It’s Calories In Calories Out…or Is it?

Last night was a good night in this household! After finishing up some laundry and cleaning, I got to set on making us one of my absolute favorite dinners:


Fish tacos made with a chili-lime rub, with a cilantro lime cream sauce (made with Greek yogurt) and guacamole.


I dearly wish I could take credit for this recipe, but any time I make fish tacos, I bust out Eating Well’s recipe. The only thing I change up is that I cook tilapia in a pan on the stove.


Oh, and I also had a few Red Hot Blues and more guac Winking smile

So yummy (and so stuffed) that I didn’t even need a dessert last night. I think if I had to choose a diet consisting of 5 meals, this would be one of them. Luckily, I don’t have to make that choice, as variety in a diet is good, and limitations are well, limiting. Speaking of limitations…

Is a Calorie Just a Calorie?

The other day I received an email from a reader asking a weight-related questions. “Jesse” (that’s not her real name…but for anonymity purposes and what not) is basically frustrated because she’s just not seeming to be able to drop any weight, despite her best efforts. However, her reasoning was all about one thing: calories.

It’s all about calories in calories out, right? Well, maybe not.

Ultimately, yes, when we eat more calories than we’re burning, we gain weight. When we eat less than we burn, we lose. However, what type of calories we eat and when can influence our hormonal and metabolic rate. Basically, what and when we eat can help our metabolic engines burn its fuel more efficiently. Through a lot of research and nutritional continuing education courses for my sports nutritionist cert, I’ve learned a lot about our metabolisms and how foods affect it – some if it even conflicting – and have deduced what I believe and have seen to work best for certain people.

You guys know I’m constantly scouring resources to try and find more current information. The other day I came across an article through ACE Certified News about a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association that found the type of food we eat has a strong effect on the amount of daily calories we burn.


The researchers studied three types of diets: low fat, low carb, and low glycemic.

  • The Low Fat Diet focused on fruits, veggies, and  whole grains with a carb to fat to protein ratio of 60/20/20
  • The Low Carb Diet resembled that of the Atkins Diet, and followed a 10/60/30 ratio of carbs/fat/protein
  • The Low Glycemic Diet, like the low fat diet, emphasized fruits, veggies, and minimally processed grains, but also focused on a hefty amount of health fats, with a ratio of 40/40/20

After the researchers (New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital) followed 21 male and female subjects, age 18-40, for four weeks, closely measuring activity levels, insulin levels, and other data, can you guess which diet provided the biggest stimulation in metabolism?

Low-Carb!…but don’t go cutting carbs out  just yet. The researchers also found an increased amount of cortisol in this diet, which has several detrimental effects, such as inflammation and possible increased risk of heart disease.

The Low glycemic diet, however, also resulted in an increased metabolism, but without the negative effects of the low carb diet.

The researchers found the the low-fat diet did not increase metabolism (in fact, decreased it) while also providing an increased risk of insulin resistance.

Pretty interesting right? So, just as we thought, a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, minimally processed grains, protein, and healthy fat is the way to go Winking smile

Well this morning’s agenda is pretty up in the air for me. I have a long day, but it doesn’t start for another couple hours, so I may try to squeeze in a Niko walk and some yoga. Yeah…that sounds pretty good Smile Have a great day, my friends!

Have you ever followed a certain diet (atkins, low fat, paleo, etc)?

I don’t, nor do I program them for my nutritional/meal planning clients (unless specifically ask for it – i.e. vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.)  Any type of diet that severely limits or restricts a food group is no bueno in my book!

