Those little nutrition facts boxes on the back of everything we consume certainly do get us thinking about the calories that we consume. You may use it to judge what to eat, what to purchase, and how big your serving size should be. But, the real baffler seems to be the "calories from fat" notation. What really is the difference between fat calories and other calories?
Fat contains 9 calories per gram. On the other hand, protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. That said, fat is twice as caloric as the other two components. But, don't stop there!
Fat is also easier to store than carbohydrates and protein. In other words, if you eat 100 calories more than you burn in a day, those 100 calories will be stored as fat. To do so, your body expels about 23 calories if those 100 calories are carbs. That said, 77 calories are stored as fat. To store 100 fat calories, your body only needs to use 2.5 calories. So, you are storing 97.5 calories as fat. Not such a good deal, however, only an issue if you are consuming more than you are burning.
Many people are under the misconception, then, that if they consume little or no fat, that that will solve the problem, however, fats and proteins are what keep you feeling full. Picture eating only fruit or vegetables with no fats. You probably have found that you feel hungry quickly. If your meal is balanced with some protein and fat, you generally feel fuller longer, even if the meal has the same caloric content as your fruit only meal. Various studies out there suggest that people who don't consume enough fat calories tend to eat more calories because they get hungry.
Needless to say, eating small fatty meals isn't the answer either. The general rule followed by body builders and athletes is the 40-40-20 rule. That's 40% of the diet (or meal) made up of protein calories, 40% from carbohydrates, and 20% from fat. This balance also aids in the breakdown of carbohydrates and fat and the absorption of protein and nutrients in the body.
The Bottom Line
When all is said and done, a calorie is a calorie. Cutting calories will induce weight loss, and eating more than your needed amount will cause weight gain. In that case, the best bet is to choose wisely. When you choose carbohydrates, make them whole grain, and get heart disease fighting power with them. Make your fats "good" fats, in other words, unsaturated fats, rather than saturated or trans fats, which have a negative effect on the body. Get some of those fat calories from omega-3 fatty acids, and protect yourself from certain cancers, heart disease and inflammation, among so many other things!
No matter if you go high-carb low-fat, or high-fat low-carb, as long as you are cutting calories, you can lose weight. Balance is the most important variable when you are cutting calories.