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AkumaZ

A Calories Is Not A Calorie

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The debate has been raised numerous times and addressed by a bunch of different nutritionists, but this is an article I haven't seen brought up in very many places (except when I do it)

http://articles.elitefts.com/nutrition/logic-does-not-apply-iii-a-calorie-is-a-calorie/

I'll admit I might have a thing for Kiefer's work since I've seen the results of his diet programs first hand with Max Aita and his wife. But I like how he cites numerous studies which he claims to have read thoroughly (not just the abstract) and I've yet to see anyone actually cut him down on the basis of science. I've also yet to see anyone say or prove his programs don't work

Also noteworthy in this article is that it is in direct contrast to some of Lyle McDonald's works. Lyle comments on this article a few times and argues back and forth with Kiefer. The end result is as I see it, Lyle storming off dismissing Kiefer without actually proving him wrong

Regardless, good read.

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interesting, thanks, Akuma

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I'm not too knowledgeable on this topic, but does this

The physical and physiological fuel values don’t match up for protein either. It takes energy to process the food we eat, energy that’s wasted as heat known as the thermic effect of feeding (TEF). When you eat a meal, you warm up. It’s that simple. There’s an extensive amount of research on the subject: about 2% of the ingested calories of fat, 7% of carbs and 30% of protein is wasted as heat whenever you eat22.

mean that 30% of protein I consume, is basically burned to warm up and not used as energy or for muscle repair?

If so, why is that (almost) never mentioned when the daily required amount of protein is discussed?

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Guest ExperimentB76z

Protein is anywhere from 20% to 30% depending on the source of protein, but yes, that amount of kcals is burned off as the protein is metabolised (broken down into amino acids and used by your body).

It is discussed. It's one of the key benefits to a high or higher protein diet.

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Okay... but I kind of meant whether it's the protein that you burn (in other words, cannot be used to build muscle with anymore) or is it purely the caloric value that is burned, and then the amino acids can still be used by your body to build muscle?

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Guest ExperimentB76z

You don't burn up the amino acids, they get absorbed. It's the stored energy that's burned up (kcals).

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@Experiment, there is a process known as gluconeogenesis. That is the process of breaking down proteins/amino acids into sugars--in which case they cannot be used for building muscle. This process is very calorie intensive, and it takes about 30-40% of the energy you are consuming to make the conversion. It's accounted for in the Thermic Effect of Food. Carbs have a higher TEF than fat, but we are talking a TEF that is less than half of protein.

Glucagon is produced when we consume protein. That triggers the gluconeogenesis process to start. Some of the protein we eat is used to repair muscles, and some is converted to fuel. Exact proportions of that differ based on body composition, metabolism, demand for amino acids, etc. Basically, the amino acid absorption process happens with the kidneys, and the gluconeogenesis happens in the liver (much like ketone production). Both are present to some extent.

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Does gluconeogenesis go on all the time or only when the body is in a state a ketosis? Must admit, I "always" thought it was the later.

"always" means in the last couple of months since I've been overloading of nutrition info (and floundering in a sea of it).

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Guest ExperimentB76z

Yeah, I know of gluconeogenesis. It only kicks in when the body is in state of starvation / has low levels of glucose. Even then, the amino acids are not burned up, they are just converted to glycogen for fuel instead of synthesised to build cells.

Carbs have a TEF of 6 kcals and fat is 3 kcals (or thereabouts, there is some degree of change between sources of carbs and fats and protein). I have never heard of a TEF of protein any higher than 30%, normally it is between 20% to 30% depending on the type of protein.

I've only covered bioenergetics very briefly, but my understanding is that the energy created (and therefore the thermic effect) is due to the breaking down of the bonds to release the nutrients. I suppose if there is an additional metabolic process involved, converting the amino acids to glucose, then the total TEF of protein might increase.

I have a feeling this is becoming unnecessarily complicated. The simple answer to Jasper's question is no the amino acids are not themselves burned up (they are either used to make new cells or covered to glycogen for energy) and that the thermic effect of food is accounted for by the digestive process, metabolism, and thermogensis.

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Probably more than you ever wanted to know about ketosis and gluconeogenesis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129159/

What still isn't clear to me (and Experiment might know) is whether sufficient amounts of protein will keep one out of ketosis. By all anecdotal accounts, this is the case, though I don't know how significant the effect is. The low-carb diets of someone trying to get lean rapidly (e.g. a PSMF high protein, low carb, minimum fat) are quite different from those that must go into ketosis for medial reasons (e.g. to avoid epileptic seizures). One is very high in protein while one is very high in fat. It seems that protein, after a certain point, while prevent moderate to large levels of ketone bodies and will only allow "light" ketosis. Expeirment may have some studies on this, though it seems the mechanisms are in place for this to make sense.

