Are All Calories Equal?

Are all calories equal?

In recent times the popularity of the extreme “IIFYM” method of eating has created the idea that eating is as simple as hitting calorie and macronutrient targets, regardless of the quality of the food. The initial idea of this approach and concept has unfortunately been abused and its positive use has been brushed aside.

We all know at this stage that when it comes to body composition, calories matter. However the extremes of IIFYM has created the idea of being able to have a diet that is full of high sugar foods such as pop tarts, cereals and jelly sweets as long as you still hit your protein, carb and fat goals. What then goes hand in hand with doing this is people stop consuming nutrient dense foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit as they have “used up” their macros and calories on higher sugar food types such as the ones stated above.

Yes, you can lose weight eating the above foods and most likely stay in decent shape, but is that all that matters? Are calories all the same? In my opinion… no.


Well what about your health? If you eat 200kcal of pop tarts and 200kcal of vegetables, both are the same level of calorie intake to meet your targets – but they will have a completely different effect on how you feel, look and perform. Calories matter, but NUTRIENT QUALITY also matters. Having high sugar foods will not have a positive impact at a cellular level or a digestive level and you are only as good as the nutrients you can absorb and use. Yeah you have stay under your calorie goals, but you are also on your way to becoming a self inflicted diabetic. Most adults don’t get enough nutrients as it is and eat less fruit and veg then their kids must of the time, adding the abuse of MyFitnessPal to binge on foods with terrible nutrient quality is not the best approach.

What about your energy levels? Your digestion and bloating? Your sleep quality? Your blood glucose levels? Your satiety and fulness levels when dieting? Your mood?

These are all impacted by the quality of your nutrition. Yes calories are what matters, but all calories are not the same and they do not offer the same benefit. The actual “IIFYM” or “If It Fits Your Macros” approach was designed so that people could eat out with friends when needed, or eat something “indulgent” while staying on plan AFTER they have hit all their protein and nutrient targets – AFTER they have eaten vegetables, fruit and other nutrient dense foods. It is designed to create a sustainable positive relationship with food that goes hand in hand with eating for health. It is eating in a manner that prioritises health combined with the ability to fit in something “nicer” from time to time when needed. This can apply to social events or doing things with the people closest to you which doesn’t happen on a daily basis. This is how you eat like a grown up who wants to be healthy, but also has a grown up social life and positive relationship with food.

It is not a reason to eat like a child in a sweet shop. Prioritise food quality. You will look, feel and perform better across the board. Your physique, your mood, your energy levels and your quality of life as you age will all come down to quality of care you have for your body now. Give it the nutrients it needs, train hard with weights, stay aerobically fit and be able to chill out and stay stress free when needed. If you want to progress in the gym, or in anything you want to do then ticking the above boxes is necessary.

Start eating for a purpose. Eat for health and enjoyment. Eat using logic, using discipline when needed and eat to achieve your goals. Be in control of food, don’t let it control you.