Ever thought you could eat several folds more food and actually speed up the rate at which you lose body fat and gain muscle mass? Well, welcome to energy density of foods. During the first part of this series, we covered what could happen to your metabolic rate after dieting hard for a long period of time. Not only will your metabolic rate decrease, but in severe case it can slow down drastically to the point that your caloric deficit becomes your maintenance calories. Meaning, the number of calories you used to eat to lose weight effectively has now become what you need to eat to maintain your weight. Luckily, permanent metabolic damage doesn’t exist and metabolic rate returns back to baseline levels after eating normally. However, your metabolic rate decreases but not because of permanent damage, but rather because of altered body composition.
For example: If your resting metabolic rate (RMR) at 200 lbs. and 20% body fat is 3000 calories a day and you lose 10% body fat and retain all your muscle mass, your new body composition would be 180 lbs. at 10% body fat. Your new resting metabolic rate (RMR) at your new body composition will obviously be lower than when you had originally started dieting. A 20 pounds’ difference will make a somewhat substantial difference in your metabolic rate. However, that change or decrease in metabolic rate is not due to some sort of metabolic damage.
With that out of the way, another often overlooked component of a diet is energy density. Energy density is the amount of energy in a gram of food. I covered energy density broadly in the satiety index article since they’re both correlated, but I did not go in detail as to how it can impact your fat loss endeavors.
Energy density of food
A picture speaks a thousand words!
As you can see in the picture above, you can consume 400 calories from the following food sources:
3.5 tablespoons of oil
150 grams of fried chicken
TONS of vegetables that will keep you full for plenty of time.
Granted that if you decide to consume 400 calories from oil, you will probably not be sate at all. 150 grams of fried chicken will somewhat fill you up and 400 calories from vegetables might keep you sate for the whole day if you can even manage to consume that much vegetables in one session.
What does this mean to you, the dieter?
This basically tells you to manage your food choices according to your caloric budget. You can practically eat MORE while dieting and lose more fat. If you base your diet plan on crappy energy dense food choices that provide little to no nutrients, you will often feel hungry and thus will feel more tempted to go over your caloric target and binge eat. So, for example, instead of eating a McChicken sandwich that has approximately 500 calories and provides little to no micronutrients and vitamins, you can substitute that with the following:
200 grams grilled chicken breast = 300 calories
500 grams of tomatoes = 90 calories
100 grams of lettuce = 15 calories
350 grams of strawberries = 105
Total = 510 calories!
That’s about 2.3 lbs. of food that is packed with protein, carbs, a bit of dietary fats and tons of essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that will all improve your health, performance and body composition. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the benefit of this combination of foods versus the McChicken sandwich.
This is merely what energy density is all about. No need to over-complicate the matter. The whole point of this article is to encourage you to base the majority of your diet plan on sensible food choices that will be much better for you than processed calorie dense foods. You will be able to eat several folds more food, improve your performance, lose more fat, build more muscle and enjoy every bit of it while rarely feeling hungry.