The most common belief that exists today is a concept called “calories in equals calories out”. Our body requires energy to function which we get from food in the form of calories. Basically, food equals calories which equals fuel. What this concept tells us is that we have to burn as many calories as we eat.
Everyone has their own daily calorie need. So, as an example let’s take an average human being who requires 2000 calories per day to function properly. The idea is, if the calorie count is less than 2000 calories (say 1700 C) per day, he/she will lose weight. If he/she eats more than 2000 calorie (say 2300 C) he/she will gain weight. It’s as simple as that. Basically, this is what we actually are do when we are dieting. We count calories, eating exactly as it is prescribed. Let’s say it remains at 2000 calories but we are hungry all the time, aren’t we?
Out of these 2000 calories, not all is used as energy. Depending on what we eat, some calories will be burned (say ~1500 C) and some (say ~500C) will immediately be stored as fat. Even though we are in a deficit (1500 is less than 2000) of energy, the body will somehow store those (~500 C) energy as fat and from those 2000 C. Therefore, not everything is used as fuel, we are energy deficit and the brain will sense and signal that we are hungry again. Well, we have taken in the required 2000 calories but not all of them have reached the destination.
WHY SOME CALORIES ARE STORED AND NOT BURNED ?
Because not all calories are equal. Every calorie can come from one of these three sources –
PROTEINS, CARBOHYDRATES, LIPIDS (FATS)
The human body responds differently to each one of them as all of them have different functions in the body. Proteins are mainly used as bricks for constructing and repairing the muscle tissues and the body as a whole. They are used as energy only in the case of emergency by a process called Gluconeogenesis, when no carbs and fats are available. Leaving proteins aside, we come to two energetic pathways of the human body, that is getting fuel either from burning carbohydrates or burning fats. Pay attention! There is no mistake, burning carbohydrates OR fat and not burning carbohydrates AND fats. Because unlike a hybrid car, we simultaneously cannot use both types of fuel. In every minute of our day, we can either burn carbohydrates or fats but not both at the same time.
SO HOW IS IT DECIDED AT EVERY MOMENT THAT WHICH SOURCE IS USED AS ENERGY?
Well, there are two great players here, two HORMONES in fact, the conductors who are the masters of these processes. They are called Insulin and Glucagon. They work as partners but in an inverse correlation. What it means is that, if you have more of one, the less you’ll have the of the other. Insulin is responsible for burning carbohydrates while Glucagon is responsible for burning fat.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose after which it enters the bloodstream. Since the blood glucose level is critical for our well-being and its normal range is quite a narrow corridor (70-110 mg/dl), it is essential that all the incoming glucose is distributed to the cells or stored as soon as possible. Normally, what we have in our blood is just two tablespoon of sugar (~ 5g). This is the level at which it should be maintained. But just a medium-sized pizza will guarantee an additional 2 tablespoons of glucose which it is twice as much as we should have in our blood. Such is a condition where Insulin takes the lead. The moment the level of glucose starts rising (which is happens when we eat carbohydrates), Insulin is released into the bloodstream. It opens up the cells, causing them to take in the glucose and store Glycogen which is basically a bunch of glucose molecules stored together, which can be used later.
We can store up to 500 g of Glycogen, about 100 g in our liver, readily available to be injected into the bloodstream at the first necessity and up to about 400 g in our muscles, which are completely dedicated to the muscular need. This glycogen is not shared with other organs. Since we consume too many carbohydrates in a single meal which has to broken down into glucose and glycogen, the high level of glucose that results is dangerous for us and the excess of it needs an outlet. The last available option is to be store it using Insulin in the form of fat.
It is a scientifically proven fact that we store fat only when our Insulin level is high. Insulin is always secreted when we eat sugar and starch (carbohydrates). After a while if you don’t eat carbohydrates, the level of insulin decreases as there is no more necessity to deal with too much glucose. Hence, the level of Glucagon start to rise. As this happens, our body begins to burn fat for energy. First, this fat is broken down to fatty acids and then to Ketone bodies which are then used by all our organs such as the brain, kidneys, heart, lungs, muscles and joints.
SO THE BIG QUESTION-WHY DO WE GET FAT?
It is not about how much we eat but what we eat. Science tells us Obesity is ultimately the result of hormonal imbalance and not a caloric one. Just remember, you don’t lose fat because you cut down calories. You lose fat because you cut out those foods that make you fat, i.e the carbohydrates. When Insulin level is high, we accumulate fat in our fat tissues. When this level falls, we release fat and burn it for fuel. Thus, the amount of carbohydrates we consume determines our Insulin levels.
DON’T COUNT CALORIES. EAT AS MUCH AS YOU WANT!
Hold on there! Eat green vegetable in plenty and healthy fats (found in Ghee, butter, nuts, seeds, cheese, cottage cheese, coconut oil, olive oil) in abundance and proteins in moderate (from animal sources – eggs, chicken, red meat & fish, diary sources – cottage cheese, cheese, curd, pulses and legumes). Please stay away from simple and processed carbohydrates and sugar-rich food. Let your body get rid of its excess fat storage which will happen naturally without starvation or struggle.
The key here is cooperating with your body, allowing it to go through the process slowly and naturally. You need to understand that you probably might have accumulated all those excess fats over the period of last few years (may be 5 – 10 – 15 years). To get rid of it, you need to be patient and allow your body to burn them naturally.
THE ART OF MAINTENANCE
Well, after doing all the good work, if you were to go back to your bad eating habits again, then of course a new set of fat tissues will start accumulating in your body. A healthy body,mind and soul can only result if you incorporate some discipline into your eating habits.
I need to give an example here-you buy an expensive car and you take it to the fuel station based on its requirement. You take the pain to drive that extra mile to get the best quality fuel to a far off gas station, just to ensure you are filling the best fuel in you car for its best performance. Why can’t you do that with your own body? It is no less than the most expensive car! Do you really have to be much influenced by all those FMCG companies and their advertisements that anything that being sold to you in the name of food you purchase and consume?
It’s high time that you realize that you are not to treat your body like a trash can.