Category: ‘Informational’

Week 12 – Types of Calories – Fats

June 18, 2016 Posted by The Weight Equation

If common nutrition thinking were a Hollywood movie, fat would be the villain, probably scheming along with complex carbohydrates, to keep us all overweight. Even though portraying fat as the villain is a great marketing tool to sell food, it is far from the truth. The truth is that fat is extremely misunderstood by the general public. For starters, the term ‘fat’ is not really appropriate. There is a disconnect between the biological definition of fat and how the term is used in nutrition. The biological definition of fat is a fatty acid that is solid at room temperature. If a fatty acid is liquid at room temperature it is referred to as an oil. However, in the nutrition world, and as far as the principles in The Weight Equation are concerned, both are considered ‘fats’ regardless of their state at room temperature.

As discussed above, the ‘term’ fat does not mean the same thing to a biologist as it does to a nutritionist. The biologically appropriate term for ‘fat’ is ‘lipid’. All fats are lipids, but not all lipids are fats as some lipids are oils. After this blog entry the term ‘fat’ will be used synonymously with the term ‘lipid’ as it is in the nutrition world.

Lipids serve three incredibly important functions in your body

1) They provide a medium to store energy
2) They form membranes around your body cells
3) They are used by your body to compose hormones and vitamins

The Weight Equation is primarily concerned with the first function listed above, but keep in mind that if your body fat percentage ever drops too low, you will start to have trouble producing hormones and vitamins and your cells will have difficulty maintaining their functions. A better discussion about body fat percentage will take place in a subsequent blog entry.

Fatty Acid Chains

If you’ve followed the blog up to this point you know that complex carbohydrate molecules are chains of hundreds of monosaccharides and Proteins are long chains of amino acids. Similarly, lipids are made by combining many fatty acid chains together. These fatty acid chains are typically 10-20 carbon atoms long and as seen below, they always have a carboxyl group at the end(C=O-OH). There are two types of fatty acids: saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids. You’ve probably heard the terms saturated and unsaturated fats before. Food labels even distinguish between the two. Have you ever wandered what the difference is?

Fatty Acid Chains

Notice the two extra hydrogen atoms in the saturated fatty acid chain. This is where the name comes from. The chain is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. Saturated fatty acid chains are solid at room temperature and referred to as ‘fats’ while unsaturated fatty acid chains are liquid at room temperature and referred to as oils. As shown above, unsaturated fatty acid chains have a double bonded carbon in the middle taking the place of two hydrogen atoms. This double bond twists the chain enough so that unsaturated chains have a difficult time getting close together and therefore act like a fluid. The saturated chains are straighter because there isn’t a double bond and they can get closer to one another and stick together, acting like a solid at room temperature. When fatty acids are metabolized, your body breaks apart the many energy rich C-H bonds in the chain.

Ever heard the term, ‘Omega-3 Fatty Acid’? If you pay attention to nutrition at all, I’m sure you have! High amounts of it are found in nuts and fish oils AND according to the latest Stanford study, it’s GREAT for you. Have you ever wondered what the heck it actually is though? Of course not, I’m the only weird guy who is curious about these things right?!? Well just in case I’ve piqued your interest, an Omega-3 Fatty Acid is simply an unsaturated fatty acid chain with the first double-bonded carbon atom three spots from the end of the chain. The position of 3rd from the end is where the name Omega-3 is derived. What position is the double-bonded carbon in the unsaturated fatty acid chain pictured above? You earned extra points if you answered “8th position” out loud with no one else around 😉 The fatty acid chain shown above is an Omega-8 Fatty Acid. Now you know, and knowing is half the….well you’re probably to young to remember the rest of that line anyway.


