Monday, October 24, 2011

Nutrition 101 - Part 3 Energy Density, Big vs. Little People, & Clean vs. Dirty Eating

Energy Density

A huge part of weight control revolves around the concept of energy density. It’s a very simple concept – for equal volumes, some foods will have much lower calories than other foods. There are a few mainstream books on the topic that are actually good reads – Volumetrics and Eat This, Not That
A prime example of energy density is a comparison of broccoli vs. Skittles.

One cup of broccoli will run about 30 calories while one cup of Skittles will run slightly north of 400 calories.
It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that eating more energy-sparse foods will make it easier to control calories. It doesn’t hurt that energy-sparse foods tend to be your fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc… ya know, the stuff that’s healthy. Energy-dense foods tend to be the highly processed, nutrient-sparse foods that are easy to overeat. This isn’t always the case, mind you.

Generally the low energy density foods are high in water and fiber while the high energy density foods are low in water and higher in fat.

Basing your diet around foods that have low energy-densities is one ‘trick’ to promote satiety and calorie control. And if you’re one of those people who has always had trouble packing on weight, making sure you’re including energy dense foods in your diet is an important step.

Big vs. Little People

No, I’m not talking about giants fighting midgets. I simply wanted to highlight a fact many people seem to gloss over. Because larger people have higher daily energy expenditures on average, they have more “wiggle room” calorically speaking.

When your daily energy expenditure is 3,500+ you can afford to run a deeper deficit… maybe down to 2,000 or so. This means that even if you’re underestimating calorie intake, you’re likely to still run a deficit. Plus, if you plateau, you have some room to bring calories down a bit further.

On the contrary, a smaller person might have a daily expenditure of 1,500 per day. Supposing she wants to lose a little fat, she can’t create near the deficit the preceding person could… at least without impacting energy levels, health, muscle, adequate nutritional status, etc. What this means is she’ll lose fat at a much slower rate. It also means that small deviations from compliance and/or small inaccuracies in calorie reporting are likely to mean her assumed deficit is really closer to maintenance. This is the primary reason so many folks are in supposed plateaus.

Be sure you’re assessing calories relative to your status.

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