It’s that never ending old school debate ‘calories in vs. calories out’. Whilst I have seen a lot of this talk on social media recently I feel the message is very mixed; I’ve set out to help us all understand this ever confusing theory and other factors which can affect our calorie intake.
In theory we gain weight because we eat more energy than we expend i.e. if we sit on the sofa all day munching chocolate and cake we’re obviously going to put on more weight than if we spent the time outside walking. (In these two extremes this is the very case). I feel this is all too simplified.
However, life isn’t that extreme and there are so many other factors which can implement our weight gain not merely the amount of calories we’re consuming vs expending. What’s more is even when we are basing weight gain on calories in vs. calories out there are significant factors which can affect how much we consume.
A calorie is a unit of energy. However, calories from fat are utilised differently to calories from carbohydrates and that from proteins. The utilisation of the calories differ between macronutrients (i.e proteins, fats and carbohydrates) as they promote a different thermogenic effects. The thermogenic effect is the amount of energy required to digest and metabolise the macronutrient. The thermogenic effect of protein is higher than that of carbohydrates and fats.Additionally, proteins and healthy fats promote more stable blood glucose levels, keeping you fuller across a time period and less likely to crave sugar or over eat.
Today’s society is more stressful than it was 50 years ago... We’re all trying to fit a hundred things into a day, we don’t understand the meaning of no and we’re pushing ourselves to our limits in order to strive for the best. Whilst all of this can be hugely beneficial, there’s no argument that living life at a hundred miles an hour will eventually take its toll on our health and invoke the detrimental effects of stress. Stress promotes the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) from our adrenal glands. Cortisol also promotes fat storage around our abdominal region. As a result stress significantly contributes to fat storage and weight gain.
However, stress can also promote disordered eating which can lead to a restrictive binge cycle often causing an individual to gain weight.
Our sleep pattern can affect not only the amount of food we opt for but also the type of food too. Research has found that restricted sleep led to significant weight gain, an increase in calories by up to 130% (around 500kcal were consumed after 10pm) and an increase in calories from fat at night compared with the day time. Try and get 8 hours of sleep a night where possible and ideally go to bed before midnight to reduce the risk of over eating.
You may have heard of people blame their weight gain on the new drugs they’re taking. However, this isn’t another excuse. There is research to suggest that drugs (particularly antipsycotic drugs) cause significant weight gain. The longer an individual is on a course of drugs the more weight they’re likely to gain.
There you have it. Weight gain is way more complicated than the simple equation calories in vs. calories out. Often it can feel all too over whelming if you’re struggling with weight to put it down to such a simple statement. I should mention that above are just a few examples of external factors which can implement weight gain but there are a whole host of other factors too.