Triglycerides are another chemical you’ve probably heard of but never really understood exactly what it was. This chemical is extremely important to The Weight Equation as this is the chemical your body produces to store energy. In other words triglycerides are body fat. Most people using The Weight Equation are working towards a lower body fat percentage and the goal is to break up and metabolize a large percentage of the triglyceride molecules located in cells all over your body. The specific location of triglyceride storage in your body is genetically predetermined. Typically, triglyceride storage is concentrated in the abdominal area for men and the hip area for women. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do, short of surgery, to target a specific area for breaking up triglyceride molecules. When your body needs to tap its energy reserves(IE you require more calories than you’ve consumed), it breaks up triglyceride molecules equally from all cells in the body that store them. This process is known as ketosis and if you’re trying to reduce your body fat percentage, ketosis is the goal.

When your body takes in more calories than it burns it creates, or synthesizes, triglyceride molecules by combining a glycerol molecule(shown below) with three individual saturated fatty acid chains(shown above). The “tri” in triglyceride comes from the “three” saturated fatty acid chains linked together by the glycerol molecule. This process is illustrated below. As you can see, three H2O(water) molecules are released in this process which is called dehydration synthesis.

Triglyceride Synthesis


I won’t spend a lot of time discussing phospholipids because they are not a factor in The Weight Equation but they are very interesting. Phospholipids serve the other two functions of fats in the body: They compose cell membranes and are used in the production of hormones and vitamins. Phospholipids are structurally similar to triglycerides except one of the fatty acid chains is replaced by a chemical containing phosphate, which is where it gets the prefix “Phospho”.

Common foods with high amounts of fat are:

Vegetable Oil
Certain Cuts of Meat

The most important thing to know about protein when applying The Weight Equation is:

1 gram of protein contains 9 calories


Please enjoy the powerful information I am sharing in this blog but remember that I am NOT a nutritionist or a professional. I am simply passionate about the subject. Please consult with your doctor and nutritionist before implementing any diet

Week 10 – Types of Calories – Protein

November 26, 2015 Posted by The Weight Equation

Proteins are the “sexy” calorie source and they have a huge responsibility in the body. They are the building blocks of muscles and perform important functions at the cellular level as enzymes breaking down chemicals into other chemicals. Proteins are essential for bodily functions such as metabolism, hormone production and utilization, memory, and movement. Protein’s primary function is not to provide the body with energy but it can serve that purpose if no other energy source is present. Just like saccharides are combined into long chains to form complex carbohydrates, amino acids are combined into long chains to form proteins.

Amino Acids

Hopefully now you realize that amino acid molecules make up proteins and proteins make up muscles in your body. There are many different amino acids but only 20 of them are needed to compose muscle. Of these 20 amino acids, 8 of them are considered essential amino acids. These 8 amino acids are very important because your body cannot synthesize them by itself and must obtain them in their original form from your diet. This concept is especially important to understand if you are attempting to build muscle on a vegan or vegetarian diet because it can be quite difficult to get the correct combinations of the 8 essential acids without eating meat. As mentioned earlier the other 12 amino acids still need to be in your diet to build muscles, but if you have too much of one, your body can convert it into a different one that it doesn’t have enough of.

The chemical formula of an amino acid is H2NCHRCOOH
Amino Acid

Notice that the structure is similar to a simple carbohydrate in that is contains carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen in the same ratio. The difference is that it has a nitrogen atom and an R. The Nitrogen atom can become a problem for people with too much protein in their diet because when protein is broken down for energy, or converted into fat, the nitrogen becomes free and has to be filtered out by your body. Excess free nitrogen in your body is toxic and your body must work particularly hard to remove them. This problem will be discussed greater in future blog entries.

If you’ve taken chemistry in high school you might realize that R is not symbol in the periodic chart of elements. Your observation is correct. R does not represent an atom but actually represents a group of atoms known as the R-Group. Every amino acid has the H2NCHCOOH atoms arranged in exactly the same way, the only thing that differentiates amino acids is the group of atoms at the R position. All 20 different amino acids found in proteins have a different R-Group which makes it act differently in the body and perform different functions.

