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calories in calories out - not so fast

January 30, 2017

In February of 2003 Morgan "Super Size Me" Spurlock ate & drink nothing but McDonald's.  He had to eat everything on the menu at least once in February. Ironically he could only consume super sized items when the order taker or cashier asked him if he wanted to super size.  Spurlock limited his steps to 5,000 because in 2003 the average American walked 5,000 steps.  Over 30 days Spurlock added 24.5 pounds.  His bad cholesterol increased 67 points.  

 

Spurlock versus Haub

 

Fast forward to 2010.  Mark Haub, a nutrition professor at Kansas State University, accepted a different yet equally as disgusting diet challenge. For 10 weeks Haub ate mostly Twinkies.  He also ate Doritos, Oreos & super sugary cereals.  I admit the cereal part makes me salivate a little.  Haub wasn't nearly as strict with  his diet as Spurlock.  Every day he took a multivitamin, drank a protein shake & ate vegetables.  In fact he didn't want to send the wrong message to his kids, so he only ate vegetables when his kids were around.  Haub limited himself to 1,800 calories a day.  Prior to his deal with the devil, he consumed about 2,600 calories a day.  He kept his exercise level the same.

 

Haub fared remarkably better than Spurlock.  Not only did he drop 27 pounds, his cholesterol improved markedly.  His HDL or good cholesterol went up 20%.  His LDL or bad cholesterol went down 20%.  His triglycerides or very bad cholesterol declined 39%.

 

A calorie is a calorie, right?

 

On the one hand it's not surprising that Haub lost so much weight. He reduced his calories by 25%.  His cholesterol numbers are baffling. However had he continued with this diet long term, it's highly unlikely that he would have continued to get good health results. His health would have deteriorated significantly.  Straub would have become much more susceptible to catastrophic diseases.  Eventually he would have gained weight.

 

A calorie measures energy.  No calories means no energy.  It's commonly accepted that depending on a myriad of factors, men on average need between 2,000 & 2,500 calories a day.  The average woman requires less calories: 1,500 to 2000.  Of course your age, weight, activity level, metabolism, hormones, etc. dictate how many calories one needs. 

 

Here's where it gets more complicated.  Let's say I put 10 liters of high octane gas into my minivan & 10 liters of high octane gas into a sports car. Would you expect the same level of performance from both vehicles?  Let's say you have a $1,000,000 to invest in the United States or Syria. Would you expect the same return on your investment in both countries? You get the idea.

 

It's not just how many calories, it's what happens to the calories inside your body.

 

We still use a very antiquated & inaccurate system (developed by William Atwater in the early 1900's) to measure calories.  The USDA recently found that almonds don't have 170 calories per serving.  They actually have 130 calories per serving.  That's a big difference over time. The inaccuracy of calories apparently was too much for the Aussies to stomach. Australia dropped calories from food labels.  

 

We also know that not all calories are created equally,  For example 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.  Protein has only 4 calories per gram. Fiber rules the roost with only 2 calories per gram. Focus on fiber & protein to keep you sated.

 

No 2 humans are the same.  No 2 humans process calories the same.

 

European scientists in the early 1900's found that the average Russian large intestine or colon was 57 cm longer than the average Polish large intestine or colon!  Fortunately colon measurements have fallen out of favor in the last 100 plus years.

 

If you want to regulate your calories, of course you should pay attention to calories on food labels.  That's just the starting point. You want to eat the foods that require your digestive system to work the hardest & burn the most calories.  Metabolism takes a lot of energy with certain foods. 

 

Burn baby burn.

 

Your body metabolizes processed foods relatively easy. You're not burning that many calories.  Your teeth aren't working that hard with processed foods.  Your stomach & small intestine absorb processed calories a lot easier.   Bacteria, the front line of your immune system, has a smile a mile wide when it meets processed foods in your large intestine.  It's much easier for your body to destroy pathogens that processed foods create.

 

This is my best (and only) bread anecdote.

 

There was a study done recently.  It compared bread with nuts & seeds to the same bread with processed cheese.  They found that the less processed bread (nuts & seeds) burned 2 times as much energy as the cheesy processed bread during digestion.  More importantly the unprocessed bread lost 10% of its calories on its journey from mouth to the other end.

 

We know that calories are inaccurate & don't reflect the fact that our digestive systems convert food into energy very differently. Furthermore food label calories don't take into account how the food is prepared.  For example raw chicken has 114 calories. Stewed chicken has 151 calories. Fried chicken has 187 calories. Something interesting happens when you roast chicken.  100 grams of uncooked chicken has 75.8 grams of water & 21.2 grams of protein.  If you roast that same chicken, you lose water weight (75.8 grams to 65.3 grams), but you gain protein (21.2 grams to 30 grams).  It goes without saying that cooking oils & sauces add a lot of calories.  

 

Feel the burn.

 

What activities burn the most calories?  First of all the more you weigh the more calories you burn.  That's obvious, but the difference is big.  For example a 125 pound person running at a 12 minutes per mile pace will burn 240 calories in 3o minutes.  A 185 pound person running at the same pace will burn 355 calories.  

 

And I would like to apologize to every Canadian in the world.  Curling is somewhat vigorous.  A 125 pound Canadian burns 120 calories curling in a half hour.  Watching television or sleeping both burn between 20 & 30 calories.  Reading does your calories well burning between 30 & 50 calories a half hour.  If you're a student sitting in class, you should know you're experiencing a 50 to 80 calorie burn.  Check this link out if you want to know how many calories other activities burn:

 

http://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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