Carbs vs. Calories, The Battle Continues…

This is going to be one of those posts where I make a point of saying that I’m not a doctor or health professional, nor am I a nutritionist or dietitian. If you want the real Slim Shady on any of the facts I’m describing in this post, you should consult one of the professionals mentioned above. But I certainly have information I can contribute for the sake of conversation, so take what I write with grain of salt. But not literally, since you shouldn’t be salting your food. But I digress…

I’ve often written that the most important and consistent factor behind proper fitness and weight loss is being able to burn more calories in a day than you consume. I’ve also mentioned on many occasions, the importance of reducing one’s overall carbohydrate intake in order to promote better blood sugar control and to help with weight loss as well. So, which one is the important one? What should you be focusing on for your weight loss efforts? Well, the easy answer is… both.

Because I’m wordy and I like to write, let’s start by pointing out that “fad diets” are bullshit. I’m sorry, but they are. At their core, most fad diets (which I won’t name here because I don’t like the potential for getting sued) target a certain core demographic based on a gimmick, or a trend. The whole concept of “don’t eat this” or “only eat that” will always work for JUST enough people that the masses will quickly jump on the bandwagon to try and slim down using these methods, fully unaware that like everything else in life, it’s subjective to the person and that maybe eating like humans did in paleolithic times isn’t ideal, because our bodies have evolved past those methods and that method may have worked for your neighbour who now looks great in their yoga pants, but it won’t necessarily work for you.

Even if you partake of one of these trends or fad diets, it won’t change three very important realities. That being that no matter what the diet, 1) you need to include regular exercise, 2) you need to burn more calories than you burn, and 3) you need to make good lifestyle choices. It’s a holy trifecta of fitness that simply can’t be ignored. If you start dieting consistently, you may shed some pounds, but your efforts will plateau pretty damn quickly. You have to include some exercise in there to help with muscle tone, blood circulation and calorie burn. This is especially important for us Diabetics.

The lifestyle choices can apply to a significant number to things. For example, you may have gotten a solid workout in and ate a green salad for lunch. But those efforts are wasted if you cap off the evening by sitting back with a six pack of beer and nachos. Mmm,…nachos…. Umm, moving on! The point is, there has to be a balance. So, while I’m not saying that you shouldn’t occasionally treat yourself, since life is meant to be lived and it’s been proven by multiple sources that depriving yourself will make your efforts all that much harder, you still need to be smart about it. Still with me? Good. Let’s examine the difference between calories and carbohydrates.

Good old calories…. If you want to get all scientific about it, a calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a quantity of water by one degree. For the purposes of food consumption, calories are the measurement of energy contained within the food. When a person consumes more calories than they burn, the body tends to store the excess as body fat, which results in weight gain. On the flip side, consuming too few calories can lead to some dangerous deficiencies in the body, as one may not be getting all the vitamins and nutrients required throughout the day. Depending on the source you draw on and your age, metabolism, level of fitness and even gender, the average person needs to consume anywhere between 1200 to 2000 calories a day.

You may be asking, what’s the point of consuming them if you’re only going to burn them to lose weight? Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply keep reducing one’s overall calories? The answer to that is no. Look at that previous paragraph, again/. While burning the calories is important in order to maintain good weight loss potential, you still need the vitamins and nutrients you draw from food. Eating at a calorie-deficit will prevent you from getting everything you need to keep your body running smoothly. Make sense? Good. NEXT!

Carbohydrates are a naturally occurring compound, found in most foods but not all of them. Carbs are a source of fuel for the body and since they are a key nutrient, are a requirement, as much as I’d like to eliminate them altogether. Mainly comprised of sugars and starches, they get broken down into energy for the body. There’s that word again: energy. And in case no one was paying attention, you need energy to well,… live. Because of the nature and composition of carbohydrates, they’re usually the nemesis of someone with Diabetes, since we need to take insulin in response to the amount of carbs we consume.

So, what’s the difference? One is the measure of energy, the other is fuel that gets burned as energy. Am I the only one who feels that they both kind of sound like energy? I found a good article posted by The Cleveland Clinic, and I apologize because I didn’t seem to be able to copy the post. But it discusses the fact that “a gram of fat has about 9 calories, while a gram of carbohydrate or protein has about 4 calories. In other words, you could eat twice as much carbohydrates or proteins as fat for the same amount of calories.” That sounds like a lot of math to me, but you can go to my.clevelandclinic.org and check out the article entitled “Fat and Calories: The Difference & Recommended intake.”

For me, the difference still ins’t clear. But for weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you consume. We’ve already covered that. For carbs, you need to count the number of net carbs you consume, which involves subtracting fibre from the total carb count on your nutritional label. That is to say, if what you’re eating even has a nutritional label AND if they’’re count is accurate. That’s why portion control is important. Whether you count calories or carbs, portion control is important. I would say the latter is more important for Diabetics, since it involves insulin consumption.

No matter which you choose to reduce or limit in order to help with your weight loss journey, bear in mind that reducing either by too much will leave you feeling weak and may not actually help in weight loss. Instead, consume healthier foods that are lower in calories or carbs but still contain a lot of the nutrients your body needs in order to function properly. Vegetables, lean proteins and limited starches made of whole grains are ideal. And don’t forget to consult a health practitioner before starting any radical change in food regimen. ☯️

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Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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