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Is a calorie really just a calorie?

In the past few weeks we’ve had a couple of interesting questions about calories. And while most are simple to answer, there’s the age old question that still seems to baffle the best of us – Is a calorie really just a calorie? Well the answer is yes… but no. Confusing right? Here’s what we know about the great calorie debate.

On the one hand, some suggest that a calorie really is just a calorie. In which case, eating a 2000 calorie meal of snickers and smarties is equivalent to a 2000 calorie meal of steak and vegetables. While this side of the debate might sound appealing to the sweet tooth in you, it definitely won’t do the rest of your body any good. The reason is two-fold. Firstly, your body is smart – it processes different types of foods differently. Secondly, some foods are calorie dense and nutrient free (think sweets & chips); these types of foods don’t leave you feeling satisfied which, in most cases, means that you end up eating hundreds of calories without feeling satisfied.

Our opinion is simple – A calorie isn’t really a calorie. Processed foods lack the nutrients, minerals and vitamins that your body needs to function at its optimum. And on top of this, protein rich foods such as chicken or tuna use far more energy and calories to digest than sugary or processed foods do. Sticking to the quality calories will not only keep you full for longer but will also give you the right kind of energy your body needs in order to function properly. If you’ve just experienced a food revelation and you’re looking to restock your pantry, here’s what we suggest.

Eat whole foods, stay away from processed foods and strive for a healthy lifestyle full of nutritious calories. Our bodies are complex and have proven to function most effectively when fuelled with the right types of calories, food groups and nutrients. For Paul Lagerwey, owner of FITstrong gym, this means getting a balanced diet of quality protein, energy rich carbs, such as sweet potato’s and brown rice (particularly before and after training) and a good helping of veg, usually the green kind. Remember, different things work for different people, so don’t be shy to experiment with your nutrition. “For example, I find eating a good sized sweet potato about an hour before I train gives me a lot more sustained energy than simply eating an apple or having a protein shake.’’

For more information on clean eating, come and chat to us at FITstrong in Durbanville, Cape Town. We are also open to debates, stories and opinions. Let’s make 2017 the year of change.


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