Calorie Myth Will Remain

With today’s ever growing fitness and nutrition craze, I am sure we have all heard the debate on what calories are and what they do for the body. Although some will argue that a calorie is simply just a calorie, there is sufficient evidence on why this theory is false. I’m sure we have all pondered over the issue ourselves, but I will thoroughly explain why you can’t eat whatever you’d like and expect successful weight loss.

In the article entitled, 6 Reasons Why a Calorie is NOT a Calorie, Kris Gunnar’s goes into great detail on the “calorie myth.” It is true that all calories have the same amount of energy, but when it comes to your body and achieving your goals of weight loss it is not as simple. Gunnar’s started the article by talking about the two main simple sugars in one’s diet, which are glucose and fructose. The two simple sugars seem to be identical, but they are actually metabolized differently. Glucose can be metabolized by all the body’s tissues, while fructose can only be metabolized by the liver. A great example of why glucose calories are not the same as fructose calories comes from a study done by the Endocrine Society. It is explained that ghrelin is the “hunger hormone” and it goes up and down depending on hunger. The study showed that fructose leads to higher ghrelin levels that glucose, which means you will be hungry sooner with the intake of fructose calories.

Another great argument on the matter comes from the thermic effect of foods. Different food sources will go through different metabolic pathways and of course, there’s always a pathway that is going to be better than the other. When it comes to the 3 calorie sources (fats, carbs, and proteins), the metabolic pathway for protein is less efficient than the pathway for carbs and fats. With this being said, fats and carbs are food energy that are used for work throughout the body and dissipates less as heat. A huge part of protein calories is lost as heat and requires much more energy when metabolized by the body. Putting this in perspective and going with a thermic effect of 25% for protein and 2% for fat, consuming 100 calories of protein would end up as 75 calories, while 100 calories of fat would end up being a whopping 98 calories. A study found at showed that high protein diets will boost your metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day when compared to a lower protein diet. That right there, clearly proves that a calorie is not simply just a calorie. You will most likely see much better weight loss results when sticking to foods high in protein calories. Lastly, another study found at, compared two sandwiches that contained different food choices but had the same number of calories and micronutrients. One of the sandwiches was made with whole grains and cheddar cheese, while the other was made with refined grains and processed cheese. The person who ate the whole grain sandwich burned twice as many calories while digesting the meal, now that’s saying something about why calories are more than just a calorie.

It is quite obvious that different calorie sources can have extremely different effects on hunger, hormones, energy expenditure and the brain regions that control food intake. Although calories are very much important, counting them and obsessing over the number is not at all necessary to meet your weight loss goals. As proved by Kris Gunnar in her article, simple changes in food selection can lead to the same (or sometimes even better) results than calorie restriction. It very simply put and the proof is right in front of you when it comes to arguing against the “calorie myth” with the thermic effect of foods. There is absolutely no way you can feed off snickers and ice cream and see the same results to your body as you would if you were eating chicken and vegetables. Stop trying to make the unhealthy choices seem okay to consume and just start taking in better food choices. As supported with sufficient evidence, a calorie will never just be a calorie.