Calorie Confusion

The notion that all calories are the same; that calories-in (consumed) compared to calories-out (burned) is the end-all-be-all in terms of bodyweight; is an archaic notion that is damaging public health.

Studies have shown that overeating calories on a high-protein diet may not result in weight gain…even when an individual is consuming 500 extra calories a day!

These studies suggest:

1.) Excess calories coming from protein may not lead to weight gain. This may be invaluable for those trying to lose weight since protein is also the most satiating nutrient.

2.) It is not necessary to consume extra protein to gain muscle. This is most useful for individuals trying to put on muscle, since protein can be the most expensive macronutrient.

3.) Protein has the highest “thermogenic” affect. This simply means that our bodies will only “net” about 70% of the calories that we consume from protein. So, 100 calories of meat, fish, eggs, and certain forms of dairy, will only count as 70 calories!

I’ve always suggested clients consume one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. This means a 150-pound male athlete trying to play middle school football should consume 150 grams of protein while a 300-pound woman trying to lose weight should aim for 300 grams of protein a day. This has been the standard for performance- and health-oriented individuals for decades. Unfortunately, the general public has been convinced that protein is bad for the kidneys or the body as a whole.

There are many studies showing that individuals with kidney impairment have issues with high-protein diets…but these results have never been replicated with healthy populations.

The way major food companies produce meat can make it harmful to our body (and the environment). Feeding corn to cows literally becomes a race against the clock to see if the cow can grow fat enough to slaughter, before it dies of indigestion and infection. At the same time, feeding grains to animals will skew the omega-3 / omega-6 ratio, increasing the amount of unhealthy omega-6 in the animals fat.

However, if cows, or any animal for that matter, are given enough land to wander about, and a natural diet for them to freely consume, their meat will not only be healthy for us, but may be the most beneficial food we can consume.

So, if your goal is to reduce body-fat, and you plan to achieve weight-loss using calorie restriction, make sure you are not reducing your protein intake. And keep in mind, if you are hungry or have trouble staying full, have a few extra bites of protein.

Alternatively, if you are trying to increase muscle mass, consume 1g protein per 1lb bodyweight but, after that, save your money and get extra calories from natural carbs or healthy fats. Scoops of expensive protein powder or additional pounds of chicken breast may not make a significant difference.

Nothing that comes from nature, meant to give us sustenance, is automatically bad for us. It is only when we tinker with nature, maximizing production while minimizing cost, that problems arise.

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