Calorie Counter

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A quick refresher on a calorie is a calorie ....

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  • stevencloserstevencloser Posts: 8,917Member Member Posts: 8,917Member Member
    yarwell wrote: »
    How hard is it to understand that there's a small amount of up and down on a daily basis in everything from CI to CO which doesn't change that a calorie is a calorie?

    Seriously. Your body can up and downregulate a little bit to stay at the same weight when it's not worth building more mass or losing mass but a proper deficit or surplus will result in loss or gain. Laws of energy are in place. Energy doesn't disappear, your body just burns a bit more here and there, a 0.1 increase in body temperature or whatever else.

    So let's go along with this hypothesis and say a 50 kcal deficit is accommodated by some response or other, but a "proper" deficit of say 500 kcal leads to weight loss.

    This says that calorie #30 is different to calorie #300 because the first is one of the calories that leads to a compensatory response whereas the second is part of a "proper deficit" that leads to weight loss.

    Calorie #30 can't be the same as calorie #300 in terms of it's effect on human physiology if you're saying the outcome is different.

    Of course both of them would heat 1 kg of water from 14.5 to 15.5 C or whatever definition you favour, but in a "Nutrition Debate" they are not the same. Equally a properly done energy and body composition balance analysis would balance before and after and tell us what happened, but it wouldn't be the same for each of the two calorie increments - if the hypothesis is correct.

    If calories would form a queue to be used and every single bodily process was also sequential where only one thing was done at one time you could say that.
    They don't though. Calories get used. For stuff. Keeping you alive, keeping your bodyheat up, stored for later, and probably a dozen other things I couldn't think off the top of my head right now. And all of that at all times in different amounts. It's silly to think "This calorie goes there, while that one goes somewhere else." The outcome of an absorbed nutrient is "gets processed into ATP for energy, turned into other molecules or stored away". Your body isn't exactly discriminating in that regard and takes what it gets and tries to minimize wasting more than necessary. Yay for adaptation. As a low carber you know that calories from fat can get used to fuel your body just as well as carbs and for the things it absolutely needs a certain molecule for that is not essential it just builds it out of other things. The outcome is the same, the way to get there and its efficiency might differ. The calories are still just the same calories. It's the source of them that might make your body need a bit more energy to use. If you get X calories from foods A or B, but A has a different process of getting those X calories that is more wasteful, you still got X calories from either food, your body just needed slightly more energy to get it. Still the same calories. Would you say 100 calories of pork are unequal to 100 calories of boar that you hunted yourself because you expended a lot more energy to get that boar to begin with? Or does it only start once you eat it?

    Everyone agrees that calories don't necessarily get absorbed at the same rate. That doesn't mean calories are different, it's foods that are different. It's the things the calories would later get absorbed from that make that happen, the structure of the nutrients.
    Everyone agrees that 100 calories of one thing will not have the same nutrient profile as 100 calories of another thing. Again, that's the foods being different, not the calories.
    Furthermore, 100 grams of one thing will also never be identical to 100 grams of the same thing either, as nutrient concentrations vary and thus the calories also.
    In the same vein, your body's usage of calories is never identical 2 days in a row, even if you managed to do exactly the same things on both days.
    Going on, as was pointed out, your body can up and downregulate your CO, to an extent. Adaptive thermogenesis after a long and steep deficit as a bigger change that may or may not happen to some people, and small "50 calories a day more or less are not worth the energy it would take to create or remove the fatty tissue for it" changes are smaller ones. People tend to look at it in absolute numbers of 50 calorie surplus being just that, 12 grams of sugar or whatever. But that's not how the body does it. It doesn't work in discrete numbers that you can put in a cartesian graph with "at that point, X calories were burned". It's continuous with an immense amount of data points that is for all intents and purposes infinite. We just have to choose sensible cutoff points as a means of counting our intakes and expenditure. The 12 grams of sugar may or may not be a surplus at the time you eat them, at other times of the day you might have been in extended deficits on the other hand. A "surplus" happens when the periods of surplusses outweigh the deficits. Over the course of a whole day, a predicted "50 calorie surplus" is just 2 calories per hour your body would have to burn more to make it poof into nonexistance, which is entirely in the realm of possibilities. Make you move about a little bit more, raise your temperature ever so slightly, etc.