The chemical formula for Tryptophan(shown below) is: C11H11N2O2


One famous amino acid is the one shown above…Tryptophan is commonly blamed making people tired after a huge Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid thus it is found in all meats so next time you’re tired after Thanksgiving dinner it’s probably not becuase of the turkey but rather that you ate too much turkey! Notice that the Tryptophan molecule has a Carbon atom, a Hydrogen atom, a Carboxyl Group(CO2H), an Amino Group(NH2), and an R-Group just like all other amino acids. Tryptophan’s R-Group happens to have a unique chemical formula of C9H8N. Your body puts together Tryptophan and the other 19 amino acids in different combinations to make proteins which build and maintain muscle tissue. Muscle mass is an important part of the weight equation because it has a very significant impact on your basal metabolic rate, which will be discussed in a later blog entry.

Here is a 3-Dimensional example of a protein(the enzyme Hexokinase) containing many different amino acids connected in many different ways. Like all proteins, this extremely unique protein serves an extremely unique purpose in the body.


Common foods with high amounts of protein are:


The most important thing to know about protein when applying The Weight Equation is:

1 gram of protein contains 4 calories


Please enjoy the powerful information I am sharing in this blog but remember that I am NOT a nutritionist or a professional. I am simply passionate about the subject. Please consult with your doctor and nutritionist before implementing any diet.

Week 09 – Types of Calories – Carbohydrates

October 6, 2015 Posted by The Weight Equation

Carbohydrates are the most important source of calories. Carbohydrates get their name because they are carbon atoms(carbo) attached to water molecules(hydrates). Carbohydrates, are the number one source of energy for the body and are absolutely pivotal for the body to function. Carbohydrates are separated into two groups, simple and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrate molecules are made up of many simple carbohydrate molecules fused together in a long chain. You must understand the difference between the two types of carbohydrates to understand how your body weight is impacted by the foods you eat.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are often referred to as sugars or saccharides. They are the most basic chemicals your body uses for energy. Your body has to break down most foods in order to use them for energy but simple carbohydrates already have the correct chemical structure for your body to use right away. Simple carbohydrates are made up of two different types of chemicals; monosaccharides and disaccharides.


Here are two important monosaccharides:

Glucose: C6H12O6

Fructose: C6H12O6


Notice they have the same chemical formula, 6 carbon atoms attached to 6 water molecules, but they have different chemical structures. The differing chemical structure is important because the body processes each a little differently. Two chemicals with identical chemical formulas but differing molecular structures are called Isomers.


As you may have guessed, disaccharides are made by combining two saccharides together. A common example of a disaccharide is made by combining a glucose molecule with a fructose molecule. This new molecule is called sucrose. Sucrose is common table sugar.

Sucrose: C12H24O12


Your body derives energy from these chemicals by breathing in oxygen, oxidizing the C6H12O6 chemical, breaking off the water molecules, and adding Oxygen atoms to the carbon atoms to form carbon dioxide, CO2, which is then exhaled as you breathe. Oxidizing the C6H12O6 gives off energy much like oxidizing, or burning, firewood gives off heat. So really your body is just like a furnace. It literally burns food to produce energy. This is where the phrase “burning calories” during a workout comes from.

The chemical reaction described above is written as follows:
C6H12O6 + 6O2 = 6CO2 + 6H2O + Energy

1 glucose molecule plus 6 Oxygen molecules is converted to 6 carbon dioxide molecules and 6 water molecules while giving off energy.

Common foods with high amounts of simple carbohydrates include:

Sports Drinks
Table Sugar

Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are known as polysaccharides and are typically made by combining hundreds of simple carbohydrates into long chains called polymers. Your body has to break apart the chains to free up the monosaccharide molecule before it can use the energy. This process takes a while, so unlike simple carbohydrates, the energy is not immediately available to your body. Complex carbohydrates get a bad rap in the nutrition community but they are an absolutely essential part of your diet if you wish to have the highest resting metabolism possible. We will get there but for know you just need to understand what a complex carbohydrate is.

