The Science

The first law of thermodynamics – What does this even mean and why do people talk about it in relation to calories and weight loss?

A Calorie is a unit of energy. Someone spent a long time burning different fuels in a lab and measured how much heat they produced by changing the temperature of water This is called a kilocalorie (kCal).

That is all a calorie is.

A calorie or kilocalorie (more accurately) tells us how much energy we can get from burning this food source.

We believe this to be:

Fat 9 kcal /gram

Protein 3-4 kcals/gram

Carbohydrates 3-4 kcals /gram

This law says the energy within a closed system is equal to the energy entering the system – minus the energy leaving a system.

So the calorie in versus calorie out school of thought suggests that the energy within us is equal to the energy we put in minus the energy we burn. This seems a little oversimplified. First of all humans are not closed systems.

WE ARE ADVISED THAT WE CAN INTERPRET THIS ANOTHER WAY!

How fat we are = Calories in – Calories out 

(remember calories are energy so we can in this instance interchange these two words)

So historically people have said that we gain weight because we have eaten more calories than we have burned. For the most purposes this is true, we can’t deny that.  

However could it be that there may be factors other than lack of will power, ignorance or a don’t care attitude that may have led us to over eat resulting in weight gain.  

COULD THERE BE ANOTHER FACTOR THAT LED YOU TO OVEREAT?

The easy answer is YES

Energy in is what we eat.

Energy out is accounted is accounted for by a number of factors:

We expend energy on Digestion

      Exercise

      Daily activities

Basal expenditure (the energy we burn just by being alive eg. when we are sleeping)

It turns out that what we eat effects how we expend energy.

AND how we burn energy impacts on what we eat.

When you exercise your appetite is likely to increase.

When you eat a high refined grains, carb rich meal, you are likely to eat again sooner than if you have a more satiating (filling) high protein/healthy fat meal.

So that equation doesn’t go one way like the traditional paradigm suggests.

ENERGY STORED WITHIN US =  ENERGY IN – ENERGY OUT 

What we eat and how the calories are made up is incredibly important.

In other words, it’s NOT just the calorie count of the food .

The food we eat impacts on our body and its mechanisms and metabolism.

Can some nutrients create an environment in which our bodies prefer to store excess calories as fat?

YES.

So all calories are not created equal?

THAT IS CORRECT – all calories are NOT CREATED EQUAL .  

The energy content of food is important but maybe more importantly, what those calories are made up of and how the impact on how our body function, the metabolic effect of food cannot be ignored.

SOME FOODS WILL PROMOTE FAT STORAGE AND ACTIVELY PREVENT FAT BURNING.

CARBOHYDRATES, ESPECIALLY REFINED CARBOHYDRATES PREVENT US BURNING OUR OWN FAT STORES AND PROMOTE FAT STORAGE OF OUR EXTRA CALORIES.

When you eat less calories (whatever they are made up of) than you burn you will definitely lose weight. Low fat, vegan, whole food plant based (WFPB)… what ever diet you choose – you can lose weight for a period of time by playing the calorie deficit game.  The more you restrict your calories, the more you will impact on how those calories are burned.  You will find yourself having to restrict calories more and more to continue with weight loss.  This is just not sustainable – you feel awful and more importantly you will be CONSISTENTLY HUNGRY. This is not a lifelong means to achieving a constant healthy weight.

The goal is to be able to access and burn some of our own calories rather than the calories we ingest, and that comes with they types of food we put into our bodies.  The goal is also not to be hungry whilst we try and achieve this aim.  Satiety is what makes this all sustainable. 

What we know 

We know that proteins and fats fill us up more than carbohydrates.

 We also know that carbohydrates switch off our ability to oxidise our own fat and use ‘it for energy. 

We know that they require insulin to be metabolised, the ‘fat storage hormone.’

We also know that as a nation and indeed across the world a huge percentage of us have an issue with what is known as ‘insulin resistance’ – which in turn means we need higher doses of the hormone (hyperinsulinaemia) to get the same effect. 

We also know that hyperinsulinaemia is implicated in so many chronic diseases that are affecting our health span and life span.

Obesity

Type 2 Diabetes

Cardiovascular disease – heart attacks and stokes

Dementia

Polycyclic ovarian syndrome

Mental health disorders.

So when it comes to nutrition there is more skin in the game than just weight loss.