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Jake's Health Corner

By Jake Boly, Staff Writer

Energy in vs. energy out. How many times have you heard this statement? Heard different viewpoints on this same statement? Hopefully this article will clear up some of the questions you might have about the common debate.

A calorie in its absolute simplest form is a unit of energy (4.184 Joules). Without over complicating and scaring you off, let me explain that a calorie is actually 1,000 small calories that represent 1kcal, or just 1 normal food calorie, as we know it. One food calorie (or 1kcal) is the amount of energy it takes to raise 1kg of water from 15 degrees Celsius to 16 degrees.

We see that calories in the simple form make a ton of sense in regards to the "energy in vs. energy out" debate. So why do people over-complicate it? They start going into thermodynamics and other forces that come into play with energy expended. Thermodynamics or the TEF (thermogenic effect of feeding) is the calorie expenditure associated with eating. Calories are a relationship of energy and heat, which causes the expenditure in the body. Different calories require different levels of energy to be expended during the process of converting and using of them.

If you eat more calories than you burn you will store the extra amount: gain weight. If you eat less than you burn you will use stored energy: lose weight.

 Yes, it really is as simple as that.

I've talked about meal frequency nutrient timing before playing no part in the metabolic effect (calories burned), why would it change now? Your body has a set amount of calories it expends each day and that is before you factor in exercise and daily activities. That is why people who workout or exercise avidly need more than a sedentary person. They are using more calories (energy) and must eat more calories (energy) to keep a positive balance or if you're losing weight a smart negative balance.

When people try to over-complicate the above statement regarding energy in versus energy out, they try to fool the first law of thermodynamics with: high protein/low carbs, low fats, or even high carbs/low fat diets. The first law of thermodynamics states, "Energy can not be created nor destroyed, only transformed." This basically means our body is constantly transforming calories (food) into usable energy. The law doesn't change because you change the macronutrient of the food, it will be used and processed the same way.

There are a few studies to further my point regarding energy in versus energy out. In two studies, metabolic rate was measured while individuals were sleeping or at rest and on two different diets. One diet had higher fat intake, the other higher carbs. The results? The usage of the macronutrients and metabolic rate were similar, thus leading to the same fat loss, body composition and energy expenditure.

The next two studies expose the long term effects of low-carb diets compared to a more conventional (evened-out) diet on body composition and weight loss. The conclusions after 10 weeks the low-carb dieter who had lost more weight initially evened out with the conventional diet. This proves what I've talked about before. Low-carb diets that have a lot of weight loss at first is mainly due to water.

I know it would be great to trick the laws of science, but that just isn't the case. Don't overcomplicate your diet by trying various silver bullet diets that manipulate the set of macronutrients you're used to. Eat within your caloric limit achieve your macronutrient goals while eating in moderation and progress will come. The deciding factor is energy (calories) in versus energy (calories) out.

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