With the rise of If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) and flexible dieting, more and more people are eating foods that were typically labelled ‘unhealthy’ as part of their daily meal plan. But surely eating chocolate every day is going to stop you losing weight?
The fact of the matter is; a calorie is a calorie. A calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1gram of water by 1oC. in general terms, your body doesn’t care whether that calorie comes from a carrot or a chocolate bar.
If your BMR is 2000 calories a day and you eat 2200 of just fruits and vegetables – you will gain weight. If you eat a deficit number of 1700 calories from chocolate – you will lose weight.
It really is as simple as that.
BUT, here’s why you should be filling your diet with a variety of food groups rather than just ‘junk’:
- Theoretically, 100 calories of carrots are the same as 100 calories of chocolate. Forgetting about the calorie equation, foods such as chocolate have a higher fat and carbohydrate content than carrots, and therefore are termed ‘high glycemic index’. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as chocolate, cause a hormone in your body called insulin to spike. Insulin turns off the fat burning process in your body (called lipolysis) and therefore even if in a calorie deficit, your fat burning rate will be hindered. This is particularly true for alcohol, despite having a large calorie price tag, alcohol switches off lipolysis so alcohol calories + hungover pizza = slowed metabolism + potential fat gain. Foods with a lower glycemic index (root veg, sweet potato, brown rice etc.) are absorbed more slowly from the intestine and therefore the carbs are released more slowly into the blood stream and don’t cause such a rise in insulin (therefore don’t hinder your progress as much).
- What goes up must always come down! These spikes in insulin mentioned previously, come with a dip in blood sugar, which makes you feel a bit crap. That ‘post lunch slump’ is a real scientific thing. Having something for lunch that spikes your blood sugar (and therefore insulin levels) eventual causes a dip in blood sugar which makes you feel tired and lazy and in turn, crave sugary high-GI foods leading to a potentially viscous cycle. Choosing something with a lower GI such as sweet potato for lunch, releases the carbs more slowly over the rest of the afternoon keeping you satiated and away from that 4pm sugary chocolate bar!
- It’s not all about weight loss. Although 200g of carrots may have similar calories to a small chocolate bar, a carrot has loads of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are important for physiological health including gut health, immune system, hair, skin, nails, hormone function etc. Hence why veg is termed a ‘healthy food’ compared to food such as chocolate that has virtually no micronutrients (unless it’s very high percentage dark chocolate that contains antioxidants).
- Get more bang for your buck! While 100gof chocolate might feed your soul at the time of eating, you’re going to feel hungry again shortly after, despite eating a whopping 500 calories. A 500-calorie chicken salad however, is a lot more volume, with lots of protein and fiber that’s going to release a hormone in your gut called leptin which makes you feel fuller for longer.