You’ve all heard this before; weight is dependent on the ratio of calories in to calories out. Is it really that simple though? Are ten calories of fat as easy to burn as ten calories of carbs?
Basic chemistry dictates that different molecules and compounds exhibit different behaviors. Therefore we can assume that a fat molecule will require different amounts of energy to break down than a much simpler carbohydrate molecule like glucose. This difference can also be seen between fructose and glucose, two very structurally similar chemicals. Gram for gram they provide the same amount of energy, however they are metabolised by the body in different ways. Fructose is more difficult to metabolise as only the liver is capable of doing so, as opposed to glucose where almost all of the bodily tissues are capable of metabolising the compound. Hence the body has to use up more recources when fructose is ingested.
This lazy oversimplification of complex biological processes might be leading us further down the abyss of the current obesity crisis. Having said all this about calorie counting, it is still a useful tool to help us stay fit as long as we are aware that it is not the be all and end all of staying healthy.
For the first time in modern history, the newest generations might not be healthier than the one before them. Life expectancy is beggining to decline and this can be seen in the rise of obesity rates and mental health issues. As a result of this, people need to be better educated in order to stop this problem from getting worse.
Cultures accross the world have different eating habits. For example, the inuit diet consists of high fat and high protein foods since their cold and icy environemnt can not accomodate the growth of crops. They hunt fish, birds and land animals such as the caribou and their diet is not detrimental to their life expectancy. The japanese in Okinawa had a really high carbohydrate diet after the second world war, consuming a diet of mainly sweet potatoes due to their ability to grow in their climate. They too did not suffer from nutrinional definciencies.
The point of this is that it is your individual body, and you might be genetacilly predisposed to a certain diet, but it is up to you to discover what that is. No amount of research papers will give you the answer. A good way to discover what is good for your body is to try varying diets for prolonged amounts of time, depending on what your end goal is, whether it is fat loss or muscle gain. While trying these diets, it is also important to go to the doctors and get blood tests and cholesterol checks to ensure the diet will not harm you.
A good way to start experimenting is to buy scales and weigh out your food intake without changing your eating habits. Write down how much protein, fats and carbohydrates you consume, and then get an average number for these after a couple of weeks. Once you get your average calorie intake per day, you can start to alter the amount of these macronutrients, keeping the total number of calories the same. This is a lengthy process and patience is needed but the knowledge you gain is worth it in the long run.
The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) for an average man sits at around 1,800 calories. These are the calories used up by the body to accomplish its most basic life sustaining functions. In other words, the calories burned by your body if you stayed in your bed all day and all night without moving. Any calories above this have to be burned off through physical movement and exercise. If your intake is 3000 calories and your body uses up 1,800 calories for metabolic purposes, through exercise you will have to burn 1,200 just to maintain your weight. That is a few long and sweaty hours on the treadmill every single day.
Hence a healthy lifestyle does not start with signing up to the gym and going once or twice a week. Without the right diet no amount of exercise will make you healthy. It instead starts at the dinner table, where a healthy diet can mean that your gym sessions can be more enjoyable, less intense and hence more efficient.