    At the end of the day, all calorie counts are estimations and approximations. Approximations that are as good as it gets in any feasible way that isn't more work than it's worth in most cases but still approximations.
    That can lead to differences between projected weight development and actual weight development but it does not mean that calories are different from each other. It means we chose an accuracy of measuring those calories and their effects that is good enough for the general purpose without the need of equipment and whatnot that would make it more accurate becoming a hassle that is just not worth it.

    Tl; dr: A calorie is a calorie, apart from the obvious thing that a unit of measurement will always equal the same amount of the same unit, in the sense that no non-strawman type of diet at the same caloric intake in a healthy person is going to make much of a difference in weight development over the long run, and even when going to these extremes, all differences can be explained by either changes in CI or CO because of it, all calories are accounted for as decreed by the laws of physics.

    3OdSH1A.png


    Goddammit that post got way too long.
  • Gianfranco_RGianfranco_R Posts: 1,297Member Member Posts: 1,297Member Member
    yarwell wrote: »
    How hard is it to understand that there's a small amount of up and down on a daily basis in everything from CI to CO which doesn't change that a calorie is a calorie?

    Seriously. Your body can up and downregulate a little bit to stay at the same weight when it's not worth building more mass or losing mass but a proper deficit or surplus will result in loss or gain. Laws of energy are in place. Energy doesn't disappear, your body just burns a bit more here and there, a 0.1 increase in body temperature or whatever else.

    So let's go along with this hypothesis and say a 50 kcal deficit is accommodated by some response or other, but a "proper" deficit of say 500 kcal leads to weight loss.

    This says that calorie #30 is different to calorie #300 because the first is one of the calories that leads to a compensatory response whereas the second is part of a "proper deficit" that leads to weight loss.

    Calorie #30 can't be the same as calorie #300 in terms of it's effect on human physiology if you're saying the outcome is different.

    Of course both of them would heat 1 kg of water from 14.5 to 15.5 C or whatever definition you favour, but in a "Nutrition Debate" they are not the same. Equally a properly done energy and body composition balance analysis would balance before and after and tell us what happened, but it wouldn't be the same for each of the two calorie increments - if the hypothesis is correct.

    If calories would form a queue to be used and every single bodily process was also sequential where only one thing was done at one time you could say that.
    They don't though. Calories get used. For stuff. Keeping you alive, keeping your bodyheat up, stored for later, and probably a dozen other things I couldn't think off the top of my head right now. And all of that at all times in different amounts. It's silly to think "This calorie goes there, while that one goes somewhere else." The outcome of an absorbed nutrient is "gets processed into ATP for energy, turned into other molecules or stored away". Your body isn't exactly discriminating in that regard and takes what it gets and tries to minimize wasting more than necessary. Yay for adaptation. As a low carber you know that calories from fat can get used to fuel your body just as well as carbs and for the things it absolutely needs a certain molecule for that is not essential it just builds it out of other things. The outcome is the same, the way to get there and its efficiency might differ. The calories are still just the same calories. It's the source of them that might make your body need a bit more energy to use. If you get X calories from foods A or B, but A has a different process of getting those X calories that is more wasteful, you still got X calories from either food, your body just needed slightly more energy to get it. Still the same calories. Would you say 100 calories of pork are unequal to 100 calories of boar that you hunted yourself because you expended a lot more energy to get that boar to begin with? Or does it only start once you eat it?

