Is a calorie really a calorie?
We all know that to lose fat, we need to adhere to a calorie deficit. This means that as long as you are eating less than you are burning, you will lose weight. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that what you eat doesn't matter.
The popularisation of common dieting methods such as flexible dieting and IIFYM (if it fits your macros) has resulted in people becoming obsessed with ‘making things fit’. The problem with this is that people start to ignore crucial aspects of their diet such as their fibre and micronutrient intake in order to fit as many processed foods as possible into their diet.
Don’t get me wrong, flexible dieting is a great way to achieve results as it allows you some flexibility and freedom around your food choices. However, like anything, it has to be used correctly. While all calories are equal, all calorie sources are not. This means that you can't try and fill your days with as many processed or calorie dense foods as possible and expect great results.
Let me explain gf.
- To lose fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit.
- This means that technically, as long as you are in a deficit, you will see fat loss results regardless of your food sources.
- However, this does not mean that your results will be optimal or sustainable.
- Yes, all calories are equal as units of measurement (eg. a calorie from a carrot and a calorie from chocolate are the same).
- But, all sources of calories are not equal (eg. 100 calories of watermelon is a lot more food than 100 calories of peanut butter).
Okay, so what does this mean for your diet?
- Your food sources DO play an important role in your results.
- In a fat loss phase, you may need to opt for more nutrient dense, higher volume food sources to help with satiety.
- You should also be prioritising your protein, fibre, and micronutrient intake to optimise your gut health, immune function, and training performance.
- Yes, it's more than okay to include foods with a higher calorie density and lower nutritional value (and I encourage you to do this!).
- However, these foods should not be filling up the majority of your calorie intake.
As a general rule, I like to use the 80/20 guide. This means 80% of your food should be coming from nutrient dense whole foods, and 20% is coming from less nutrient dense ‘treat’ foods.
So by all means, use flexible dieting as a way to give yourself more food freedom, track your intake, or improve your knowledge around food. But please don’t use it just to see how much you can ‘fit’ into your day. As with everything, moderation is key.