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  1. Great post Paige!! I read about this study a while back and found it super interesting! I am a big believer that the quality of foods we are eating will affect not only our weight loss but more importantly how we feel! Sure you could lose weight eating 1200 calories of twinkies per day, which I would never ever recommend, but you would feel like crap and probably be foggy and dizzy from the low calories and the sugar! Weight loss yes, healthy, no!
    Danielle (@CleanFoodCreativeFitness) recently posted..Iced Oatmeal Raisin Cookie G Free “Z bars” Round two!!!My Profile

  2. Good gosh I agree. Until I finalllly found a way of eating which worked for me I, too, was one who thought a calorie is a calorie is a CALORIE.
    Miz recently posted..My hips dont lie…My Profile

  3. That’s a pretty interesting study! My father-in-law just started a new diet that I think is similar to Atkins. I’ve never done a diet like that, nor could I. I like being able to have a little bit of everything!
    Erica @ For the Sake of Cake recently posted..The Return of Meatless MondayMy Profile

  4. I’ve always been a firm believer in well-rounded. Our bodies need carbs, protein, fats but not just all of one or the other of course. I think people are typically just looking for a quick fix rather than an overall lifestyle change.

  5. I generally follow a lower carb, higher protein diet. I’m not uberly strict on that. I just find that most of the carbs I was eating were pastries and desserts…not good carbs like fruit and veggies.
    wishandwhimsy recently posted..Foodie Penpal July Reveal & A {BIG} FavorMy Profile

  6. I’m not overly strict on a diet, but I need to get more veggies in my life! Moving and not grocery shopping is killing me!
    Laurie @ Love, Laugh, Laurie recently posted..July Foodie Pen PalMy Profile

  7. I don’t follow any sort of diet. I just aim to eat a well balanced diet making sure I properly fuel my body with protein, veggies/fruits, carbs and healthy fats and of course sweet treats make their apperance!

  8. When I actually try to structure my eating, I’m more about cutting out the sugar. It’s all about avoiding the “sugar crash” and upping the workout motivation for me. Cutting carbs would be the death of me. :)
    Amy @ Second City Randomness recently posted..A Lady Who LunchesMy Profile

  9. I think this is really interesting, Paige. I definitely believe that the whole calories in, calories out for weight loss isn’t the best way to do it. It’s all about the quality of the food. I’m a big believer in moderation, and any diet that limits one type of food group isn’t the best. “Carbs” come in so many forms, it’s all about choosing the right forms.
    Sarah @ Blonde Bostonian recently posted..Scenes From the MoveMy Profile

  10. Those fish tacos sound SOOOO good! I haven’t made fish tacos in forever. I don’t know how I forgot about them. I’m going to plan on adding them to the menu next week! 😉

    Very interesting about the calories. I’ve never done any crazy diets, but I have restricted calories and carbs in the past. Bad idea!
    Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries recently posted..Beating the Treadmill Boredom BluesMy Profile

  11. I’m pretty sure I could go on and on for days about this. The hard part about how we eat is that we are all different and we all require different nutrient sources. I am shocked at how many of my fitness nutrition clients log their meals into apps focusing on far too few calories. Everyone seems to think 1200 calories is a magic number for all of them to lose weight. I would have guessed the low glycemic diet for the win on this one, but I think that one focuses on a way more well rounded diet to begin with. Also, for those that are including regular exercise, as your body changes, your nutritional requirements change (including calories). Great post Paige!
    Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) recently posted..Crazy Week and Beanfields’ Chip Winner!My Profile

  12. Right now carbs are my life as I train for a half marathon in september. Although I don’t follow a specific diet, I do try to eat differently on days before I have a long run (less fiber) or days when I train hard (more protein).
    Alysha @Shesontherun recently posted..West Bend Home Canning Kit Giveaway Winner!My Profile

  13. I don’t follow a diet either, too complicated. But fish tacos are def a part of it, so good!

  14. That study sounds really interesting! I don’t follow a diet. They are just wayyyy too restrictive for me haha. I just try to eat healthy foods and balance things out!
    In Sweetness and In Health recently posted..Smoothie and MusicMy Profile

  15. Excellent point! While the amount of calories is totally important to weight loss/weight maintenance, the quality of the calorie is ALSO very important IMHO. I also agree that it basically comes down to good balance – lots of greens, fruits, COLOR in your diet, plus proteins and healthy fats. Nothing crazy right?
    Jess recently posted..Drop back weeks are awesomeMy Profile

  16. I think I’ve tried every single diet out there except low carb. I’ve never believed in the whole low carb thing.
    But surprise, surprise, none of the diets worked. The only thing that has ever worked for me is just eating sensibly.
    Leah @ Why Deprive? recently posted..RealizationsMy Profile

