You Can't Burn Calories

Did you know that no matter how hard you exercise/workout or how much you sweat, you will never actually burn a single calorie?


Confusing, right?


This is part of the problem with the diet world today. The words that explain the process have been twisted around causing confusion for most people. Too many people have had unsuccessful attempts at dieting. For most people, simply using the word "diet" puts them in a negative frame of mind.


That's why I don't use the word diet in describing a healthy lifestyle. There's really nothing wrong with the word itself, it's just what it has come to mean. Doctor's will ask their patients what their diet consists of. This isn't negative but simply a question to figure out what type of foods the patient is consuming. As soon as the doctor recommends changing the patient's diet to contain healthier foods, all of a sudden it's a negative thing.


While I believe most people realize what we eat plays an enormous role in our overall health, being able to put healthy eating habits into practice on a daily basis is harder for most than it should be. Part of the reason is a poor understanding of the terminology we use.


Take for instance a conversation I had with a friend regarding how we should look at food. She (a person who openly admits on social media to be suffering from insomnia, slight obesity, headaches, forgetfulness, and fatigue) has a strong belief that food is entertainment.


A belief that food is entertainment is discounting the events we participate in that involve food. Going out to the movies involves popcorn, oversized boxes of candy, super sized sodas but the entertainment is the movie and spending time with friends. Going to happy hour with coworkers often involves appetizers and drinks but the entertainment is not the food, it's building stronger bonds with work friends. Tailgating at a sporting event, New Year's Eve parties, family reunions - these are all entertaining and fun events but it's not the food that is the entertainment.


Take any one of these events and remove everything but the food and you will likely not be near as entertained. In fact, when someone spends their evenings by themselves, overconsuming the same foods they would at happy hour or a tailgating party it not only negatively affects their physical health but we often think of it as a warning sign for depression. If that food is entertaining, why would it be a cause of depression when consumed alone?


The reason is - food is fuel. All food is broken down in the digestive system and either used as fuel right then, stored for future use, or not nutritionally valuable and expelled from the body. There is a lot that happens in the gut microbiome with both good and bad bacteria working on all the food as it goes through. The short version is - food is broken down into useable pieces that are absorbed and transported around the body. All fuel used in the body for energy comes from glucose that is broken down from food or from glycogen, which is stored glucose that was unused from a previous meal.


Glucose is a form of sugar. When ingested in it's simple form (straight sugar) it causes a rapid increase in energy. Need proof? Go give a kid a piece of candy and watch their energy output over the next hour. Simple sugars digest easily, give a quick boost of energy, which is then followed up by a rapid fatigue. This even happens when simple sugars are ingested in combination with other, more complex foods. The body uses the easiest sources first and stores or eliminates the rest. The unfortunate part for many people is the body tends to store more than it eliminates. To the contrary, if sugar in the simple form is not consumed with a meal then the energy output tends to be at an even and sustained level. Those big swings from hyper to fatigue aren't a part of the process.


All this energy output can be measured. The measurement is called a CALORIE. The body never burns a calorie, it's impossible by definition. A calorie is simple a measurement of how much energy is created by burning a specific substance - in this case pieces of food. Working out and exercise are great activities, but you are burning food or stored energy...not calories. How many calories you create is then the measurement you are looking for.


So the next time you look at a food label or try to decipher if a menu item is going to be good for you or not. Yes consider the contents of the product but also consider how much energy/fuel it's going to give you in the short term. If you have a big energy expenditure coming up then you can afford to have a higher caloric meal. Not because you're burning calories, but because you'll need to use all the energy that is created from the food. Remember different types of foods give off different amounts of energy, this is where knowing how much of each item you can eat becomes important.


If you don't use the energy, you'll likely store it. For most of us, we don't have a storage issue we have an energy output issue.


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