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Are all calories the same??

psuLemonpsuLemon Posts: 35,116Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator Posts: 35,116Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator
I wanted to start a thread that looks at the metabolic effects of calories. In particular, to discuss if all calories are equal from an energy standpoint and/or from a weight loss standpoint. Before that, there are a few parameters I must be addressed:
  1. Yes, I understand a calories is a calorie in terms of a unit of measure (just like a lb is a lb) and a calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius
  2. Diet adherence isn't part of the discussion (which I fully recognize as the most important variable for weight loss and sustainability)
  3. And yes, I am majoring in the minors... I fully recognize there are many other items on the pyramid that need to be addressed prior to these minute tweets in diet, to maximize fat loss.


Calorie for Calorie, Dietary Fat Restriction Results inMore Body Fat Loss than Carbohydrate Restriction in People with Obesity

Many of you have already seen this, it's been reference on the forum a few times. And my intent isn't to use this as the normal LC vs LF, which is better. But merely, my goal is to get others thoughts, or understand why a very low fat diet yielded greater fat loss, while calories and protein were held constant? Would such a study suggest there is a metabolic advantage to cutting fat over carbohydrates in people who do NOT have medical conditions. And more importantly, are all calories equal? If so, why would we see these kinds of results?

For me, this may suggest that there are some metabolic advantages of certain diets.
edited February 2016
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Replies

  • ndj1979ndj1979 Posts: 29,021Member Member Posts: 29,021Member Member
    Will read the study here in a bit.

    My stance on calories is the following:
    1. All calories are the same from an energy standpoint.
    2. Not all calories are nutritonally equal
    3. what matters is overall diet hits micro and macro requirements.

    did they control for protein intake in all groups?
  • Zmac34Zmac34 Posts: 32Member Member Posts: 32Member Member
    No, all calories are not the same. Over time if you're consuming more processed foods, dairy, meat then that will add more weight than if you consume a whole foods and mostly plant based diet high in antioxidants, and nutrients.
  • BecomingBaneBecomingBane Posts: 3,648Member Member Posts: 3,648Member Member
    I'd be interested to see this reproduced on a larger sample set, but interesting none the less.
  • ndj1979ndj1979 Posts: 29,021Member Member Posts: 29,021Member Member
    Zmac34 wrote: »
    No, all calories are not the same. Over time if you're consuming more processed foods, dairy, meat then that will add more weight than if you consume a whole foods and mostly plant based diet high in antioxidants, and nutrients.

    sorry, but that is wrong.

    If person A is in a 500 calorie deficit and eats processed foods, dairy, and meat and Person B is eating a plant based and whole foods diet, they will both lose the same amount of weight.

    Unless, of course, you have some peer reviewed studies that show that a whole food, plant based diet somehow override CICO and the basic laws of math and physics....
  • psuLemonpsuLemon Posts: 35,116Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator Posts: 35,116Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator
    ndj1979 wrote: »
    Will read the study here in a bit.

    My stance on calories is the following:
    1. All calories are the same from an energy standpoint.
    2. Not all calories are nutritonally equal
    3. what matters is overall diet hits micro and macro requirements.

    did they control for protein intake in all groups?

    In the study, they controlled protein and calories. They only varied fats or carbs.
    comprehensive-diet-233x300.png
  • ndj1979ndj1979 Posts: 29,021Member Member Posts: 29,021Member Member
    psuLemon wrote: »
    ndj1979 wrote: »
    Will read the study here in a bit.

    My stance on calories is the following:
    1. All calories are the same from an energy standpoint.
    2. Not all calories are nutritonally equal
    3. what matters is overall diet hits micro and macro requirements.

    did they control for protein intake in all groups?

