Calories from Fat vs. Calories from Carbs: The Showdown

July 15, 2008 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

Yahoo published an article by Time today on its front page discussing various studies about whether humans gain more weight from fat calories or carbohydrate calories.  As one might have guessed, there’s no definitive proof either way.  Although Adkins made a ton of money touting his high protein and fat diet, the facts are that when it comes down to it, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie.

As I discussed in an earlier post the most important thing you can do in structuring your diet is to choose healthy foods and eat balanced meals.  Your body needs carbs for fuel.  Period.  Your body also needs fat.  Fat is one of the key components in nutrient absorption in the body.  In other words, both of these things are needed, but neither (or anything else for that matter) should be consumed in the extreme.  

Now, are there good carbs and bad carbs?  Yes.  Good fats and bad fats?  Yes.  

An example of some good carbs would be whole grain breads, whole wheat pastas and pitas, slow-cook brown rice, and potatoes (yes, potatoes).  Bad carbs would include that bag of potato chips in your left hand as you scroll through this post, white bread, and anything that is highly refined.  Basically, the rule of thumb is that you want the carb you’re eating to have gone through the least amount of refinement possible so that the nutritional value is as high as possible.  

Look, the truth is, white bread and refined pastas aren’t going to kill you (in limited amounts…studies have shown that high consumption of these types of products can lead to diseases such as diabetes) …hell, they won’t even pack on 30 pounds unless you’re going over your calorie limit, but the point is that there are healthier choices to be made.  

Just a quick aside, for you naysayers who still cling to the glycemic index like it’s the Ten Commandments, consuming any protein with any of these carbs (e.g. glass of milk, chicken, turkey, etc.) will counter any spike in blood sugar so these arguments are irrelevant.  Everyone needs carbs and if you’re active, you need them even more.

As far as fats go, I think this is pretty simple.  Everyone knows things like ice cream, hydrogenated oils, fried foods, etc. are simply horrible for you.  There’s no two ways around this.  About the only thing that was interesting in the study was that higher intakes of trans fat tended to lead to higher gains in body fat, but they don’t know why.  I don’t know why either and I don’t care: they’re horrible for you so don’t eat them.  Good fats follow the same rule of thumb above: natural is better.  Get your fats from olive oil, avocado, nuts (especially almonds) or all natural nut-butter (peanut or otherwise), and fish (e.g. salmon) and you’ll be doing great. 

Weight loss is not rocket science people.  Unfortunately, it’s not easy or quick either.  Another thing: it’s easier for some people than others.  You know what else sucks, some people gain weight easier than others!  I fall into the category of person who puts on weight rather easily and now, even at sub-9% body fat, still doesn’t have the abs that many people with more evenly distributed body fat have (although, I bet those people don’t have massive veins protruding from their calves…jealous much??) 

All in all, if you eat healthy, balanced meals and get active: you’ll be healthier.  If you do this PLUS make sure you take in fewer calories than you burn in a day, you’ll lose weight.  There is a strong correlation between health and weight, but one does not always guarantee the other.  

All the best

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