It's time for part 2 of Cracking the Calorie Code! When it comes to my own weight loss journey or helping my clients, calories is often a loaded or misunderstood topic.
In part 1 of this series, I defined what calories are and how they're taken in and burned by the body. (If you missed it, you can read it here)
Today, we're diving into an important concept for health and weight loss: "empty calories."
What Are Empty Calories?
Understanding Empty Calories:
Empty calories, the sneaky culprits of the nutrition world, refer to foods and drinks that provide energy to the body in the form of calories but offer little to no nutritional value.
In simpler terms, these are the foods that pack a caloric punch but bring very little to the nutritional table.
Examples of Empty Calories
Let's get specific. Empty calories often disguise themselves in the form of highly processed, refined, packaged and sugar-laden treats.
Think of sugary snacks like candy and pastries, sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks, fried foods, and certain processed snacks like chips and sugary cereals.
These items are calorie-rich but nutrient-poor
They deliver a quick energy boost but lack the protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function properly.
We call these "not so nutritionally dense" foods.
The Pitfall of Empty Calories:
While indulging in the occasional not so nutritionally dense food is perfectly fine, making these empty-calorie foods a main staple can pose a huge roadblock to your health and weight loss goals.
Increased cravings: Ghrelin is the hunger hormone, telling your brain when it's time to eat. High-sugar, low-nutrient diets can lead to an overproduction of ghrelin, making you feel hungry even when you don't need to eat
Fast digestion: Many empty-calorie foods are high in sugars and low in protein, fiber and healthy fats, which means they are digested quickly. This can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. To counteract this, the body releases insulin to regulate blood sugar. Over time, consistently high sugar intake can contribute to insulin resistance, a condition associated with weight gain.
Throwing off our body signals: Leptin is a hormone that signals to the brain that you've had enough to eat. Empty-calorie, high-sugar diets can lead to leptin resistance, where the brain doesn't receive the "fullness" signals as effectively. This can result in overeating and weight gain.
Now don't stress, we don't have to avoid empty calories all together but do need to be aware of their affects and how we can balance between nutrient dense foods. Don't worry, I explore what nutrient dense calories are and how you can start adding them to you nutrition without feeling overwhelmed in part 3 of this series.