    In the study, they controlled protein and calories. They only varied fats or carbs.
    comprehensive-diet-233x300.png

    interesting,like @BecomingBane said sample size of n=19 seems a tad small. I would like to see it re-created with maybe 100 participants just to see if same results can be replicated.
  • psuLemonpsuLemon Posts: 35,116Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator Posts: 35,116Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator
    It is a small size, but it does benefit as it was a metabolic ward study and double cross over.
  • lemurcat12lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886Member Member Posts: 30,886Member Member
    I'd be interested in the effect of higher protein diets (although I am not interested in one), and especially if there's a difference between people in whether they tend to put on fat or muscle, despite similar exercise regimes. My memory is that there are studies suggesting some variation and also that increasing calories from protein is less likely to result in added fat (assuming one is weight training adequately) than increasing calories from either fat or carbs. I will try to find the studies I recall.
  • senecarrsenecarr Posts: 5,377Member Member Posts: 5,377Member Member
    I'll throw this in since I've been thinking about it lately:
    http://bretcontreras.com/is-the-thermic-effect-of-food-higher-if-you-are-lean/

    Obviously macros have different TEF, but possibly different ratios do too, and they might depend on how lean or insulin sensitive the individual is.
  • juggernaut1974juggernaut1974 Posts: 6,212Member Member Posts: 6,212Member Member
    psuLemon wrote: »
    And yes, I am majoring in the minors... I fully recognize there are many other items on the pyramid that need to be addressed prior to these minute tweets in diet, to maximize fat loss.

    To me, this is the key issue.

    Truth be told (and I will deny ever having said this on other MFP forums), I can buy into the fact that there may be very slight differences. Tho honestly, I chalk it more up to inaccuracies and rounding errors in measurement than true differences in the properties of the calories themselves. (ie - does every 1.0 gram of carbs contain EXACTLY 4.0 calories of energy? Does this 120g 90% lean hamburger patty contain EXACTLY 22g of protein?)

    The reason I will deny ever having acknowledged this in most MFP threads, is because the variance caused by the above - whether it's due to inaccuracies/rounding errors, or whether there truly is a difference in how our bodies process the calories in certain types of food - is so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, that it's simply not helpful for the 29.5 BMI person looking to lose 40 lbs to get wrapped up in it.

  • senecarrsenecarr Posts: 5,377Member Member Posts: 5,377Member Member
    psuLemon wrote: »
    And yes, I am majoring in the minors... I fully recognize there are many other items on the pyramid that need to be addressed prior to these minute tweets in diet, to maximize fat loss.

    To me, this is the key issue.

    Truth be told (and I will deny ever having said this on other MFP forums), I can buy into the fact that there may be very slight differences. Tho honestly, I chalk it more up to inaccuracies and rounding errors in measurement than true differences in the properties of the calories themselves. (ie - does every 1.0 gram of carbs contain EXACTLY 4.0 calories of energy? Does this 120g 90% lean hamburger patty contain EXACTLY 22g of protein?)

    The reason I will deny ever having acknowledged this in most MFP threads, is because the variance caused by the above - whether it's due to inaccuracies/rounding errors, or whether there truly is a difference in how our bodies process the calories in certain types of food - is so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, that it's simply not helpful for the 29.5 BMI person looking to lose 40 lbs to get wrapped up in it.

    More like 4.1, honestly.
    Protein is more like 5.7 for a typical gram burned in fire but the energy of digestion limits down to around 4.1 kcal/gram too. Protein has the widest variance as there are so many amino acids that can have so many combinations of bonds with different levels of energy between them, compared to starches are made up of only the three simple sugars in various lengths.
  • juggernaut1974juggernaut1974 Posts: 6,212Member Member Posts: 6,212Member Member
    senecarr wrote: »
    psuLemon wrote: »
    And yes, I am majoring in the minors... I fully recognize there are many other items on the pyramid that need to be addressed prior to these minute tweets in diet, to maximize fat loss.

    To me, this is the key issue.

    Truth be told (and I will deny ever having said this on other MFP forums), I can buy into the fact that there may be very slight differences. Tho honestly, I chalk it more up to inaccuracies and rounding errors in measurement than true differences in the properties of the calories themselves. (ie - does every 1.0 gram of carbs contain EXACTLY 4.0 calories of energy? Does this 120g 90% lean hamburger patty contain EXACTLY 22g of protein?)

