Calories ain’t just calories

Hi – There is a school of thought that says a calorie is just a calorie and it does not matter where your calories come from. I, like many others do not agree with this viewpoint.

A Calorie is not a calorie

When it comes to losing fat and re-conditioning your metabolism, exercise is important – really important. But the most important part of shifting your body shape is what you put in your mouth. I would say that 80% of your results in terms of fat loss and metabolic reconditioning lies with what you eat and how you fuel your body.

A healthy fat loss program is created from a sound nutritional base and good information.


A calorie is nothing more or less than a measure of energy. It is the amount of energy, or heat, required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). One calorie is equal to 4.184 joules, a unit of energy commonly used in many European, Asian & Oceanic countries as well as the physical sciences.

Difference between calories and kilocalories

A single calorie is a tiny amount of energy – so the “calories” referred to on food packaging and in diet plans are in fact “kilocalories” (a thousand calories, often referred to as Calories – with the capital C). With metric measurements, “kilojoules” (1000 joules – kJ) are always used.

Calories matter, as they allow the energy content of different foods to be compared – but they are by not the only factor to consider when developing a successful fat loss program.

One word of warning – do not get too hung up on counting calories. There are plenty of foods that are low-calorie but which have little or no nutritional value. These are the dreaded ‘empty calorie’ foods that impart no benefit to you if you eat them. Likewise there are plenty of ‘Low fat’ foods that are chock full of sugars and just dreadful for you and your fat loss efforts.

The old weight loss (not even considered as a fat loss) approach was to establish how many calories you needed to maintain your Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories needed to survive if you were resting and doing nothing all day), add some more calories to cover off any exercise undertaken and then reduce the figure arrived at by at least 500 calories per day so you created an energy deficit.

The thinking was that all calories were equal, that your body dealt with them irrespective of origin and if you reduced your daily intake by 500 calories you would lose 3500 calories (1 lb, .5 kilo) in a week.

In many medical establishments this is still the way things are done.

It is useful to know how many calories you need to keep functioning each day, but it is the source of the calories that you eat that is important. A calorie is not just a calorie.

How about if you ate your daily requirements (say 2200 calories for a male) as hot dogs? Or if you ate nothing but Pizza, or white bread or Oreo Cookies – how would you look and feel?

Now think about how you would feel if you ate the same amount of calories as lean protein, with fruit and vegetables. Which style of eating would see you putting on the most fat and losing the most muscle mass?? The first one, of course. So a calorie is not just a calorie except as a unit of measurement.

Make no mistake eating too many calories above what your body needs, no matter what their source, will add fat to your body. However certain types of calories, & certain types of foods are predisposed to boosting your metabolism and others are predisposed to turning it off. A calorie is NOT a calorie – your body handles the calories from different types of food sources differently.

The next post will deal with reconditioning your metabolism.

7 thoughts on “Calories ain’t just calories

  1. Pingback: How you can fix a Broken Metabolism Part 2 | Body Shape Shifters

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