The calorie in calorie out fallacy (II)

The calorie in calorie out fallacy (II)

On the first article about this topic we saw how the traditional take into the calorie problem was wrong.

Now let’s see why that is the case.

Explaining the why behind the myth

We already spoke about how the idea of calorie in calorie out is flawed, and now that we know that we will present you with another model that explains reality in a better way.

Why calorie in calorie out doesn’t work

The model is based on the idea that the body decomposes all foods into elements it can extract calories from. This model also expects all elements to be treated in the same way, and to be stored in a single storage from which we  would extract energy as needed.

The problem is that in truth not all calories are the same. As we already know the food we eat is formed by different macronutrients. This macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats and our body treats each of them in a different way.

In contraposition to this one compartment model, the author of The complete guide to fasting presents a 2 compartment model that better illustrates our reality. This 2 compartment model defines the glycogen stores as the first compartment and the fat stores as the second compartment. In order to explain how this works we will use analogy adapted and modified from the book The complete guide to fasting.

Grocery shopping

How our body actually stores energy

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Let’s say you just came from the supermarket. Once you get home you decide that part of what you just bought will be used for the meal you will eat right now. Of course, the quantity you will use for the meal is only a small part of all you just bought and so you will have to store the rest of the food so that it doesn’t go bad.

Part of the food you will store in the fridge, the fridge is quite accessible and whenever you want to cook a meal in the next days you will most likely get food from here. The food you store in the fridge  has to be eaten soon in order for it not to spoil.

Once the fridge is full you have to decide what to do with the rest of the food. Your choice is to prepare the excess food in a way such that it will be easy to use when you want it and decide to store it in the freezer for long term. In this freezer you will also store all the food that you thought you were going to use for the meal but ended up not using (excess food).

And just to make the analogy more accurate let’s say that you have one of those freezers that occupy most of the fridge (or in the analogy presented by doctor Fung, a freezing chamber).

The food you put in the freezer isn’t that easily accessible since it needs time to unfreeze so that you can prepare it, and you will most likely give priority to the contents of the fridge because they will start getting spoilt faster.

The two compartment model

Photo by nrd on Unsplash

In this analogy the food you use to prepare the meal when you get home are the carbohydrates you obtain from a meal. The fridge could be thought of as your glycogen storage since it is what keeps us going the first days after you start fasting.

The freezer is your fatty tissue and exemplifies how we don’t access this fat until we have almost depleted the glycogen stores and how the fat requires processing in order to be used by the body as energy. To finish, the excess food is an analogy to the excess glucose and proteins you turn into fats.

This analogy helps us differentiate between those elements we obtain from a meal that are used in the moment such as glucose and excess proteins that are converted into glucose. And those elements that we store such as fats and excess glucose that gets turned into glycogen in the liver and  fat.

This analogy is also useful since it shows how our body won’t use fats as its main source of energy unless it has almost depleted its glycogen stores.

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