More On Calories: Why Calories Don’t Count

Look, start with a basic, almost intuitive, fact: if a room full of people, not all related, sat around and ate exactly the same thing in exactly the same thing in exactly the same amounts and did exactly the same things and slept the same amount and time some would get fat, some would get thin and some just wouldn’t change very much. That’s just the way it is. You know this is true. Why has anyone ever talked you out of this?

Sophisticated scientists trapped a bunch of people in a very large terrarium, sometimes called an environmental calorimeter, fed them food, watched them work, sleep and live and found out what their feces and urine were comprised of and pronounced “if you eat more than you burn you get fat.” Turns out this is trivially true but what we heard is: “YOU ARE FAT BECAUSE YOU EAT TOO MUCH.” The other thing we heard was: “ALL CALORIES ARE THE SAME.” As near as I can tell these lies have made psychiatrists millions of dollars. The holes in these experiments are large enough to drive the proverbial truck through. The results don’t actually address the conclusion.

If we look at this in another way we can reason our way out of the mistake. Cells expend energy for two large purposes: one is to run the machinery, like making new proteins, and thinking and the other is to keep us warm. Energy goes to cell work and generating warmth. When the will says ‘go’ we walk, run or fight but when the weather says so we sweat or shiver or sigh. How the cells partition energy to work or warmth is largely genetic but under partial control of the will; but mostly just different from person to person. I eat a calorie and half of it makes new cells and the other half keeps my body temperature at 98.6. You eat a calorie and 2/3 is spent making new cells and 1/3 is spent keeping your  body temperature at 98.6. These numbers are just examples. Some people need more energy spent on heat generation because they have pale skin which does not attract and hold heat as well as black. On the other hand the melanin of dark skin serves as a shield from other aspects of solar energy striking the skin.

OK, that is one point; there is a difference in how people use calories. A second point: whether calories are stored as fat, thus insulation- see above- or burned as energy to make new cells, is under the control of hormones and the amount, timing and strength of those hormones vary from person to person. This both seems and is obvious. If your hormone behavior is designed to signal calorie storage then your food is more prone to getting stored as fat…and so on. Now, here is the good news, we have behavior control over the hormone environment in our body. While it will be different from person to person the fact remains we each have some control over our inner hormone environment.

Learning your personal hormonal response to food will make any efforts expended getting either ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ or ‘leaner, meaner, and, and…cleaner’ more effective.

The easiest place to start is insulin. If your fasting insulin is very low you will never gain mass on a low carb diet but you might get awfully skinny. If your fasting insulin is high then you will be prone to fat gain so drive your fasting insulin down and fat will go; but do this too quickly and well and your blood sugars will temporarily get worse. Keep in mind that there is an interesting almost inverse relationship between insulin and testosterone so there is a sweet spot in insulin levels.

End of Part One

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