    Everyone agrees that calories don't necessarily get absorbed at the same rate. That doesn't mean calories are different, it's foods that are different. It's the things the calories would later get absorbed from that make that happen, the structure of the nutrients.
    Everyone agrees that 100 calories of one thing will not have the same nutrient profile as 100 calories of another thing. Again, that's the foods being different, not the calories.
    Furthermore, 100 grams of one thing will also never be identical to 100 grams of the same thing either, as nutrient concentrations vary and thus the calories also.
    In the same vein, your body's usage of calories is never identical 2 days in a row, even if you managed to do exactly the same things on both days.
    Going on, as was pointed out, your body can up and downregulate your CO, to an extent. Adaptive thermogenesis after a long and steep deficit as a bigger change that may or may not happen to some people, and small "50 calories a day more or less are not worth the energy it would take to create or remove the fatty tissue for it" changes are smaller ones. People tend to look at it in absolute numbers of 50 calorie surplus being just that, 12 grams of sugar or whatever. But that's not how the body does it. It doesn't work in discrete numbers that you can put in a cartesian graph with "at that point, X calories were burned". It's continuous with an immense amount of data points that is for all intents and purposes infinite. We just have to choose sensible cutoff points as a means of counting our intakes and expenditure. The 12 grams of sugar may or may not be a surplus at the time you eat them, at other times of the day you might have been in extended deficits on the other hand. A "surplus" happens when the periods of surplusses outweigh the deficits. Over the course of a whole day, a predicted "50 calorie surplus" is just 2 calories per hour your body would have to burn more to make it poof into nonexistance, which is entirely in the realm of possibilities. Make you move about a little bit more, raise your temperature ever so slightly, etc.

    At the end of the day, all calorie counts are estimations and approximations. Approximations that are as good as it gets in any feasible way that isn't more work than it's worth in most cases but still approximations.
    That can lead to differences between projected weight development and actual weight development but it does not mean that calories are different from each other. It means we chose an accuracy of measuring those calories and their effects that is good enough for the general purpose without the need of equipment and whatnot that would make it more accurate becoming a hassle that is just not worth it.

    Tl; dr: A calorie is a calorie, apart from the obvious thing that a unit of measurement will always equal the same amount of the same unit, in the sense that no non-strawman type of diet at the same caloric intake in a healthy person is going to make much of a difference in weight development over the long run, and even when going to these extremes, all differences can be explained by either changes in CI or CO because of it, all calories are accounted for as decreed by the laws of physics.

    3OdSH1A.png


    Goddammit that post got way too long.

    It's because of the cognitive dissonance :-)
  • senecarrsenecarr Posts: 5,377Member Member Posts: 5,377Member Member
    yarwell wrote: »
    senecarr wrote: »
    yarwell wrote: »
    I made a graphic.

    I found one in a CALERIE paper that shows the adaptation to a 25% calorie reduction over 3 and 6 months, corrected for mass.

    hpx6h5kas729.jpg

    "TDEE adjusted for body composition, was significantly lower by −431±51 and −240±83 kcal/d at M3 and M6, respectively" and other observations at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2634841/

    Funny how pretty much all successful people on here have not experienced this after having lost over a quarter of their bodyweight.

    If you look at the reverse diet debate video I linked as another thread, Menno Hanselman discusses he has a paper agreeing with the idea that there is no metabolic damage. He says most changes in metabolic rate even in experiments as severe as the Minnesota experiment are explained purely by changes in lean tissue mass.

    I didn't watch it, because video and opinion, but the graph I posted was corrected for mass and body composition
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0004377 was the paper I lifted the graphic from, here's a table from the same source showing that it's corrected for FM and FFM :-

    (CR=25% food restriction, CR+EX = 12.5 % food restriction, 12.5% exercise increase, LCD = 890 kcal/d VLCD until 15% weight loss)

    2ri0xy414a5t.png

    It isn't exactly corrected for composition. It is corrected for fat mass and fat free mass. Mennlo's upcoming paper uses a model that doesn't assume all lean mass is the same as organ mass is far more metabolically active than muscle mass.
    He also in the video mentioned a few times how adaptive thermogensis, in his review of the literature, seems to show up in as little as 1 day of a deficit and stop just as quickly when resuming normal calories - though on average it takes 3-8 days to show up, but he believes that might be a limitation of equipment's ability to pick it up.
    Once his paper finishes publishing, I'll be sure to link it.
  • yarwellyarwell Posts: 10,573Member Member Posts: 10,573Member Member
    Goddammit that post got way too long.

