Is a Calorie Really a Calorie? - Wellness Nutrition

Is a Calorie Really a Calorie?

Irrespective of the thermodynamics perspective, a calorie is not a calorie. The biochemical processing of calories is responsible for this fact. Every single calorie you consume is processed differently in your body and thus creates the difference. Hence, a calorie of protein will be different from a calorie of carbohydrate, and so with the fats.Understanding, why a calorie is not a calorie is crucial for your healthcare routine.After reading this blog, one can grasp the idea of how to keep calorie intake balanced in the diet. But, before this, you need to know what calorie means.

What is a Calorie?

A calorie is a unit to measure how much energy is provided by a particular amount of food. It means a calorie is a simple estimate of how much energy you are going to get after eating a particular amount of food. The number of calories varies from one nutrient to the other which makes this concept of "calories are not equal" clearer. While planning to take a healthy diet, you must be aware of the number of calories in each macronutrient.

One gram of protein contains four calories and the same with carbohydrates. But a gram of fats contains nine calories. Thus when you are planning to lose weight, dietitians recommend you reduce fats portion in your diet and increase protein and carbs consumption.

What Factors Can Affect Calorie Need?

Gender, age, physical activity, environment, temperature, hormonal status, eating behavior, and bodily needs determine the perfect calorie count for a person.

Why All Calories are Not Equal?

Usually, the amount of energy provided by a single calorie is 4.2 kJ. Thus a calorie of fat, protein, and carbohydrate will provide the same Kilo Joule of energy. But, how the body reacts to different kinds of calories is different.

Consuming 200 calories of fats will add more calories to the body as compared to 200 calorie carb consumption. Likewise, 200 calories of carbs will add more calories to the body compared to 200 calories of protein. It occurs because the energy cost to metabolize protein is higher than carbohydrates and fats.

Following are the reasons for differences in calories

1. Food and Thermic Affect:  Thermic affect covers the amount of energy required to absorb, digest, and metabolize a particular amount of food. Since food rich in calories and have a high ratio of thermic effect, cause less weight gain compared to food rich in calorie and low in thermic effect. Hence create a calorie-to-calorie difference.

2. Food and Glycemic Index: Glycemic Index measures the speed of rising blood sugar after a particular food. Food high in glycemic index is considered as bad calories as it may lead to diabetes. Thus, similar calories of food high in GI and low in GI make a difference.

Effect of Food on Calories

Are you wondering how different food with the same amount of calories can affect differently? If yes, then there must be some vital factors influencing this phenomenon. Let's dive deeper into the factors that create differences in various calories.

1. Variation in Nutrient Density

Let's consider if you are having any fast food containing 1000 calories. On the flip side, you are having fresh juice consisting of 1000 calories in it. Now seemingly, both items have the same number of calories but, the difference is, which nutrient is in greater amounts.

The number of fats in fast food would be greater while the number of carbohydrates and protein in the juice will be greater. This difference in nutrient density accounts for the difference in calories.

2. Impact of Macronutrients Versatility

Now, you just got a vivid image of the ratio of protein in the diet should be greater. But, it doesn't mean consuming hundreds and thousands of proteins in the diet only. Instead, you need to shift to a balanced diet.

Add a good portion of proteins to build up, carbs to fill up, and a small number of fats for energy. Such a diet is all set ready to serve a normal metabolism.

3. Effect of Satiety Index

Before getting into its effect, you must be aware of what satiation is. Satiation refers to the complete satisfaction or fullness of the need of hunger here. And satiety index depicts the ability of particular food to reduce hunger. That is why more calories of processed food can be eaten easily as compared to fresh ones. Hence a small portion of processed food contains a larger number of calories and so it affects differently to bodily processing.

4. Variation in Hormonal Activation

Every single bite entering our mouth affects hormones differently. You must be wondering how? The food we eat triggers chemical reactions in the body which lead to the production and activation of certain hormones. These hormones involve ghrelin, leptin insulin, and many more.

While you have food, these hormones are affecting your body. But the direction of effect, either negative or positive, depends on the quality of the food. It can stimulate more cravings and give satiation depending on the food. Hence, it leads to the different reactions of the body to different calories.

What Does the Research SayAbout Calorie Differences?

In 2004, research was conducted on calorie differences by A.H. Manninen and published in “The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”. Research evidence suggests that a calorie is simply not a calorie instead, different diet leads to different biological pathways which ultimately affects differently.

Ways to Manage Calories in the Diet

  • Switch to fresh food
  • Consume less fried food
  • Go for more fiber intake
  • Practice healthy exercises
  • Choose drinks wisely


Why is Calorie Deficiency Doesn't Work?

Low-calorie diet adversely affects the metabolism and can lead to disturbed physical and mental health due to a lack of nutrients.

Why Calorie Count is Important?

The calorie count is important to regulate healthy body functioning and achieve a fitness goal.

What is the Standard Daily Calorie Intake?

The standard calorie intake for women is 2000 calories per day and for men 2500 calories according to national health care Australia.

How to Balance Calorie Intake?

Consume less processed food and more fresh ones to maintain a good calorie intake.

What Does the Body Do With Extra Calories?

When a person eats more calories than they need, the body starts storing those in the form of body fat.

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