Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When a Pound is not a Pound:

Sometimes, it’s 1 pound, plus 1/6. Sometimes, it’s 2.6 pounds.

If you’re not interested in being as obese as the average American, you’ve probably heard that it takes about 3500 calories to make a pound, so a 500 calorie deficit per day will lead you to lose about a pound a week, and the reverse.

I’d always been opposed to the nonsense of moneymakin’ fad diets, like the ever-infamous Atkins program, instead preferring to believe that life was simpler, that a calorie was a calorie and a pound was a pound, regardless of what its source is.

That may not be entirely correct. Reading a book on cycling training (Performance Cycling, David Morris, Ragged Mountain Press, 2003), the section on nutrition describes the differences between the way the body metabolizes fat and carbohydrate. Apparently, the actual number of calories (kilocalories, more accurately) in a pound is 3600, but that’s only for fat. For carbohydrate, the process is a bit more complicated, as sugar must be metabolically converted to fat before being stored in adipose tissue (“fat cells”). This isn’t a perfectly efficient conversion, says Morris, which I should’ve thought of. It takes about 4200 calories of sugars to become a pound of fat.

Woah, woah, stop the bus. You’re telling me that I can eat MORE carbs than fats, for the same weight effects?

Yeah, pretty much. And of course you know fat has more than double the calories by weight that sugar does – 9 compared to 4. So 400 grams of excess dietary fat will lead to a pound of weight gain, which is pretty efficient, since it’s 454 grams to a pound and all. But for sugars, you can consume over a kilo of it – 1050 gm, to be exact – to have the same effect.

Take that, low-carbers. Sometimes, a pound is not a pound.

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