    Didn't really move me on from thinking that the effect of a calorie is not constant, so they aren't the same in terms of effect, in fact you offered multiple ways in which the outcome of varies.

    So I would add to the OP's "All calories are the same in that they provide the same amount of energy; HOWEVER, all calories do not have the same nutritional profile or have the same effect on the human body and be able to agree to that.
    edited March 2016
  • lemurcat12lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886Member Member Posts: 30,886Member Member
    Calories are fungible.

    You can't isolate a calorie and say that it has a different effect on the body than the others, and that wouldn't be accurate. What is being discussed here is that the amount of a deficit or surplus has a different effect -- your body may react differently to a moderate deficit created by exercise and calorie cutting vs. an extreme deficit, and it may react differently to a tiny surplus/deficit than a moderate one. But it's not reacting differently to individual calories.
  • yarwellyarwell Posts: 10,573Member Member Posts: 10,573Member Member
    You could isolate a 100 calorie dose of 10 different foods and measure the effect of consuming them. Would they all be the same ? I doubt it. No evidence has been offered to show this.
  • senecarrsenecarr Posts: 5,377Member Member Posts: 5,377Member Member
    yarwell wrote: »
    You could isolate a 100 calorie dose of 10 different foods and measure the effect of consuming them. Would they all be the same ? I doubt it. No evidence has been offered to show this.

    Probably part of why it has been said repeatedly that a calorie is a calorie, but a food is not a food.
  • yarwellyarwell Posts: 10,573Member Member Posts: 10,573Member Member
    senecarr wrote: »
    yarwell wrote: »
    You could isolate a 100 calorie dose of 10 different foods and measure the effect of consuming them. Would they all be the same ? I doubt it. No evidence has been offered to show this.

    Probably part of why it has been said repeatedly that a calorie is a calorie, but a food is not a food.

    But we eat food, not calories, so where does that get us. Are we back to heating water up and defining units in some self serving semantic loop ?

    I would have thought a Nutrition Debate on calories would be something to do with the effect on the body of the calorie according to whichever of the nine definitions of useful energy in a food one chooses, not about the maths of calculating or measuring the value.

    After all, "Nutrition is the science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food (e.g. phytonutrients, anthocyanins, tannins, etc.) in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism. It includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion."

    But I'm off out to buy some calories, or kWh, or MJ, or perhaps just food....
  • lemurcat12lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886Member Member Posts: 30,886Member Member
    senecarr wrote: »
    yarwell wrote: »
    You could isolate a 100 calorie dose of 10 different foods and measure the effect of consuming them. Would they all be the same ? I doubt it. No evidence has been offered to show this.

    Probably part of why it has been said repeatedly that a calorie is a calorie, but a food is not a food.

    Yes, this.
  • senecarrsenecarr Posts: 5,377Member Member Posts: 5,377Member Member
    yarwell wrote: »
    senecarr wrote: »
    yarwell wrote: »
    You could isolate a 100 calorie dose of 10 different foods and measure the effect of consuming them. Would they all be the same ? I doubt it. No evidence has been offered to show this.

    Probably part of why it has been said repeatedly that a calorie is a calorie, but a food is not a food.

    But we eat food, not calories, so where does that get us. Are we back to heating water up and defining units in some self serving semantic loop ?

    I would have thought a Nutrition Debate on calories would be something to do with the effect on the body of the calorie according to whichever of the nine definitions of useful energy in a food one chooses, not about the maths of calculating or measuring the value.

    After all, "Nutrition is the science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food (e.g. phytonutrients, anthocyanins, tannins, etc.) in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism. It includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion."

    But I'm off out to buy some calories, or kWh, or MJ, or perhaps just food....

    I'm sorry you didn't get the argument you were looking for?
  • robertw486robertw486 Posts: 1,993Member, Greeter, Premium Member Posts: 1,993Member, Greeter, Premium Member
    yarwell wrote: »
    senecarr wrote: »
    yarwell wrote: »
    You could isolate a 100 calorie dose of 10 different foods and measure the effect of consuming them. Would they all be the same ? I doubt it. No evidence has been offered to show this.