    The reason I will deny ever having acknowledged this in most MFP threads, is because the variance caused by the above - whether it's due to inaccuracies/rounding errors, or whether there truly is a difference in how our bodies process the calories in certain types of food - is so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, that it's simply not helpful for the 29.5 BMI person looking to lose 40 lbs to get wrapped up in it.

    More like 4.1, honestly.
    Protein is more like 5.7 for a typical gram burned in fire but the energy of digestion limits down to around 4.1 kcal/gram too. Protein has the widest variance as there are so many amino acids that can have so many combinations of bonds with different levels of energy between them, compared to starches are made up of only the three simple sugars in various lengths.

    Yeah that's exactly what I'm talking about. I can buy into minor variances and fluctuations from expected results over the long term due to things like the above. But it's a non-issue for the typical MFP user who thinks that going over 50g of carbs a day is going to throw their body into some panic mode such that it starts metabolizing calories completely and significantly differently.
  • YaGirlMaddiYaGirlMaddi Posts: 87Member Member Posts: 87Member Member
    I always thought that all calories are not the same in terms of what their doing to your body (raising blood sugar, cholesterol, etc), but if you're looking at calorie deficits then if you're slashing your calories you will still lose weight. However, in the past I've dieter but cutting calories not caring about what kind of calories I eat and I never lost the weight I wanted. But, now I started really looking at what I put in my body and I've lost more weight than I ever have. I try to get most of my calories from protein, the carbs, and then fats. (1g fat is 9 cal, 1g of protein is 4 cal, and 1g of carbs is 4 cal and this is just a good estimate to go by).
    edited February 2016
  • senecarrsenecarr Posts: 5,377Member Member Posts: 5,377Member Member
    senecarr wrote: »
    psuLemon wrote: »
    And yes, I am majoring in the minors... I fully recognize there are many other items on the pyramid that need to be addressed prior to these minute tweets in diet, to maximize fat loss.

    To me, this is the key issue.

    Truth be told (and I will deny ever having said this on other MFP forums), I can buy into the fact that there may be very slight differences. Tho honestly, I chalk it more up to inaccuracies and rounding errors in measurement than true differences in the properties of the calories themselves. (ie - does every 1.0 gram of carbs contain EXACTLY 4.0 calories of energy? Does this 120g 90% lean hamburger patty contain EXACTLY 22g of protein?)

    The reason I will deny ever having acknowledged this in most MFP threads, is because the variance caused by the above - whether it's due to inaccuracies/rounding errors, or whether there truly is a difference in how our bodies process the calories in certain types of food - is so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, that it's simply not helpful for the 29.5 BMI person looking to lose 40 lbs to get wrapped up in it.

    More like 4.1, honestly.
    Protein is more like 5.7 for a typical gram burned in fire but the energy of digestion limits down to around 4.1 kcal/gram too. Protein has the widest variance as there are so many amino acids that can have so many combinations of bonds with different levels of energy between them, compared to starches are made up of only the three simple sugars in various lengths.

    Yeah that's exactly what I'm talking about. I can buy into minor variances and fluctuations from expected results over the long term due to things like the above. But it's a non-issue for the typical MFP user who thinks that going over 50g of carbs a day is going to throw their body into some panic mode such that it starts metabolizing calories completely and significantly differently.

    Yeah, it is something I wouldn't normally get into minutia wise with a lot of MFP or general population. Yes, technically if you ate 0 grams of fat a day, you'd burn extra calories because de novo lipogensis isn't a free energy process and your body does need fats. Chances are low you'd do much if any during a calorie deficit, and chances are worse you'd find a way to eat at a surplus with 0 fat grams a day and over your energy needs in carbohydrates such that your body would do enough to appreciably change the balances.
  • psuLemonpsuLemon Posts: 35,116Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator Posts: 35,116Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator
    psuLemon wrote: »
    And yes, I am majoring in the minors... I fully recognize there are many other items on the pyramid that need to be addressed prior to these minute tweets in diet, to maximize fat loss.

