New Major Study: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie

Despite what the sugary beverage and processed snack food companies want us to believe, all calories are not created equal.

new study from Harvard shows that individuals following a low-carbohydrate (20% of total calories) diet burn between 209 and 278 more calories per day than those on a high-carbohydrate (60% of total calories) diet. So the type of calories we eat really does matter.

The New York Times: How a low-carb diet might help you maintain a healthy weight

This isn’t the first study to investigate this topic, but it is likely the best.

The current study was a meticulously controlled, randomized trial, lasting 20 weeks. Even more impressive, the study group provided all the food for participants, over 100,000 meals and snacks costing $12 million for the entire study! This eliminated an important variable in nutrition studies — did the subjects actually comply with the diet — and shows the power of philanthropy and partnerships in supporting high-quality science.

After a run-in period where all subjects lost the same amount of weight, participants were randomized to one of three diets: 20% carbs, 40% carb, or 60% carbs, with the protein remaining fixed at 20%. Importantly, calories were adjusted to stabilize weight and halt further weight loss, thus making it much more likely that any observed difference in calorie expenditure was not from weight loss, but rather from the types of food consumed.

After five months, those on the low-carb diet increased their resting energy expenditure by over 200 calories per day, whereas the high-carb group initially decreased their resting energy expenditure, exposing a clear difference between the groups. In addition, those who had the highest baseline insulin levels saw an even more impressive 308-calorie increase on the low-carb diet, suggesting a subset that may benefit even more from carbohydrate restriction.

Why is this important? It shows why the conventional wisdom to eat less, move more and count your calories is not the best path to weight loss. Numerous studies show better weight loss with low-carb diets compared to low-fat diets, and now studies like this one help us understand why.

Our bodies are not simple calorimeters keeping track of how much we eat and how much we burn. Instead, we have intricate hormonal responses to the types of food we eat. It’s time to accept this and get rid of the outdated calories in-calories, calories-out model, thus allowing for more effective and sustainable long-term weight loss.

Originally Posted on the Diet Doctor Blog 

Simple Ways to Burn Extra Calories Throughout the Day

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for the body to be in peak condition. You need to be physically active to make sure your excess fat and stored energy are used up. Staying active is also vital for our mental health as exercise acts as a natural form of treatment for stress and anxiety. You will be at your best health ever only when you have a proper fitness regimen that you stay committed to, watch your health and nutrition, and be an active member in your community. 

That said, busy schedules and demanding lifestyles can mean you don’t always have that extra hour or two to hit the gym every day. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t be in control of your body AND burning those extra calories! Here are a few simple tips to get you through the day when you notice you’ve been more sedentary than usual and you don’t have time to lace up for a run. Don’t think of these as a substitute for working out but as an extra boost when you need to pick up the pace throughout your day! 

  • Park farther away from your end destination. Whether it’s the parking lot at work or at the grocery store, find an empty spot as far away as you can to add in those extra steps. This adds a few minutes on your feet and can give you extra ‘burn time’.
     
  • Cycle to work. This is a great way to pick up a new hobby while joining the movement to reduce air pollution (and save on gas money!).
     
  • Take the stairs. Forget elevators or escalators and always opt for the old-fashioned staircase. To burn some extra calories, take 5 minutes out of your day to run a couple of laps up and down the stairs in your office building or in your home!
     
  • At your desk, when seated, flex your core constantly. Sit upright and flex your glutes, stretch your back, and try your best to not sit idle at any time. 
     
  • Take a walk around the office during breaks. If you are on the phone, get up and walk as you talk. Doing this has the added benefit of no one overhearing your conversations as well, a double win! If you need a reminder, set a timer on your phone every 30 minutes so you know to get up and move around. 
     
  • Purchase a fitness tracker like a Fitbit. This can help keep you accountable as it tracks your steps throughout the day. You can even set goals for 10,000 or 20,000 steps a day and compete against yourself to make sure you're always hitting that number!
     
  • If you have a dog, add an extra 10 minutes to your daily walks with them. Not only will your body appreciate being outside and active for longer, so will your furry friend. 
     
  • Do you already walk to the nearest Starbucks or coffee shop by your home or work? Check out where the second nearest one is and opt for that one each morning when you're going to grab your daily cup of joe! 

Try out any of these tips to burn some extra calories and you’ll feel the difference in your body, physically and mentally. Also, make sure to take the time to examine your day to day routine and find other opportunities that you could be using to walk around and be more active. It’s easy to get caught up in the race to get from point A to B but if you begin to move with more purpose you’ll be one step closer to living your best health ever.  

 

 

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Dr. Bret'sExclusive Wellness

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