accounted for in some form. With weight (fat) loss, the differences between intake and output show up as changes in the energy stores of the body. So, if you want to put on muscle mass, you have to eat more than your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) and to lose fat; you have to eat less than your TDEE.
To simplify it:
• If Calories in (amount of calories you eat)= Calories out (the amount of calories you expend): you’ll maintain your weight
• If calories in > calories out: you’ll gain muscle, fat or both
• If Calories in < calories out: you’ll lose muscle, fat or both.
You’ll often hear people say the body does not operate based on a scientific formula and calories in calories out isn’t always applicable. I 100% agree with this. We’re all individuals with unique genetic makeups and a piece of candy isn’t metabolized and used the same way by the body as an apple. We also have individual health differences to contend with. People with hormonal imbalances will have different things to battle with as people with celiac will. While the above is true, the noteworthy thing is that these are the exceptions rather than the rule. For the VAST majority of people, it’ll always come down to calories in vs calories out when we’re talking about body composition change. We have many studies that has shown this repeatedly. Let’s take the below exhibits:
Nothing surprising there because again, the law of thermodynamics is just that…a law. This does not take into consideration eating for health. That’s a different ball game. All these people were trying to prove was that with WEIGHT loss, calories in vs calories out always holds true.
Next, I’ll discuss macronutrients and how an understanding of them helps us ditch fad diets.
See you soon,