  17. Oh man does that dinner look delicious!! I’m not a fish fan, but I bet it would be fan with chicken!
    This was such a great post. And such an interesting topic. I have definitely done the whole restriction thing, obviously as I had an eating disorder in the past. So I’m trying really hard right now to just focus on quality foods (with some indulgences) Definitely agree with what you stated.
    Lisa recently posted..When Healthy Becomes UnhealthyMy Profile

  18. I want those fish tacos! They look so good! And I’m a huge sucker for a chili-lime rub.

    As for following a specific diet – in my teens and early twenties I would sometimes fall vicitim to the latest diet-craze. I never stuck with anything very long or had long-lasting results though (duh). I did see that study highlighted on the Today Show a few weeks ago and found it pretty interesting. It obviously has a lot of scientific weight to it but I’ve found the thing that works best for me is eating whole, quality foods as often as I can (80%) and indulging when appropiate (20%). I’m going to keep working that angle till it stops working for me. 😉
    Molly @ Hungry Hungry Runner recently posted..A Little HeatMy Profile

  19. you are spot on! i love that you can back that up too. We are made for balance diet. Not too low, not too high, just happy medium!
    cottercrunch recently posted..Asheville SmilesMy Profile

  20. It’s nice to know that all foods are important, and it’s not about cutting out whatever is the fad. Maybe minimizing some fat/etc. but not worrying about “carb” versus “protein” as much.
    Aly recently posted..Chocolate Oatmeal CookiesMy Profile

  21. Those tacos look awesome!! I have never done low carb, but I did have to do low fat after I had my gallbladder out… not good! I was constantly hungry!
    Brittany @ Delights and Delectables recently posted..Scenes from NashvilleMy Profile

  22. I stopped trying to follow any kind of plan and started just focusing on eating more veggies at every meal…that helped me in general shift the focus of food to a healthier way of thinking
    Amanda @RunToTheFinish recently posted..Eat Clean 30 Kick Off: August ChallengeMy Profile

  23. I am so glad you posted this & couldn’t agree more. Quality of what we are eating is so important. The biggest factor for me, calories aside, is HOW I FEEL when I eat well vs. eating crap. Mentally alone, I feel sluggish, gross, and just want to sleep. When I am eating my healthy, clean, and quality food, the world is my b*tch, ha. I feel like I can accomplish ANYTHING just by eating/fueling myself appropriately. This was a great post and I hope a huge eye opener to a lot of people out there. You rock, Paige!
    Eva @ committed2nutrition recently posted..My Very First WIAW!My Profile

  24. I have done low carb, paleo, keto … and guess what I have always come back to that is now my lifestyle? Healthy clean, whole foods eating with minimal sugars, lots of protein, a good amount of complex carbs, and a good amount of healthy fat. And it works. What you described as the low glycemic diet is similar to my lifestyle, and it absolutely works and it makes me feel great! LOVE this post lady! And love that you got your sports nutrition cert!! 😀
    Electra @ Vanilla Bean Lean recently posted..What I Eat During My 12 Hour Shifts in the ERMy Profile

  25. Thanks Paige! That really helps a lot! What, specifically, are “low processed” grains? The grains I eat are usually rice, couscous—>(I love this one, but I have a feeling that its processed. Its the Near East kinds), and some quinoa. I guess I should google a list of foods that are low on the glycemic index. PS. Have you ever heard of the NuVal scoring system? I was just reading about it (it basically rates foods from 1(worst)-100(best) based on nutritional value. I’m pretty sure it revolves around that food’s glycemic index. Anyways, Meijer put it in all their stores. I wish all stores would do that! It helps people who don’t know too much about, say for example, which whole wheat bread is better, etc.

  26. I follow an extremely low carb diet (even more restrictive than PALEO), although I don’t count carbs or calories, I just watch what I eat… Seems to work for me though, which ROCKS because I love all the foods I eat! :) I truly believe every calorie is different!!
    GiGi Eats Celebrities recently posted..Tricks For Those Halloween TreatsMy Profile


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