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Muscle & Performance - - Pro Corner -

ou may have no­ticed that calo­rie counts are ev­ery­where: Stamped on pack­aged foods, plas­tered on restau­rant menu boards and found along­side cook­book recipes. And if you’re a health- con­scious eater, chances are you pay a great deal of at­ten­tion to these num­bers in the name of cleaner, calo­rie- con­trolled eat­ing. / But what may shock you is that re­search shows calo­rie count­ing when it comes to di­et­ing is at best over­rated and at worst highly mis­lead­ing. You see, calo­rie stats are based on a cen­tury- old for­mula called the At­wa­ter sys­tem, in which the macronu­tri­ent com­po­nents — car­bo­hy­drate, fat and pro­tein — of a food have a set num­ber of calo­ries ( a unit of en­ergy). Car­bo­hy­drates and pro­tein have four calo­ries in each gram and fat con­tains a more lofty nine calo­ries. So if a food has 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of pro­tein and 7 grams of car­bo­hy­drate, the­o­ret­i­cally it should de­liver 112 calo­ries to who­ever eats it. But this fails to tell the whole pic­ture when it comes to the calo­ries your body ac­tu­ally ex­tract from foods. / Why? Be­cause not all calo­ries are cre­ated equal. The num­ber of calo­ries listed on a food la­bel or fit­ness app can be very dif­fer­ent from what you end up ab­sorb­ing. That’s be­cause the net amount of calo­ries you ob­tain from your meals and snacks is heav­ily in­flu­enced by a num­ber of fac­tors. It turns out in­stead of count­ing calo­ries you need to fo­cus on eat­ing more of the right kinds of foods so fewer calo­ries are ab­sorbed and you have a bet­ter chance of be­ing leaner. That’s why it’s vi­tal to take a look at the most re­cent re­search when it comes to calo­ries and learn how to hack the sci­ence to keep you on track for physique great­ness.

PRO­TEIN POWER

There is one very good rea­son why di­ets higher in pro­tein have been shown to make it eas­ier for you to hold onto your abs: Pro­tein-rich foods make your me­tab­o­lism burn hottest.

A big short­fall of the At­wa­ter sys­tem for es­ti­mat­ing the calo­ries in food is that it fails to take into ac­count the ther­mic ef­fect of feed­ing. Think of TEF as the en­ergy cost of chew­ing, di­gest­ing, ab­sorb­ing, trans­port­ing and stor­ing the food you eat. It turns out that pro­tein has a sig­nif­i­cantly higher TEF than car­bo­hy­drates and fat. The TEF of pro­tein ranges from 20 to 35 per­cent, whereas it costs us only about five to 10 per­cent of the en­ergy con­sumed from car­bo­hy­drates or fats to di­gest and process them. In a study of peo­ple on a high-calo­rie diet, those who got 25 per­cent of calo­ries from pro­tein burned 227 more a day (and packed on more mus­cle) than those who only ate five per­cent of calo­ries from pro­tein. In other work, re­searchers at Tufts Univer­sity de­ter­mined that over a pe­riod of 16 to 24 years those who ate more pro­tein at the ex­pense of car­bo­hy­drates tended to pack on less weight. Pro­tein con­tains ni­tro­gen, which must be stripped off and elim­i­nated by the liver and this ex­tra meta­bolic step as well as other dif­fer­ences be­tween the macronu­tri­ents is why the body re­quires more en­ergy to han­dle pro­tein. So even though carbs and pro­tein have the same calo­ries per gram (four calo­ries in a gram), you net fewer of them from the lat­ter.

Take Ac­tion: Owing to the abun­dance of pro­tein, the true calo­rie count of a chicken breast, slab of beef or a bowl of Greek yo­gurt is likely lower than as ad­ver­tised on the la­bel. For this rea­son, you want to make sure that each of your meals and snacks in­cludes plenty of pro­tein at the ex­pense of some carb and fat calo­ries to reap the re­wards of this calo­rie-burn­ing (and mus­cle-mak­ing!) ad­van­tage. And con­tinue to blitz whey pro­tein, which has a par­tic­u­larly high TEF ac­cord­ing to a 2011 Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Nu­tri­tion study, into your postworkout shakes. Be­sides, pro­tein is sa­ti­at­ing, so you’ll be sat­is­fied on less. Glazed dough­nut? Not so much! one-ounce serv­ing of al­monds pro­vides the hu­man body with about 129 calo­ries, which is about 22 per­cent fewer than the 167 calo­ries de­ter­mined by the At­wa­ter sys­tem and what is cur­rently shown on nu­tri­tion la­bels. A sim­i­lar study con­ducted on pis­ta­chios and pub­lished in the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Nu­tri­tion found that nuts may con­tain up to six per­cent fewer calo­ries than pre­vi­ously mea­sured. And wal­nuts have been found to de­liver 21 per­cent less en­ergy to the body than once thought.

Strong cell mem­branes of plant foods like nuts may lock in some of their macronu­tri­ents, in­clud­ing fat, thereby pre­vent­ing them and the en­ergy they pro­vide from be­ing fully ab­sorbed through the di­ges­tive tract. So although a hand­ful of wal­nuts may con­tain 15 grams of fat, which trans­lates into 135 calo­ries, it’s likely not all of these fat calo­ries are be­ing ab­sorbed. These fas­ci­nat­ing re­sults could help ex­plain the re­sults from stud­ies show­ing that nut eaters are less likely de­velop a round belly. On the flip­side, we may ab­sorb more calo­ries from a food when its cell walls have been bro­ken down through pro- cess­ing. So peanut but­ter could very well pro­vide more di­gestible calo­ries than do whole peanuts.

Take Ac­tion: As with whole nuts, we may also ab­sorb fewer calo­ries from other foods like legumes, seeds, whole grains and veg­eta­bles con­sumed in their least pro­cessed states. Pro­cess­ing such as juic­ing fruits and milling grains rup­tures cell walls and in the process re­duc­ing the en­ergy needed for di­ges­tion. So to help in the bat­tle of the bulge, more of­ten try eat­ing al­monds in­stead of al­mond but­ter, ap­ples in­stead of ap­ple­sauce, wheat berries in­stead of whole-wheat spaghetti or whole-wheat flour, or­anges in­stead of or­ange juice and ca­cao nibs in­stead of choco­late bars. Grind­ing meat into ham­burger also may in­crease calo­rie ab­sorp­tion by mak­ing things eas­ier for your di­ges­tive sys­tem, so con­sider steaks over burg­ers for a pro­tein fix.

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