@Pepper: Imagine that you've sewn together a very tightly knit piece of cloth comprised of long, strong fibers and you throw it in your backpack. One day, you're out hiking and you need to rip apart the cloth to get back to the individual fibers that comprise it because you need to make some rope or fishing line out of it. Because you did such a good job sewing that cloth together, it takes lots and lots of effort to get it apart. So much so, that you're a bit winded when you finally break it back apart into the individual fibers. You are now able to use the individual fibers for a new purpose, but you burned a decent amount of energy in the meantime.

That's a very rough analogy of what's going on, but you get the idea: energy (calories) is "wasted" (burned) pulling apart the fibers (aminos) but the fibers are still useful for another purpose (building muscle).

What the article hinted at, that was interesting, was that the TEF of various macros fluctuates based on various hormonal states at various times. I wonder if that is related to the increased "p-ratio" (partitioning) attributed to things like carb cycling, intermittent fasting, etc.

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Also noteworthy in this article is that it is in direct contrast to some of Lyle McDonald's works. Lyle comments on this article a few times and argues back and forth with Kiefer. The end result is as I see it, Lyle storming off dismissing Kiefer without actually proving him wrong

I guess I read it a little differently...Lyle's comments I thought really hightlighted the fact that while there are thermic efficiencies and many other variables in diet's of different macro nutrient levels they all basically add up to much ado about nothing. Too small to accurately measure and here is the real take away for me - largely irrelevent in the real world. I know I struggle acurately tracking my calories so worrying over the effect of differences that add up to far less then even 100 calories a day - my margin of error is greater then the "difference" they are arguing over.

My opinion is really unchanged - after establishing macro nutrient lelels that are in line with your goals for protein especially, it really does come down to a calorie is a calorie.

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I guess I read it a little differently...Lyle's comments I thought really hightlighted the fact that while there are thermic efficiencies and many other variables in diet's of different macro nutrient levels they all basically add up to much ado about nothing. Too small to accurately measure and here is the real take away for me - largely irrelevent in the real world. I know I struggle acurately tracking my calories so worrying over the effect of differences that add up to far less then even 100 calories a day - my margin of error is greater then the "difference" they are arguing over.

My opinion is really unchanged - after establishing macro nutrient lelels that are in line with your goals for protein especially, it really does come down to a calorie is a calorie.

I see Lyle's claim, but I dont see the evidence to back it up in contrast to what Kiefer has provided.

Perhaps though, its more accurate to say that the argument of "a calorie is a calorie" is not necessarily wrong, but the extrapolation from that to "Calories in = Calories out + weight loss/gain" is largely simplified as a result. This is because the "out" portion of the equation is hugely complicated and varies based on a bunch of factors, more than just calories consumed.

Even the whole conservation of energy argument is largely simplified if one uses system analysis from physics. This being the reason cited as justification for the simplified equation and calorie argument. If you take a system of a human being and his surroundings, there is conservation of energy, but if you take the human being by itself and ignore his surroundings, there sure is hell not conservation. The amount of energy lost to the outside of the system through heat for example can be a significant factor, and I haven't seen Lyle prove that it is as insignificant as he claims.

Some real world anecdotal examples are a few people that follow Kiefer's diet plans. A few (Max Aita included) when they consume copious amounts of carbohydrates at a specific time, heat up a lot and some even sweat (to the point of discomfort)

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Some real world anecdotal examples are a few people that follow Kiefer's diet plans. A few (Max Aita included) when they consume copious amounts of carbohydrates at a specific time, heat up a lot and some even sweat (to the point of discomfort)

My refeeds are all like this. Sometimes it happens with any large-calorie feeding, not just carbs. All-you-can-eat wings on Monday nights typically get me very hot and fairly sweaty. It's probably 120-150g of protein (and I usually have a whey shake prior), so it could be that too.

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My refeeds are all like this. Sometimes it happens with any large-calorie feeding, not just carbs. All-you-can-eat wings on Monday nights typically get me very hot and fairly sweaty. It's probably 120-150g of protein (and I usually have a whey shake prior), so it could be that too.

Could also be the hot sauce if those are buffalo wings!

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I see Lyle's claim, but I dont see the evidence to back it up in contrast to what Kiefer has provided.

Perhaps though, its more accurate to say that the argument of "a calorie is a calorie" is not necessarily wrong, but the extrapolation from that to "Calories in = Calories out + weight loss/gain" is largely simplified as a result. This is because the "out" portion of the equation is hugely complicated and varies based on a bunch of factors, more than just calories consumed.

