Calories vs Calories
In the fitness industry there are many different types of diets- If It fits your macros (IIFYM), detox, low/high carb, Atkins, raw food, low fat, no fruit, Paleo and many others. Many either advocate the statement of “calories are calories” or “organic and natural” but what is a true scientific comparison to the different types of diets mentioned, their flaws, their positives and the downright stupid.
First we need to highlight other aspects of nutrition besides the amount of calories or if they are deemed organic or healthy.
Summary (for those time restricted)
1. Thermodynamics- Entropy, energy is lost, chemical reactions are varied, calories are not equal due to the 2nd law of thermodynamics (dissipation law).
2. Hormones- Negative effects on testosterone, growth hormone, insulin, ghrelin (appetite) leading to long term weight gain and health risks.
3. Other factors such as inflammation and digestive enzymes maybe considered.
The first law is a conservation law: it says that the form of energy may change, but the total is always conserved. Meaning if you consume 200 calories of carbs it will be utilised as 200 calories of energy (no more no less).
The second law is a dissipation law: it defines Entropy, which we identify as the disorder or high probability of disorder. The second law says that in any (real) irreversible process, entropy must increase. Entropy is, in fact, identifiable with irreversibility.
The second law derives from chemical reactions, meaning that as a chemical reaction occurs entropy must increase. The entropic and energetic effects are combined into the change in the Gibbs free energy, represented as ΔG, which predicts the direction of reaction and magnitude. Therefore ΔG indicates the maximum amount of work realizable from the reaction.
To understand the implications of "a calorie is a calorie," and that energy yield could be the same for all diets, consider that it implies that carbohydrate and protein are equivalent fuels as shown in Figure 1.
The diagram indicates that Path 1 must be equal to that for Path 2 + 3. If the ΔG' values for Path 1 and Path 2 are taken to be their calorimeter values, they will be approximately equal ~4 kcal/g. This means that ΔG' for Path 3, the conversion of protein to carbohydrate (also corrected) must be about zero.
There exists at least one condition where this is not true, the standard state; it is generally considered that gluconeogenesis from one mole of alanine requires about 6 ATP. In other words, assuming that protein and carbohydrate are energetically equivalent leads to a contradiction.
The second law was developed in the attempt to understand the efficiency of machines. The second law states that no machine is completely efficient. It explains that some of the available energy is lost in the form of heat and other changes due to Entropy. In other words, the second law states that something is lost or something is unrecoverable.
The efficiency of a machine is dependent on how effectively the machine works and the nature of the fuel. A simple example is the inefficiency of low-grade gasoline in a high compression gasoline engines eg a V8. If a "calorie is a calorie" were true, nobody would pay extra for high grade gasoline.
In weight loss diets, of course, inefficiency is desirable and is tied to hormonal levels, inflammation and enzyme activities. In nutrition, one component of inefficiency is measured in thermogenesis (thermic effect of feeding), or the heat generated in processing food. There is a large literature on this subject and the general conclusion, as summarized in a recent review is that thermic effects of nutrients is approximately 2–3 % for lipids, 6–8 % for carbohydrates, and 25–30% for proteins.
Studies have demonstrated these theories with results such as postprandial thermogenesis at 2.5 hours post-meal averaged about twofold higher on the high protein diet versus the high carbohydrate diet. These differences were significant after breakfast and the dinner meals, signifying the importance of protein in your breakfast and dinner.
Studies suggested the replacement of some dietary carbohydrate with protein, as it improved weight loss. Another studied demonstrated that protein was more effective in reducing body fat vs. carb over 12 month duration. The cause was suggested to be that protein produced a greater post-meal Diet Induced Thermogenesis.
One of the most important actions of ghrelin is its regulatory role for long-term energy homoeostasis and short-term food intake. Total ghrelin levels decreased significantly more after carbs compared to protein and fats however after 3 hours, increased dramatically. This reinforcing that carbs only yield a short term satiety, making you prone to binging and/or snacking.
Abuse of sugar and also fruit (fructose) can cause insulin resistance and long term cause blood sugar level issues, irregular sleep patterns, fat accumulation and type 2 diabetes.
Glucose ingestion induces a significant reduction in total and free T levels in men, which is similar across the spectrum of glucose tolerance. This was suggested to be associated with the disruption of Luteinising hormone (LH).
Growth Hormone (GH)
GH exerts anabolic effects directly and through stimulation of IGF-I and free fatty acids. GH is a counter regulatory hormone that antagonizes the hepatic and peripheral effects of insulin on glucose metabolism. Sugar consumption reduces GH production due to insulin production, ceasing effective fat oxidation and therefore long term fat loss.
Leptin serves as a hormonal signal linking food intake, energy expenditure to fat mass and also monitors sexual behaviour. High amounts of sugar causes long term leptin resistance, leading towards negative effects such as metabolic dysfunction, lower sex drive and irregular hunger.
Other factors to consider- Inflammation and digestive enzymes
“Calories are Calories” isn’t completely correct. Other mechanisms such as hormonal interferes which short term might not be as prominent, long term will be detrimental. The monitoring of calorie consumption is a good moderator but the macro nutrient make up must be greatly considered.
Next Article “What Diet is Best For You?” which breaks down the most common diets into the positive, negative and downright stupid to give you a scientific understanding so you can make an inform decision on what diet is the best for you.
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