    Probably part of why it has been said repeatedly that a calorie is a calorie, but a food is not a food.

    But we eat food, not calories, so where does that get us. Are we back to heating water up and defining units in some self serving semantic loop ?

    I would have thought a Nutrition Debate on calories would be something to do with the effect on the body of the calorie according to whichever of the nine definitions of useful energy in a food one chooses, not about the maths of calculating or measuring the value.

    After all, "Nutrition is the science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food (e.g. phytonutrients, anthocyanins, tannins, etc.) in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism. It includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion."

    But I'm off out to buy some calories, or kWh, or MJ, or perhaps just food....

    Being that all calories in humans are taken into our body in the form of food, removing calories or even macros from food brings us back to dictionary definitions and/or lab experiments that simply burn food.

    So a calorie remains a calorie, but in the form of food and humans the availability of the fuel and type of energy forms vary, as does the energy overhead of TEF and other factors. But I can't see any useful point in removing the term of the calorie from the food. We know the sun provides energy, but in relation to a human and our TDEE it really means next to nothing.


    But as a point, there are close to 1,000 methods currently used to calculate energy in foods. Those that have long since discounted or improved on might bring it down to the 9 you mention, but that is still a lot of variables to prove that modern science still has not found exacts it can agree on. This variance could be accounted for in test forms by ensuring the same type and ratios of various foods are eaten, but often the testing methods of extremes of macros don't even allow this.


    Be careful buying your energy. I found that the bulk kWh labels adds the fiber as useful energy, so the smaller containers of kWh are a better deal if you are looking for energy your body can actually use. I picked up several of those, and since I'm hoping for a small intake reduction I also picked up a big container of the variable energy. It's packaged in 49 calorie increments. That way I can ingest them and the body adjusts to change my metabolic rate. I am going to give each family member one a day until we cut our need for food in half. When I did the math it was well worth the price of the metabolic adjusting packets, and the ROI is fairly quick.
  • Nikion901Nikion901 Posts: 3,058Member Member Posts: 3,058Member Member
    dy85cjqn7zyp.png

    This morning I had coconut macaroons and black coffee ... and I'm trying to lose weight ... and I want to finish the day within that possible weight loss range ... but I don't want to be hungry, so I better eat some chicken or steak for lunch, and I want to make a good poo in the morning, so I think I'll toss in a big bowl of salad as well. Then, if I have enough calories left, maybe I'll have another macaroon or two, or maybe I'll have an apple.

    PS ... and because I really, really want to finish the day inthat possible weight loss range, I think I'll go ride a bike or take a long walk to burn up some extra calories instead of sitting on the couch in front of the TV the entire day.
    edited March 2016
  • lemurcat12lemurcat12 Posts: 30,886Member Member Posts: 30,886Member Member
    senecarr wrote: »
    yarwell wrote: »
    senecarr wrote: »
    yarwell wrote: »
    You could isolate a 100 calorie dose of 10 different foods and measure the effect of consuming them. Would they all be the same ? I doubt it. No evidence has been offered to show this.

    Probably part of why it has been said repeatedly that a calorie is a calorie, but a food is not a food.

    But we eat food, not calories, so where does that get us. Are we back to heating water up and defining units in some self serving semantic loop ?

    I would have thought a Nutrition Debate on calories would be something to do with the effect on the body of the calorie according to whichever of the nine definitions of useful energy in a food one chooses, not about the maths of calculating or measuring the value.

    After all, "Nutrition is the science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food (e.g. phytonutrients, anthocyanins, tannins, etc.) in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism. It includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion."

    But I'm off out to buy some calories, or kWh, or MJ, or perhaps just food....

    I'm sorry you didn't get the argument you were looking for?

    One cool thing about MFP is that if you want to have a particular discussion you can post a thread for it. Maybe Yarwell will.
  • Yi5hedr3Yi5hedr3 Posts: 2,704Member, Premium Member Posts: 2,704Member, Premium Member
    They are not the same! :)
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