If you read Lyle's works, he rarely simplifies things (a joke for those who follow his sometimes rather wordy papers) ;)

In fact, Lyle frequently discusses how internal processes confound the supposed linear process of weight loss. He has never to my knowledge proposed the strawman arguement that Keifer throws out that Calories in=Calories out +/- weight gain/loss.

What he does disagree with is that the whole notion that any of this matters in the real world. Reality is that all of this hard to measure physiological processes that could be studied to determine what different macro nutrient levels lead to slight (read negligible) variations in calorie utilization - are an interesting scientific study...But entirely unimportant in real world weight loss.

Once again - all of these processes and differences in calore absorption add up almost nothing. My (and I would argue most dieters) margin of error in food measurement FAR exceeds what we are discussing. Its a big deal about not much if you ask me.

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Could also be the hot sauce if those are buffalo wings!

Nah, I get em grilled and plain, with some sauce on the side, but it's usually not THAT hot. And we also bring homemade ranch made from cottage cheese and sour cream, so MOAR protein.

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If you read Lyle's works, he rarely simplifies things (a joke for those who follow his sometimes rather wordy papers) ;)

In fact, Lyle frequently discusses how internal processes confound the supposed linear process of weight loss. He has never to my knowledge proposed the strawman arguement that Keifer throws out that Calories in=Calories out +/- weight gain/loss.

What he does disagree with is that the whole notion that any of this matters in the real world. Reality is that all of this hard to measure physiological processes that could be studied to determine what different macro nutrient levels lead to slight (read negligible) variations in calorie utilization - are an interesting scientific study...But entirely unimportant in real world weight loss.

Once again - all of these processes and differences in calore absorption add up almost nothing. My (and I would argue most dieters) margin of error in food measurement FAR exceeds what we are discussing. Its a big deal about not much if you ask me.

While I agree with that to an extent, the TEF of protein seems to be much more than negligible. 250g of protein is 1,000 cals of food, but seems to only count for ~800 cals after TEF --that's a HUGE reduction.

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Guest ExperimentB76z

What still isn't clear to me (and Experiment might know) is whether sufficient amounts of protein will keep one out of ketosis.

The only thing that can spare you from ketosis is sufficient glycogen levels in your muscles and liver - it's swapping one energy system for another. It is known to be possible for the body to convert amino acids to glucose, but mostly excess amino acids get pissed out in the urea cycle, and gluconeogenesis apparently only arises in a caloric deficit. Thinking of it now, I did stumble across another suggested metabolic process for the conversion of protein to glucose in addition to gluconeogenesis. I'll see if I can dig that out. It has not been agreed by the broader scientific community - that I know of - but what we do know is that some diabetics who follow diets that are very low in carbohydrates still have high blood glucose levels (so the body is making the conversion somewhere and for some reason). It merits some more looking into though, I think. Like Spector says, true ketogenic diets are high in fat. That may be for two reasons, because fats can fuel the body's ATP system (but then so can amino acids) or because there is less likley hood of fatty acids being converted to glucose (though odd-chain fatty acids can be converted to propionyl CoA, a precursor for succinyl CoA, which can be converted to pyruvate and then go into gluconeogenesis). But that's long winded writing it out, nevermind the body actually doing it...

A few (Max Aita included) when they consume copious amounts of carbohydrates at a specific time, heat up a lot and some even sweat (to the point of discomfort)

The dude is pretty lucky and handles carbs well. This is what happens when the body metabolises the carbs and energy is released resulting in heat. If he felt sluggish and tired, his body would be having a poor reaction to the carbs, almost shutting its self down while it tried to sort it out.

Interestingly enough - for me anyway :) - and going back to what we're talking about above, when food is broken down and we get the release of energy, the only reason there isn't a flame, is because the process happens so slowly.

In terms of considering the TEF of protein in a broader diet, it's going to make a greater difference the more you exclude other macronutrients in the diet for protein, but it probably won't make a huge difference all in all and there are better things IMO to worry about.

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That's pretty interesting, Experiment. I remember being confused when I first started reading about LC diets and on forums people were eating "no carbs" but were never getting the ketone body readings they wanted. (again, I think fussing with ketotstix is silly). It invariably turned out they were having too much protein and as soon as they dropped protein and upped fat, they got the levels they wanted.

So GNG arises only under a deficit -- but is that a true deficit or a "perceived" one? In other words, do the presence of ketone bodies signal GNG to start? And with protein high enough, would some residual conversion of protein to glucose -- coupled with the minor conversion of fat to glucose (what, 5%?) be enough to limit the ketosis? That is, not enough to prevent ketosis, but simply limit the extent of it? Because that is the experience consistently reported, in my experience: some degree of ketosis, but not a large presence of ketone bodies.

