What Are Empty Calories?

what are empty calories

“Don’t eat that, it’s just empty calories..”

But what are empty calories?

Today, I’ll explain what this phase means.

Heck, there’s nothing more frustrating than watching that guy or girl at your workplace sneer at your lunch choices and utter this immortal line as they tuck into their ninth bowl of fucking seeds and rice this week.

Sometimes, they’ll even raise their eyebrow in a bid to show you how superior they are.

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

empty calories

What Are Empty Calories?

No calories are literally “empty”.

If they were, there would be no harm in consuming them at all – if something contains zero calories, it cannot cause weight gain. Period.

Instead, the term empty calories is used to describe food made up of sugary carbohydrates.

You see, satiety – how full you feel – and sugar don’t play well together.

For example, a can of Coca-Cola will generally leave you craving food again relatively quickly, whereas a bowl of oats will keep you feeling full for hours.

This is despite the fact that our soda contains around 55 grams of carbohydrates and the oats only 30 grams.

Because while the oats are made up of complex, slow-release carbs as well as a dose of protein and fibre, the fizzy drink is just straight-up sugary carbs.

It’s offering you little-to-no nutritional value, merely 55 grams of sugar.

No protein, no fibre, nada.

Add to this the fact that our can of Coca-Cola will knock you back around 200 calories, and this is where the term empty calories comes from i.e. “you’ve just wasted 200 calories on something that’s not even going to fill you up.”

what are empty calories?
Anyone can enjoy a treat.

When Empty Calories Are Bad

Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to bow down like a little bitch and hail your resident know-it-all.

Nor does it mean you need to live like a rabbit or buy that fucking “juice cleanse detox pack” they’ve been selling to everybody at your office.

Far from it, in fact.

You see, providing you are able to reach your daily targets – calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates and fibre – there is absolutely no harm in enjoying some sugary treats along the way.

All of my clients do this.

Because the best diet is the one you can stick to.

what are empty calories

And while you sit there happily tucking into your can of soda or your Mars bar in the knowledge that you are still on track, your hardcore clean eating buddy over there will undoubtedly succumb to the curse of the extreme dieter.

Every few weeks, you’ll find them curled up in front of the fridge with jam smeared all over their naked body, or you’ll hear stories of a day of mass binge eating under the bullshit excuse of “I had a cheat day“.

Your diet shouldn’t be a constant battle against food that tastes like it just came out of a sawdust factory.

The only time these so-called “empty calories” are bad for you is when they push your targets off track.

Therefore, it makes sense to focus on nutritionally dense, fibrous foods as your primary food choices, only adding in any treats once you have ensured you’ve reached your goals for the day.


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