The Calorie Calamity
  1. Our body requires more energy to break down and assimilate protein when compared to the break down of carbs and fats (this is called the thermic effect of food). To put a numerical value to this term, research has demonstrated that about 25–30% of calories from dietary protein will be burned after consumption, in comparison to 2–3% for fats and 6–8% for carbohydrates (3,4). So in practice, if I were to eat 100 calories of protein, my body would burn 25 of the calories just through digestion and assimilation, whereas, if I were to eat 100 calories of fat or 100 calories of carbs, my body would only burn about 2.5 and 7 calories, respectively.
  2. Let’s say an individual is in caloric maintenance (think of this as a zero point; for example if they take in 1 calorie they would be in a +1 calorie surplus, and if they were to burn 1 calorie, they would be in a -1 calorie deficit). If this individual were to eat 100 kilocalories of pure protein compared to 100 kilocalories of pure carbohydrates, consumption of the protein would result in a lesser caloric surplus.
  3. Then let’s think of the flip side, what would happen if the individual decided to cut out 100 calories of carbs or 100 calories of protein from their daily caloric intake. Well you would actually be in a greater caloric deficit if you cut 100 calories of carbs, because the energy deficit you would gain from cutting 100 calories of protein would be negated by the energy saved from not having to digest and assimilate the protein.
  1. Lagakos, William. The poor, misunderstood calorie (p. 64). Unknown. Kindle Edition.



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Adam Plotkin

Adam Plotkin


Post-Baccalaureate research assistant in the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Lab at the National Institutes of Health