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Are All Calories Created Equal?


Today someone told me that all calories are created equal "he said, it doesn't matter if you eat Mcdonalds 3 times a day, as long your calories add up to/or slightly greater than maintenance you will still gain lean mass".

Is this true?


Kinda. If you don't eat any protein though, you aren't going to gain anything. As far as energy goes though, your body will use whatever. Doesn't mean it's healthy though.


Yes. All calories are equal. Equal to 4.2 kJ I believe.


See if this makes sense. Premium unleaded, unleaded, diesel, ethanol, will all produce a certain amount of energy per unit of volume. More of one may required to produce the same energy than another, but they be adjusted so that they can produce x amount of energy.

The same applies to the food we eat, whether it be rice, a potato or a Snickers bar. The difference comes in how clean burning the fuel is and the residue or pollution left behind. Your body has to do something with the leftovers.
Getting late and not thinking at full function, so I hope that makes sense.


...no. All calories are not created equal. If you administer a diet of 60% protein, 30% fat, and 10% carbs to one group of people and a diet of 50% carbs, 30% fat, and 20% protein to another with the total number of kcals in both groups the same, put them both on a fatloss program, and control for all other variables as best as possible, the first group will lose much more fat.

Plus, counting protein as calories isn't really accurate if you lift (and you're here, so I assume you do). If you lift with intensity, your rip up a ton of your muscles. Your body needs to repair this tissue, and protein is how it does that.

That protein comes straight from your gut as EAAs in your shake or as long-chain proteins in meats, and your body takes that and converts into whatever it needs for those muscles.

At no point does it turn that protein into energy. In fact, if all other factors are optimal, your body won't ever use protein for energy; the metabolic processes involved in rendering protein into glycogen are very inefficient.


I really want someone who says all calories are created equal and that food quality doesn't matter to go on a diet that consists only of: all fats from transfats, all protein from collagen, and all carbs from HFCS.


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While this may be true, there are people at the other extreme eating nothing but protein all day yet not figuring out how important the AMOUNT of calories are as far as gaining more muscle mass. ALL macro-nutrients are needed yet how many times has there been some 18 year old kid logging in bragging about how they drink more protein shakes than anyone else yet they haven't gained shit in the past year?

Calories are still the primary factor if the goal is gaining muscle mass. That need has to be met first before worrying about how much of this and that composes it. Also, some people respond better to much higher carbohydrate intake just like some can get away with eating more junk food and actually make better progress that way. Others may need to cut down drastically on carb intake.

All of this is very individual and most newbs need to be more focused on the calories than whether they are eating like a contest ready bodybuilder all year long.


thermic effect of food states not all calories are equal.

that answers the basic question, but most people start debating then well, you can eat not so clean and still make progress, which is another question (not saying I disagree with it)


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"Today someone told me that all calories are created equal"


A calorie is clearly not a calorie. First, I have to underline the Professor's statement that most newbs need to be more focused on the calories than whether they are eating like a contest ready bodybuilder all year long.

But what's important here is not the "calories" themselves but the flood of nutrients. A calorie is simply a measure of heat. If you burn something ex vivo (i.e. in the lab, in an experiment) you can measure the amount of heat which is released. It's a simpel conversion of chemically bound energy to heat.

In a physiological context, this is rather irrelevant. Not all proteins will get "burned" for energy, same for fats. Not even all carb will be metabolized in the glycolysis (which leads to the production of the bodys own energy currencys ATP and NADPH).

Therefore, what is most important for a newbe is to flood the body with nutrients. Since nutrient intake is at least correlated to calorie intake, downing many calories is an easy approach.
I don't know of anybody who's big and strong who has never heavily overeaten (bulked) in his life.

However, calories themeselves or a surplus of calories does not trigger muscle growth and has only little and timely limitted effects on protein synthesis.

You can optimize your results by taking care of what you eat. Right from the beginning. If you have problems being disciplied and consitent with a complicated diet, I'd rather go for jsut eating a ton of whatever food (as a beginner).

You can go to John Berardis homepage or search on T-muscle for the massive eating articles. Good point to start.


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Too maintain body mass, this is more or less true (interesting point that Alwyn wrote about this in todays article).

If body composition (high LBM:Fat ratio) is important, then s/he couldn't be more wrong.