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In terms of considering the TEF of protein in a broader diet, it's going to make a greater difference the more you exclude other macronutrients in the diet for protein, but it probably won't make a huge difference all in all and there are better things IMO to worry about.

^this is what I was trying to say above - although much more poorly. It's an interesting discussion for the nutrition nerds, myself included, but not of huge importance to the dieter trying to cut fat.

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Guest ExperimentB76z

I've done a bit of research since I wrote that this morning, to try and make a bit more sense of it. The whole deficit thing has confounded me, I think until now. People talk about GNG as occurring during a fasting state or starvation (which implies caloric deficit), but after reading more today, I think it's simply glucose depletion, which maybe a by product of fasting or starvation, but can arise merely where carbs are restricted. One study I read referred to glycogen homoeostasis. I think that's it. The body needs a certain amount of glucose even in ketosis, and it prefers glucose to ketones, so it will if it can it will make glucose. Where the body is glucose deprived, given sufficient protein, it will turn those amino acids that maybe transformed into glucose. It looks like alanine, glutamine, and possibly lecuine (through an even more convoluted metabolic process) maybe transformed into glucose. What I am not sure on still, is whether an excess of these amino acids in the diet might turn into glucose in any event (regardless of glucose depletion).

So, it definitely looks to me like you're right, and protein will spare ketosis. I also think, like you, that rather than ketosis being an all or nothing affair, it all depends on the level of glucose available in the body (whether directly from carbs or through GNG) and conversely how great the production of ketones need be.

I much prefer referring to gluconeogenesis as GNG.

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This is of course not a scientific paper nor does it have any sources, but I think it fits in this topic.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/opinion/sunday/what-really-makes-us-fat.html?_r=1&smid=pl-share

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If you read Lyle's works, he rarely simplifies things (a joke for those who follow his sometimes rather wordy papers) ;)

In fact, Lyle frequently discusses how internal processes confound the supposed linear process of weight loss. He has never to my knowledge proposed the strawman arguement that Keifer throws out that Calories in=Calories out +/- weight gain/loss.

What he does disagree with is that the whole notion that any of this matters in the real world. Reality is that all of this hard to measure physiological processes that could be studied to determine what different macro nutrient levels lead to slight (read negligible) variations in calorie utilization - are an interesting scientific study...But entirely unimportant in real world weight loss.

Once again - all of these processes and differences in calore absorption add up almost nothing. My (and I would argue most dieters) margin of error in food measurement FAR exceeds what we are discussing. Its a big deal about not much if you ask me.

I am not entirely sure why it is so negligible. Dont carb cycling, low carb (+cheat day) diets rely on this? Or is it that plans that utilize the results of these studies work only on paper, but in practice can't be effective?

The only thing that can spare you from ketosis is sufficient glycogen levels in your muscles and liver - it's swapping one energy system for another. It is known to be possible for the body to convert amino acids to glucose, but mostly excess amino acids get pissed out in the urea cycle, and gluconeogenesis apparently only arises in a caloric deficit. Thinking of it now, I did stumble across another suggested metabolic process for the conversion of protein to glucose in addition to gluconeogenesis. I'll see if I can dig that out. It has not been agreed by the broader scientific community - that I know of - but what we do know is that some diabetics who follow diets that are very low in carbohydrates still have high blood glucose levels (so the body is making the conversion somewhere and for some reason). It merits some more looking into though, I think. Like Spector says, true ketogenic diets are high in fat. That may be for two reasons, because fats can fuel the body's ATP system (but then so can amino acids) or because there is less likley hood of fatty acids being converted to glucose (though odd-chain fatty acids can be converted to propionyl CoA, a precursor for succinyl CoA, which can be converted to pyruvate and then go into gluconeogenesis). But that's long winded writing it out, nevermind the body actually doing it...

The dude is pretty lucky and handles carbs well. This is what happens when the body metabolises the carbs and energy is released resulting in heat. If he felt sluggish and tired, his body would be having a poor reaction to the carbs, almost shutting its self down while it tried to sort it out.

Interestingly enough - for me anyway :) - and going back to what we're talking about above, when food is broken down and we get the release of energy, the only reason there isn't a flame, is because the process happens so slowly.

In terms of considering the TEF of protein in a broader diet, it's going to make a greater difference the more you exclude other macronutrients in the diet for protein, but it probably won't make a huge difference all in all and there are better things IMO to worry about.

Regarding Max, I think that's how the diet is designed. Plan carb feedings around times when your body is best capable of handling it. Personally after a Carb Backloading night, I find it hard to get sleep because I just feel hotter than normal, though I dont experience any sweating like Max has in the past.

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