Thursday, May 27, 2010

Forget the Fats? Cut Out the Carbs? Maybe...NOT!

Let’s say you need 2000 calories per day to maintain your weight (actual needs vary based on height, weight, muscle mass and physical activity—this is only an example!)  And suppose you ate 2000 calories each day, but, the calories all came from carbohydrate (“carbs”).  What would happen?

How about if you instead managed to take in 100% of your calories from fat—shall we say, for instance, 16-17 Tablespoons of oil or the equivalent?  I know, I know, it’s a gross concept.
But what would happen to your weight, assuming again that your body needed 2000 calories per day?

It’s kind of like that old, not funny riddle “Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of gold?” From a weight standpoint, your body couldn’t care less whether the calories come from carbs, fat or protein.  The foods you eat get digested, and those chemical bonds that make up carbohydrate, fat, protein and alcohol molecules get broken and energy is released.  And your body only cares that it is getting the energy it needs.  It is true, that per gram, protein, fat, carbs and alcohol each provide different amounts of energy. Fats provided the greatest energy, followed by alcohol, and finally by protein and carbohydrate which tie for the lowest calories per gram.

So should you be worried about taking in carbs? Or fats, for instance?  Not at all.  If the total intake matches your need, regardless of the source of those calories, you’re safe, from a weight standpoint.  (And in later posts I will address just how to find that balance.)

Now let me clarify a few points.  You certainly still need all three nutrients (alcohol excluded). You need adequate protein, fat and carbohydrate for your body to be healthy, in addition to vitamins and minerals to prevent disease. So I’m not suggesting you eat only carbs, for instance.  But tomorrow morning when you are contemplating eating some cereal or pancakes or a bagel, rest assured that it doesn’t go right to your hips (or butt, or waist). And having a modest intake of fat may also contribute to your eating pleasure and satisfaction.  And perhaps prevent you from feeling denied and deprived.

If you don’t believe me, try it out.  And keep in mind, it takes 3,500 surplus calories (beyond what your body needs for maintenance) to gain a single pound (or 3,500 calories less to lose it).

The only way to really trust is to experience it. So go ahead and step out of your comfort zone tomorrow.  And when you find that nothing bad happens, please post a comment on the blog and let me know! (By the way, the top photo is of my lunch on a trip to Provence, France.)

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