RESPONSE TO DAILY MAIL: CALORIES, SUGAR AND WEIGHTGAIN
This week I was in the Daily Mail. (Something I never thought I'd be able to say. As I'm sure my parents would have hoped too.)
If you follow me on Instagram you'll probably know about my food comparisons. If you don't, they're basically images which aim to help remove the labels of single foods being 'good' or 'bad', and show that it really is okay to enjoy everything in moderation. Dominoes pizza and all.
Anyway, the DM contacted me saying they'd love to feature them in a post. Which of course, was pretty awesome - however the comments section was savage (as expected lol.) I can only presume the majority of commenters didn't read my words discussing the importance of other factors BEYOND calories (macronutrients, micronutrients, how filling the food is, how happy it makes you etc.)
Regardless, it made me realise that there is still a huge amount of misinformation in the media around calories, and food in general. So I thought I'd get my personal trainer Dan Price to do a guest blog and help break down some of the myths for you guys. 100% no BS.
Dan Price, Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach:
It is not an uncommon belief that sugar is the root cause of obesity and that calories don’t matter. It is however an incorrect one.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate, and like all macronutrients, carbohydrates contain calories. They contain around 4kcal per gram.
Sugar is found naturally in fruits, veg and grains, these foods help make up a healthy balanced diet. The modern war against sugar takes aim at “added sugar” found in soft drinks, processed foods and sweets. These foods certainly are linked with obesity, however it’s important to understand why:
Why is it associated with weight gain?
A 500ml bottle of coke contains around 50g of sugar, providing 200kcal. This is the equivalent of two sweet potatoes, 125g of chicken breast, or two punnets of strawberries. Importantly, as well as offering less nutritional value, the coke is far less filling than these calorie equivalent foods. If something is less filling, it is more likely we will continue to eat more calories later in the day, and risk exceeding our energy requirements. This is what causes weight gain.
Studies on carbohydrates and weight gain?
Added sugar is a really good way to sneak additional calories into the diet. It tastes good, it doesn’t fill us up and it’s found in the majority of convenient processed foods. This is why there is plenty of research that shows that generally advising people to lower carbohydrate intake often sees greater weight loss results than generally advising people to reduce fat intake.
This is because lower carbohydrate groups are often more easily able to decrease total caloric intake, and end up eating less calories than the low fat groups. However, in controlled studies where calorie and protein intakes are matched in both groups, weight loss occurs the same in both groups. (for more information on interpreting low carb vs. low fat studies see my article linked here.)
What causes weight gain?
Physiologically, it is the calories not the macronutrient that dictates weight loss/gain. Weight gain will occur if a person over consumes calories from a diet containing no sugar at all.
A final point worth mentioning is the role of insulin in weight gain, and it’s response to high sugar/carbohydrate intake. Research has now falsified the insulin hypothesis, and demonstrates that elevated insulin levels do not cause weight gain independent of energy balance. For more information on this subject and analysis of these studies, please read my article linked here.
Sugar and weight loss: finding the balance
Weight loss can only occur in a calorie deficit. When adhering to a deficit, a diet very high in sugar is likely to be practically unsustainable. This is because volume of food would be very low, leading to hunger, potential micronutrient deficiencies and inadequate protein/fat intakes.
However, completely depriving yourself of all the foods you like and force feeding kale is a good way to get sick of dieting and give up entirely. If we understand that a calorie deficit is the physiological mechanism of weight loss, we can start to look at the practical methods that best help YOU achieve this: ⠀
Filling foods ✅
High protein ✅
Fruit and veg ✅
Oily fish/fats ✅
Foods you enjoy ✅
A way of eating you can sustain ✅ ⠀
This could mean swapping out fruit and yoghurt for a 250kcal chocolate bar. In the context of a micro dense, high protein, calorie matched diet, this swap will have zero affect on your weight loss goal, other than that you may be slightly hungrier - but slightly happier! Choose the diet that helps you maintain a calorie deficit for the length of time required to lose weight, happily and healthily.
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