The caloric density of food is something that has a huge effect on our body weight, yet very few people understand what it is, much less the importance of it. I want to teach you how to use caloric density as a tool to control your bodyweight much more easily.
Caloric density is the number of calories per gram of a food. Foods with a high caloric density contain a lot of calories in a very small volume of food. Examples of this would be meat (850 calories per pound) and oil (4,000 calories per pound). Foods with a low caloric density have very few calories in a higher volume of food. The prime example of this would be vegetables which contain somewhere between 60 and 200 calories per pound. All other foods fall somewhere in between. You can see that this is a pretty extreme difference from one end of the scale to the other.
Now you should know that the most important contributor to whether you gain, maintain, or lose weight is your net calories.
Net Calorie Equation:
Calories Consumed- Calories Expended= Net Calories
If your net calories consistently comes out to a positive number you will gain weight, and if it is negative you will lose weight. So if this is the case does it matter where you get your calories so long as you eat the right number? Well, no. Technically you could get all of your calories from oil, and so long as it was less calories than you are burning you will, in fact, lose weight. But how awful does that sound? Like I said earlier, it is a tool to help make weight management much easier.
So how does it work? Well look at the example in the previous paragraph. If you want to lose weight and are burning 2,000 calories per day, you would have to consume less than that. If you don’t take caloric density into account you may eat 1,500 calories of oil every day. This would equate to drinking around 8 cups of oil (gross). Do you think you would be satisfied at the end of the day, or go to bed starving? On the other hand, if you ate 1,500 calories of broccoli, you would have to eat 50 cups. If you were even able to finish that in a day, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be hungry after.
Our bodies react to volumes of food much more than calories. Our stomach is full when we eat a large quantity of food, regardless of if it contained a lot or very few calories. We can use this idea to eat the right foods to hit both our calorie goal and feel satisfied at the end of the day. When trying to lose weight, it is extremely beneficial to eat foods with a low caloric density such as fruits and vegetables. These foods will fill you up quickly without racking up a ton of calories. This will allow you to eat in a caloric deficit without feeling miserably hungry. On the other hand, if you are trying to gain weight, you may want to opt for foods with a higher caloric density. This will allow you to get all of the calories you need to eat in a surplus, without feel uncomfortably full all of the time.
Now of course I’m not recommending you eat all veggies or all oil. You should definitely be eating a variety of foods, and be making sure you hit your macros. What I am recommending, though, is when you are hitting the proper calories and macros, if you are still feeling hungry opt for less calorically dense foods, and if you’re feeling too full choose more calorically dense foods. Making these adjustments will make for a much less miserable time cutting or bulking.
For help dialing in your nutrition for your goals check out our nutrition guide or nutrition coaching HERE !