calories in vs calories out...

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Gary Turner
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by Gary Turner on Thu Jan 15, 2015 4:31 pm

Re: calories in vs calories out...

No. Here are some quick generalisations to explain why.

We should stop thinking about calories and instead thinking about molecules.

Calories are a measure of heat energy. When we think of the mass of a human body, energy is not a consideration. In practice our mass is in the mass of our molecules, not the energy contained within. We eat molecules and we breathe in molecules. We excrete and lose molecules. This balance of molecules, the conservation of mass, dictates our weight. It is perhaps more appropriate to think of molecules in v molecules out (MIMO) rather than calories in v calories out (CICO).

When we utilise fat for energy the fat is broken down into the molecules H20 and CO2 – water and carbon dioxide. The same is true for carbohydrates. The water leaves through sweat and other excretions, the carbon dioxide leaves through our breath. We use terms such as ‘burn fat’, yet this is misdirection. The chemical structure of fat is broken down into water and carbon dioxide and some energy is released. Very little of this energy is in the form of heat. Most of the energy goes to providing kinetic and potential energy to produce movement. A better term might be ‘utilise’ rather than ‘burn’.

(‘Burning’ in chemical terms refers to explosive oxidisation of substrate, usually with heat sustaining the reaction. Fat is oxidised, yet heat does not sustain the chemical reaction in respect to fat, there is no explosive reaction, and instead it is enzymes that act as catalysts and sustain the reaction. Think of our use of fuel for energy as oxidisation of iron – the process of rust forming – rather than a burning furnace.)

Does energy count? Of course! Yet, the energy is stored in the bonds between atoms forming the molecules. Different molecules are treated differently by the body. A calorie is definitely a calorie in terms of energy, it is just a measurement, but the molecules containing that energy are treated completely differently by our bodies. Glucose molecules have different metabolic pathways to those of amino acids, different again to fat.

Those thinking in calorie terms tend to overlook that the body treats molecules differently. By thinking of molecule metabolism we can look more effectively at how our body utilises the food and oxygen we take in. Instead of looking to 'burn calories' we can look to 'utilise our fat stores as fuel' which enables us to focus our exercise/physical activity more directly on the source of the fuel rather than just the energy itself.

Dropping focus from calories and changing to molecules is far reaching for nutrition. It can lead to new approaches and assist in new thoughts. Talking in molecular terms allows us to talk in respect to amino acids rather than protein, the differing molecular types of fat and carbohydrate, all of which being processed and used by the body in completely different ways. I believe calories are the misdirection, moving our focus from where it should be placed.

Biochemistry teaches us that is possible to lose weight on a hypercaloric diet - eating more calories than we use. There's a though for you!

Hope this has got you questioning and what feedback to you all have on this?
Gary Turner
Advisor to British Army School of Physical Training, World Champion Elite Sportsman ... turner.php

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