A Calorie By Any Other Name
Many years ago I had a discussion with a personal trainer colleague of mine. I was young and hungry, and he was definitely more established than I at the time. He had some really nice training programs that yielded some decent results. The thing was he didn’t know squat when it came to nutrition. His basic philosophy was "calories in , calories out." That is the basic methodology of many trainers and nutrition centers. It can work, to a point, but back to my story. He was saying that basically his clients can eat whatever they want, so long as the they burned more calories than they took in. He did not care what the macronutrient ratios were, just the caloric total. Ok, so I gave him a challenge. Pick any 2 clients, put them on a 2000 calorie diet. One client can only eat Frosted Flakes. The other client could only eat lean chicken and broccoli. Put them on the same training program and see who loses the most fat after 4 weeks. Not surprisingly he did not take the challenge. He insisted that it was all math, and that so long as the calories coming in were less than the calories being expended, the client would lose fat. I knew I would never change his mind, so I left it at that.
Now let me explain why I am right. Total caloric intake is only PART of the whole picture. Everyone is different. And everyone will have a different hormonal response to a given food. Let me give you an example. Let’s say Bob is a naturally lean guy. He can eat most whatever he wants and he stays all lean and muscley. Then there is Patrick. He is not naturally lean, has to watch what he eats and exercise regularly to keep his body fat at a reasonable level. If both men were to eat 150 g of pure sugar their bodies would both have very different responses. Because Bob is naturally lean, his body would secrete the perfect amount of insulin to put the carbs from the sugar where they need to go, or use them as energy. The likelihood that it will be stored as fat is very low for him.
Now Patrick is another story. He ate the same thing, but his body would respond by sending out too much insulin which could result in blood sugar swings and have a high likelihood of being stored as fat.
So what it basically comes down to is that calories are not the whole picture, simply a part of it. Because calories do in fact count. You cannot simply count calories and hope to create the body of your dreams. There is more to it. It also does not mean that you have to have an ultra complicated nutritional plan where everything is counted, measured, ratioed and tallied this way and that. It just means you need to make healthy, balanced choices. We are all different, what works for one might not work for another. Choose foods that are both calorically low, nutritionally dense and will have minimal impact on blood sugar levels.