Why a Calorie Is Not Just a Calorie

why a calorie is not just a calorie

Do you have a hard time sticking to a diet? If you’re like us, restricting calories results in cravings, hunger and low energy: the perfect recipe for diet disaster. Or, maybe you embrace the suck and successfully restrict calories for a while to lose weight, but then slowly return to your starting weight—you may even yo-yo back and forth between weight loss and gain.

What if we told you that you can turn your body into a fat-burning machine by simply selecting the right foods?

Focus on quality rather than quantity. The type of food you eat matters because you can use your nutrition plan to maximize your natural metabolism. A calorie is not just a calorie: Artificial sweeteners may have zero calories but they also tank your metabolism. So what ends up happening is you eat a lot less but never lose weight. And that sucks! So remember, it’s not just calories in versus calories out: There are different metabolic functions going on depending on your caloric intake that can either aid in body fat loss or lead to a plateau. Your body doesn’t use the same logic as your brain, therefore you need to learn to speak your body’s metabolic language.

Burn More Calories by Selecting the Right Foods

Some foods are more efficient than others at increasing your natural metabolism. Here’s why eating them rules: The more efficient your natural metabolism, the more calories you’ll burn minute by minute. Pretty cool, huh?

Your body burns more calories while consuming and processing calories from certain foods: Fats use 2-3 percent, carbs use 6-8 percent, and protein uses 25-30 percent.

So what does this mean to you? Protein requires more energy to digest than fat or carbs and this translates into more calories burned due to the energy expended by the body to break them down.

Let’s do some math, shall we? If you eat 100 calories of protein but your body burns 25 percent of them while processing the food, you end up with 75 calories, whereas if you eat 100 calories of fat, your body will burn just 2 percent processing them and you’ll end up with 98 calories. Hello!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole lot more to boosting metabolism than just eating protein. It’s complicated, so don’t go nuts (although nuts like almonds and walnuts are fine calorie-torching options). Results vary by individual and striking the right nutritional balance is difficult. Don’t get down on yourself for not knowing this stuff! It’s really hard.

Eat More, Reduce Cravings and Lose Weight?! Yesss.

Another great reason to add more quality foods to your diet is that you can eat more of them while keeping cravings under control. Foods like lean proteins fill you up faster and keep you full longer, as opposed to sugar, which is slower to fill you up, keeps you full for a shorter time period, and then makes you ravenous.

Choosing foods based solely on calorie count alone can work against you on the scale. Filling your diet with processed, low-calorie options—like diet sodas and microwavable low-cal meals—work against you because they’re full of sugar (check the labels!). Because sugary foods are slow to fill you up, your body will signal you to keep eating because you don’t feel full. As if that wasn’t enough, shortly after a sugary meal, you’ll be hungry enough to eat your own arm due to your blood sugar crashing and burning.

Quality foods, on the other hand, fill you up faster and keep you full longer. Adding them to your diet will allow you to eat more, crave less and lose weight. Win. Win. Win!

It’s not your fault for buying into the low-calorie hype. You’re going up against a marketing machine pimping low-cal “diet” foods designed by chemists to taste and smell great, yet they won’t help you lose weight. This is why we recommend eating unprocessed foods that you cook yourself.

Wait. There’s More!

“Different calorie sources can have vastly different effects on hunger, hormones, energy expenditure and the brain regions that control food intake,” according to this well-researched article by Authority Nutrition.

When choosing your next meal or snack, be sure to select foods that will boost your metabolism, decrease your hunger, and impact your hormones in a positive way, rather than a meal low in calories that offers no real nutritional value. Think quality over quantity!

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