One of the biggest arguments I see on social is the battle of calories vs quality foods for weight loss, and in this blog, I'm going to clear up the confusion.
The number of calories you expend in contrast to the number of calories you consume is the fundamental principle of gaining or losing weight BUT, the precursor that so many ignore is the quality of where those calories came from. The poorer food quality, the more you'll crave, leading to overconsumption of more calories. So, let's explore a simple method to know what foods will work best for your weight loss journey.
When it comes to fast weight loss, food quality is just as important as calories. Many personal trainers argue calories matter most. However, the big problem we face is the overconsumption of highly palatable foods. From fast-food chains to supermarket shelves, the overwhelming majority of foods sold to us today are highly processed and engineered to make our taste buds explode in delight. This causes powerful chemical signals in the brain to produce what is known as the bliss point.
If you were unaware, this is the reality of what the food industry will do to make sure we keep eating and buying their products. They use neural science, psychology and food chemistry to the degree that is quite alarming. They're setting us up to overconsume, from the ingredients to the marketing campaign across several levels that we are entirely unaware of.
I've been a Personal Trainer in Liverpool and Wirral for 20 years. During that time delivering over 20,000 private personal training sessions, I can say with a firm conviction that people don't struggle with controlling calories. Instead, they struggle with food cravings for highly desirable food from chocolate & wine to sweets and take-away. It's the urge to eat these foods where 99% of people struggle!
A quick example of how creative the food industry is, remember the pringles advertising campaigns, 'once you pop, you just can't stop'. The clever slogan isn't just a catchy phrase to make it easier to remember them. It also connects with the chemical reward circuits in your brain because you know how pleasurable they are and how difficult it is to stop eating them once you start!
Michael Moss, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter said, processed food is engineered to be "crave-able," not unlike a cigarette or a hit of cocaine. His insightful books' Sugar, Salt, Fat' and 'Hooked' reveal the shocking truth about the modern food industry. For example, Moss describes ingenious experiments where people enter brain scanners with squares of chocolate already in their mouth so that researchers can assess effects on the brain as the sweet treat melts on the tongue.
To be fair to the food industry, they've done some serious research and testing to figure out how our brains respond to their products. So I think that level of analysis and testing deserves a little credit for their rigour and determination.
Meanwhile, the fitness and nutrition industry are arguing about calories. Personal trainers and fitness influencers on social media are hitting you with the classic 'it's all about a calorie deficit, with little idea of the psychological and physiological challenge people face when surrounded by a world of highly palatable and potentially addictive foods. Yes, I said it, foods can be addictive.
Read Anna Lembke's incredible book 'Dopamine Nation' if you want to find out how addiction works. She is a leading psychologist and does an excellent job of explaining how addiction can affect us all.
I hope this paints the picture of why food quality is just as important (if not more) as calories when we consider how powerful the lure is to overconsume highly palatable food engineered to perfection.
So with this in mind, how do we beat this?
Well, this is where the hard work comes into play. I'm going to provide you with a definitive shopping list along with some foods to altogether avoid for at least 30 days. This will reset your dopamine balance (reward chemical) in the brain and help you control your hunger signals. So, this allows you to become in control of what you consume instead of those hyper-palatable foods controlling you.
The foods on the green list are high quality. To help you further, I have placed an * next to each food with a high thermal effect. This basically means your body will have to burn more energy to digest these foods.
For example, if you consumed 300 calories of steak, approximately 100 of those calories would be burnt in the digestion process. On the other hand, if you consumed 300 calories of bread, you would only burn around 30 calories through digestion (a big difference). Typically, the higher the protein content, the higher the thermal effect. On the other hand, fats and carbohydrates usually have a lower thermal effect; therefore, protein should always be a priority!
To give you more of an idea of the calories in nutrients, here is a quick overview:
Protein – 4 Calories per 1 gram
Carbohydrates – 4 Calories per 1 gram
Fats – 9 Calories per 1 gram
For example, Suppose you eat a meal with 30g of protein, 25g carbohydrate, and 25g of fat. In that case, your total calorific consumption for that meal is 445 calories. That will look something like the illustration below.
To get the very best out of nutrition and feel awesome whilst also losing weight, an excellent method to practice is to use a five key-point check and give a score for each point. This may be a little work for you to do, but this acts as a filter for each food and guarantees you're eating the best thing to achieve your goals. Apply this, and you'll never have to guess if food is good for you or not!
Here is an example of how you can do this. First, of course, you want to aim for green for as many points as possible:
Note: A better Bliss point score descends because a high bliss point means you will want to keep eating it, and you'll struggle to stop.
Now that you understand the methodology behind selecting your ideal foods, I have outlined your food lists and provided a no-go zone food group. I've split this into 3 categories:
Green – This needs to be at least 80% of your diet
Amber – This should only be 20% of your diet
Red – This needs to be avoided
As you can see, there are plenty of foods available to you. However, you need to put in some effort if you're not used to eating wholesome free-range farmed foods.
Now that you have a substantial list of foods to choose from start highlighting all the foods you like and cross off the ones you don't. This will narrow things down so you can focus on these as your prime ingredients for your meals.
If you're a cooking legend, then you're ready to start creating some awesome meals that taste great. However, suppose you're not much of a Gordon Ramsey. In that case, you can download my High Protein Recipe Book for some incredible meal ideas.
The recipe book has all the instructions, calories, and macronutrient ratios (protein, carbs, fats). There is also a barcode on each meal that you can scan with MyFitnessPal to record your intake whenever you eat them.
This recipe book will help you choose the right foods, eat great tasting meals, and hit your ideal nutrient targets. If you need to figure out your nutritional targets then download my free Fast Weight Loss Guidebook and follow the instructions.
Should you struggle to meet your protein requirement, you can use a Whey Protein supplement or, if you're vegan, use a rice or pea protein supplement. You can purchase these products from Amazon or your local Supermarket. Most supplements are the same, so there's no need to worry about which brand you decide to use.
So, start by throwing away all the highly processed foods in your home and get to work on the shopping list I've provided and use the score guide for future reference.
I hope this helps you, and I'd love to hear your thoughts or of your efforts in the comment section below if you make an effort to implement what I've given you!