Are all calories created equal?
In other words, are all calories metabolized equally by the body? No, they are not. There are three types of calories found in food – fat, carbohydrates, and protein. We will get into the differences between them in the future weeks but for now it is important to know that whenever the body consumes too many calories it stores those extra calories as fat. This is true regardless of whether the calories are from fat, carbs, or protein.
Why does the body store all excess calories in the form of fat?
This is because fat calories are more condensed than calories from carbs and protein. Since fat takes up the least amount of space, it is more efficient for the body to store excess calories in that form. If the body were to store excess calories in the form of protein or carbohydrate, people would be HUGE!
When we call an overweight person “fat” we are actually referring to the fact that he has consumed many extra calories which the body has turned into fat and stored. If the body were to store excess calories in the form of protein, an overweight person would be called “protein”!
Now what does this have to do with calories not being created equal?
It takes a lot of work for your body to take the calories you eat and turn them into fat. Your body actually burns calories during the process just as it does when you exercise! But, and this is key, not all calories require the same amount of work. Fat calories, because they do not need to be changed in order to be stored as fat, requires almost no work and so the body doesn’t really burn any calories in the process. Carbs, which are very similar to fat, also do not cause the body to burn many calories. Protein, however, is very different from fat and carbohydrates, and the body has to work very hard to process it and convert it into fat. If you eat a 100 calorie piece of chicken, which is almost pure protein, the body will burn an extra 25 calories just to process and store it. It’s important to note that even though a diet high in protein and low in carbs and fat is great for weight loss, one should not cut out carbs or fat entirely. Carbs and fat are essential for our bodies to be able to function properly and must be included in our diet.