All the Same?
Is a calorie just a calorie? Yes and No. First, it’s important to know what a calorie is. In scientific terms a calorie (kCal) is the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius. This is equal to one thousand small calories and often used to measure the energy value of food. In layman’s terms, a calorie is energy from food to fuel the body. By the scientific definition, a calorie is just a calorie, but in the nutrition world, it’s argued that not all calories are equal.
Apple to Oranges & Calories
Here is why all calories are not equal. Let’s pretend you order a 800 (kcal) meal from your local fast food joint including a bacon cheeseburger, large fry, and a large 32 oz soda because you’re famished. Now instead of the fast food meal, you decide to cook a homemade meal that consists of a 10 oz Steak, half cup tossed salad, one sweet potato, 8 spears of asparagus, a quarter avocado, and a 32 oz glass of water because you are trying to be healthy. Comparing the two meals, the fast food meal is nutrient depleted. The homemade meal is going to be high in various micronutrients, therefore leaving you fuller longer, and give you a steadier state of energy over a longer period of time. Your body NEEDS micro nutrients because they help it operate efficiently!
So to answer the question, “is a calorie just a calorie?”, in my nutritional opinion, no. To be fair though, if we are to argue in scientific terms, then yes, a calorie is just a calorie. As humans striving for a healthier lifestyle, the type of calories matters greatly. Therefore, choosing the fast meal doesn’t help us attain our genetic potential. High quality caloric foods mixed with exercise are the only way to reach and maintain the healthy lifestyle goals that we all strive for.
Coach Josh Sharp