T Nation

Do Caloric Sources Matter?


Assuming that the macro-nutrient and caloric amount are IDENTICAL, would there be a difference between:

A. A typical weight gaining shake.


B. A donut and a piece of chicken

Remember, we are assuming that all of the macros and calories are identical in both "meals".

When I ask about the difference, I mean in terms of how the body will use these calories, i.e. building muscle, storing fat, etc..


Are you serious? Theres a thread called "Is a calorie just a calorie" that talks about this very thing.

Stop wasting space.


Yes, there is a colossal difference regardless of whether their calories and macros are same. What your analogy fails to account for is how the nutrients are digested and absorbed, then delivered to the proper bodily tissues for metabolic purposes. The number of factors which influence or inhibit nutrient metabolism are probably too many to list, but let's say you're asking about nutrient-nutrient interactions.

While the protein, carb, fat, and (I'll even include) fiber content of the above two meals may be identical, the micro-nutrient, vitamin, and mineral contents surely will not be. And it is this discrepancy - the sum total of all nutrients consumed and available - which you should be conscious of.

Anything that limits the availability of adequate calories to support the cellular requirement or changes the cells' ability to make use of those calories negatively impact performance, including your performance in the gym.


Not trying to be a smartass, simply just trying to learn, what if I added a multi vitamin to both meals? Wouldnt that compensate any missing nutrients and give the analogy more balance?

How do you even know that the micro-nutrient difference is so large in my analogy? What if it isnt? What if it is completely identical, with the only difference being the food?

The reason why I ask this is because (as you will see in my thread I just made in the BB section), I have few choices for foods in my dormroom, and I running out of money for my weight gainers. I was wondering if I could substitute a weight gaining shake with something along the lines of 'a poptart and a protein shake' and not worry about everything bad I hear about poptarts.

thanks again for your insight


Very well thought out and articulated!


The way I look at it, there's a huge disparity in the quality of calories, take the fats for instance. Compare almond butter to the fats from said donut, the former is loaded with high grade monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats -- a donut has none of these. That reason alone is enough to put down the garbage. I highly doubt very many individuals with impressive physiques -- unless you consider the skinny-fat AF models impressive -- got to there by simply eating any calorie source.

If you're really interested look up Beradi's articles; he discusses this topic at length and always has valuable insight!


all i know is when im on a bulkin phase and im eatin alot of empty calories ( ice cream , cherrios etc )to get my calories in i feel like shit and also my skin and eyes are not so clean n clear .
when i switch back to cuttin and im eatin more veg n whole natural food i feel top draw n my skin clears up .
when you think about it we are evolved to eat and metabolise food ( natural )not chemicals n supps


Since you're in college you're probably still young, which means your metabolism will likely burn through the additional HFCS and other artificial preservatives hidden in, say, pop tarts and donuts. Obviously I'm going to recommend you stick to clean, nutritionally dense, whole foods but the decision is ultimately yours. For myself, I know I can get away eating like that once or twice in the off-season; however, come prep time, a meal like that will set me back from achieving my goals.

And will a multivit compensate in a lack of vitamins and other micro-nutrients? Possibly. But I'm skeptical. Just as good training won't counterbalance poor nutrition, popping a multi once or twice a day can't possibly counterbalance poor dietary decisions.


Precisely. Just as all calories are not created equal, all sources of fat are also not created equal. Same applies for carbs and proteins.

I think I've marked every one of his articles a favourite.