For years you’ve been wrongly told that: “To lose weight, eat less and exercise more.” “Calories in, calories out.” “A calorie is a calorie.”
These gems of conventional dietary wisdom aimed toward controlling weight are simply not true. All calories are far from equal. For example, 1,000 calories of baked goods are not the same as 1,000 calories of, say, meat, vegetables, or olive oil. When it comes to calories, I suggest you forget that you can count at all.
It is true that extreme calorie reduction (e.g., starvation) will result in weight loss. It is also true that when the macronutrient (carbohydrate, fat, protein) composition of a diet is held constant but total calories vary, lower calorie intake can achieve weight loss (as well as create hunger and misery).
But striking differences develop when the relative proportions of macronutrients within those calories are varied, so that a diet of 1,000 calories per day of one macronutrient composition may achieve the same weight loss as another diet of 2,000 calories per day of another composition.
Carbohydrate content is the variable that determines whether a dietary approach permits weight loss or not. Clinical research has already disproven the notion that all calories are equal. Studies have demonstrated that if calories are kept constant, these are the results:
- Slashing carbohydrates but leaving fat and protein results in substantial weight loss.
- Cutting fat that leaves a preponderance of carbohydrates and proteins results in either less weight loss or even weight gain depending on the number of calories.
- A diet of pure carbohydrates is also associated with extreme hunger, while a diet of nearly all fat is not.
In one British study, even when calories were limited to a near-starvation level of 1,000 calories per day, if those calories were 90 percent carbohydrate, weight would increase, while 1,000 calories as 90 percent fat or 90 percent protein would result in substantial weight loss.
The differences hinge on whether or not insulin is provoked and far less on the calories themselves. Insulin causes sugars (glucose) to enter cells and be converted to fat, while suppressing mobilization of fat from fat cells. Foods that trigger insulin the most are therefore the most potent for weight gain, while their absence allows weight loss; the equation is quite simple.
- Carbohydrates, of course, provoke a vigorous insulin response.
- Proteins provoke a modest insulin response.
- Fat provokes no insulin response at all.
Carbohydrates from sources of grains are particularity dangerous.
- The partially digested by-products of gliadin and related proteins in grains stimulate the appetite, causing you to feel hungry all the time.
- Grain amylopectin A has the exceptional capacity to send blood sugar higher, ounce for ounce, than table sugar.
What goes up must come down. Blood sugar highs are inevitably followed by blood sugar lows with shakiness, mental cloudiness, and hunger, a 2-hour cycle that sets the poor grain-consumer in an endless 2-hour hunt for food. The combination provides a perfect formula for weight gain, effects that have caused me to accuse wheat and grains of being “perfect obesogens”—foods that are perfect for causing weight gain and obesity.
Despite the fact that I am telling you to not count calories or restrict portion size, when you remove grains from the diet while not restricting calories or fat, calorie intake drops effortlessly by 400 or more calories per day, often much more. By removing sources of gliadin protein–derived opiates, addictive relationships with food dissolve, while the period between, say, lunch and dinner is no longer filled with anxiousness over the next meal. You will find that you rarely even think about food between meals.
Calorie intake therefore drops effortlessly and naturally with grain elimination, and food intake reverts back to that of providing sustenance; you eat what you require, nothing more, nothing less. So calories in, calories— who cares?