    To me, this is the key issue.

    Truth be told (and I will deny ever having said this on other MFP forums), I can buy into the fact that there may be very slight differences. Tho honestly, I chalk it more up to inaccuracies and rounding errors in measurement than true differences in the properties of the calories themselves. (ie - does every 1.0 gram of carbs contain EXACTLY 4.0 calories of energy? Does this 120g 90% lean hamburger patty contain EXACTLY 22g of protein?)

    The reason I will deny ever having acknowledged this in most MFP threads, is because the variance caused by the above - whether it's due to inaccuracies/rounding errors, or whether there truly is a difference in how our bodies process the calories in certain types of food - is so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, that it's simply not helpful for the 29.5 BMI person looking to lose 40 lbs to get wrapped up in it.

    I am definitely in the same mindset with you as it pertains to pretty much all you stated. For many, this is so far down the line of priorities its not even funny. But there are some of us, who have been doing this long enough, where other things can become a prior (e.g. meal timing) that wouldn't be beneficial to the average MFP user.

    And more so, this study is more about relooking at my own assumptions because in my opinion there is a difference between saying the "all calories are equal from an energy standpoint", compared to, "while all calories are not all equal, the variations are so minute it rarely has an actual impact".

    In other words it's possible that very low fat has a metabolic advantage over moderately low carb, that its generally not worth addressing the issue.

    I will say, I do find it interesting that whenever a study is posted, the first question is about protein levels. On a dumby level that would suggest that there are various differences in how we metabolize each macronutrients, even outside of tef.


  • ndj1979ndj1979 Posts: 29,021Member Member Posts: 29,021Member Member
    I always thought that all calories are not the same in terms of what their doing to your body (raising blood sugar, cholesterol, etc), but if you're looking at calorie deficits then if you're slashing your calories you will still lose weight. However, in the past I've dieter but cutting calories not caring about what kind of calories I eat and I never lost the weight I wanted. But, now I started really looking at what I put in my body and I've lost more weight than I ever have. I try to get most of my calories from protein, the carbs, and then fats. (1g fat is 9 cal, 1g of protein is 4 cal, and 1g of carbs is 4 cal and this is just a good estimate to go by).

    so you got stricter with your intake and lost more weight? That is a function of stricter logging and tracking everything, and not of the type of calories.

    As a general rule of thumb, I think that we all agree that if you just want to drop twenty pounds then a straight calorie deficit is all that i needed. However, if you want to have a leaner physique or have more robust body composition goals then you are going to need stricter logging of calories, stricter intake of said calories, structured lifting/work out regimen, and stricter macro/micro adherence.

    and what we are saying is that all calories are the same from an energy standpoint; however, they are not all the same nutritionally.
  • UG77UG77 Posts: 206Member Member Posts: 206Member Member
    If all calories were the same than most Americans wouldn't be overfed and malnourished at the same time.
  • ndj1979ndj1979 Posts: 29,021Member Member Posts: 29,021Member Member
    UG77 wrote: »
    If all calories were the same than most Americans wouldn't be overfed and malnourished at the same time.

    you are conflating dietary choice with calories....apples and oranges...

    again, all calories provide the same amount of energy, but they are not nutritionally the same.

  • juggernaut1974juggernaut1974 Posts: 6,212Member Member Posts: 6,212Member Member
    UG77 wrote: »
    If all calories were the same than most Americans wouldn't be overfed and malnourished at the same time.

    Calories don't provide "nutrition". They provide energy (the 'overfed' part)

    The macro- and micro-nutrients that accompany (or don't accompany) said calories are what lead to malnourishment.

    That all said, you're going to have a very hard time convincing me that "most Americans" are "malnourished", so your argument is not sound to begin with...
    edited February 2016
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Posts: 20,809Member Member Posts: 20,809Member Member
    UG77 wrote: »
    If all calories were the same than most Americans wouldn't be overfed and malnourished at the same time.

    Calorie count doesn't tell you the nutritional value of a food though . . .
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