A Calorie is a Calorie? Not exactly.

Today I want to talk about a common misconception in the nutrition world and that is that – contrary to popular belief – all calories are not created equal. People say, “A calorie is a calorie” but that is like saying, “A dog is a dog.” Yes, a dog is a dog but in December, huskies are pulling sleds in Alaska and chihuahuas are wearing a sweater by the fireplace.

Yes, “A calorie is a calorie” but that doesn’t mean that it creates the same response in the body. A calorie of olive oil will not create the same response as a calorie of gummy bears. I’ve been reading a lot of Dr. Jason Fung’s work lately and am convinced that we have it all wrong. Calories don’t cause weight gain, insulin does. We need to stop being low calorie and start being low insulin spikes.

In Dr. Fung’s book, The Obesity Code, he talks about a study a British personal trainer did on himself. Sam Felton set out to prove there is more to the story than “calories in, calories out” and increased his caloric intake to 5,794 calories per day for 21 days. He did this with a natural, low carb/high fat diet of natural unprocessed foods. The “math” (3500 additional calories=1 lb gained) says he should have gained 16 pounds in those three weeks. He only gained 2.8 pounds and actually LOST 1 inch from his waist. This means he gained lean mass, not fat!

Some people said that he was simply a freak of nature and it would not be that way for everyone, so Sam did the same experiment with 5,794 calories per day but with a standard American diet of highly processed refined carbohydrates. In the same amount of time, he gained close to the pounds the “math” said he should (15.6 pounds) and gained 3.6 inches on his waist. There was a dramatically different effect on the same guy with the same number of calories. So yes a calorie is calorie but all calories do not create the same responses in the body.

This holiday season and in the New Year when all the resolutions happen, make sure that your resolution is not to lower calories but to choose better calories.

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