It’s common knowledge that, in order to lose weight, we must burn more calories than we consume. It’s simple logic that we all understand; overeating without exercise will lead to weight gain. However, there’s a bit of fine print that goes with this piece of traditional diet wisdom that we sometimes tend to neglect: the quality of the calories matters—a lot!

Everyone knows that taking in 2,000 calories a day in the form of doughnuts and ice cream isn’t the same as taking in 2,000 calories in the form of chicken and vegetables. Have you ever wondered exactly what the difference is between 2,000 of one and 2,000 of another? It’s all about the reactions that these foods trigger in your body!

Foods full of refined sugars make your insulin levels spike. Insulin is a hormone that tells your body to store incoming calories as fat. On the other hand, consuming a serving of veggies or nuts causes your body to release glucagon instead, which has a far more helpful purpose than an insulin spike: it tells your body to release fat to burn as fuel. That’s why simply counting calories is not enough if weight loss is your goal. Eating a smart amount of food each day for your body type is important, but you have to consider the quality of the calories, and the hormones they’ll tell your body to release.

Quality of Calories

The other point to consider when it comes to high- and low-quality calories? They affect your overall appetite in different ways, too! The other effect of eating foods that cause a spike in insulin is that they don’t satisfy your body’s hunger for fuel. Your body needs wholesome calories to power all its processes, and foods of little nutritional substance don’t provide what it’s asking for. That’s why you’ll feel hungry again in an hour if you have a doughnut for breakfast, and will likely end up consuming more calories throughout the day. The more low-quality calories you give your body, the more it will increase your appetite in the hopes that you’ll start to give it high-quality calories for the fuel it needs, leading to a frustrating cycle of overeating. If you start your morning with a bowl of oatmeal or some almond butter on toast, on the other hand, you’re likely to feel satiated for a longer period of time, because those calories are ones your body can use.

Smarter is More

The bottom line is that a healthy nutrition plan isn’t necessarily about eating less; it’s simply about eating smart. With many high-quality foods, you can eat more in quantity and still lose weight. For example, four Oreo cookies have roughly the same number of calories as 25 almonds—which is a good-sized handful. The difference is that the Oreos will be stored as fat and won’t satisfy your hunger for long, likely causing you to seek out additional snacks. They’re essentially “empty calories,” because they don’t help power your body. On the other hand, the almonds will give you protein and fuel, and will whet your appetite for longer because it’s the type of food your body is asking for.

When it comes to healthy eating, no one is perfect. Giving your body exactly what it needs when there are so many unhealthy temptations available isn’t always easy! However, it helps to understand a bit about the processes that high- and low-calorie foods trigger. Your body is like a machine, and it functions best when its given the fuel it was made to run on! So next time you’re deciding between your Oreos and your almonds, consider how your body will react to each option and do your best to give it what it needs.

Questions about how to incorporate more healthy choices into your lifestyle? Bootique Fitness in San Diego is here to help! Contact us to get started with your first class. Our trainers are helpful and knowledgeable, and are here to assist you on your fitness journey. We offer classes across the city, from boot camp style classes in Mission Valley and Mission Bay to Hillcrest and La Jolla, including outdoor bootcamp, Zumba-style dance fitness and personal training classes. Join Bootique and get on track for a healthier you!