This is an example of the most important complex carbohydrate, Glycogen. Glycogen will be discussed in more detail in Week 20 – Glycogen and Your Muscles. As you can see below Glycogen consist of many C6H10O5 molecules attached in long chains.


Common foods with high amounts of complex carbohydrates include:


The most important thing to know about carbohydrates when applying The Weight Equation is:

1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories


Please enjoy the powerful information I am sharing in this blog but remember that I am NOT a nutritionist or a professional. I am simply passionate about the subject. Please consult with your doctor and nutritionist before implementing any diet.

Week 08 – Types of Calories – Alcohol

September 27, 2015 Posted by The Weight Equation

There are four types of calories your body can use for energy. These are known as macronutrients. In order of chemical complexity, the four macronutrients are alcohols, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The chemical complexity of food sources is important because the more complex the structure is, the longer it takes the body to break it down to a chemical it can use. I will devote the next few blogs to the four types of calories starting here with alcohols.

Alcohol is often a forgotten and misunderstood source of calories. I chose to present alcohol first because it has the simplest chemical formula and starts to be metabolized by your body faster than any other calorie source. Alcohol is first absorbed into your bloodstream the moment it hits your tongue! Your liver then produces enzymes that reacts with the alcohol molecule and break it down into acetaldehyde, which is a poison.

All alcoholic beverages are created by letting yeast feed on carbohydrates. A byproduct of yeast’s interaction with carbohydrates is ethanol fermentation. The same process also enables bread to rise because the chemical reaction gives off carbon dioxide as well as ethanol.

Brandy and Wine = Yeast + Fruit sugars
Whiskey and Beer = Yeast + Grain sugars
Rum = Yeast + Cane sugars
Vodka = Yeast + Potato sugars

Ethanol or Ethyl Alcohol Chemical Structure: C2H5OH
acohol structure

The most important thing to know about alcohol when applying The Weight Equation is:

1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories


Please enjoy the powerful information I am sharing in this blog but remember that I am NOT a nutritionist or a professional. I am simply passionate about the subject. Please consult with your doctor and nutritionist before implementing any diet.

Week 06 – What is a Calorie?

September 13, 2015 Posted by The Weight Equation

TWEScale2What is a calorie? Since I’ve already repeated numerous times that calories are the most important factor in The Weight Equation, it is pivotal that you understand what a calorie actually is. If you’ve ever looked into nutrition at all you’ve no doubt heard of calories but have you ever thought about what a calorie is? A calorie is a way to measure energy. 1 calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius. If you’ re a Physics nerd you may be interested to know that 1 calorie also equals 4.19 Joules.

Many people don’t realize that calorie contents you find on food labels are actually kilocalories. When you drink a can of soda, you may think it has 150 calories in it, but in reality it has 150 kilocalories or 150,000 calories. That can of soda has enough energy in it to raise the temperature of 150,000 grams of water 1 degree Celsius or raise the temperature of 150 kilograms of water 1 degree Celsius. For the purposes of this blog I will use the term calorie but keep in mind that in reality it is a kilocalorie.

I’m sure you’ve read the calorie content on a food label before but have you ever wondered how the amount of calories in different foods are determined? The foods are actually burned in a laboratory and water is heated up. The calorie content of the particular food in question is determined by how many degrees the water was heated up.

In this You Tube video high school students are demonstrating how to determine the calorie content of a nut:

Now that you know what a calorie is let’s find out what four sources your body can extract calories from to use for energy.

Please enjoy the powerful information I am sharing in this blog but remember that I am NOT a nutritionist or a professional. I am simply passionate about the subject. Please consult with your doctor and nutritionist before implementing any diet

Week 05 – The Mass Balance

September 6, 2015 Posted by The Weight Equation

TWEScale2As I briefly mentioned in Week 01 – Introduction, a mass balance equation is used to describe the relationship between something entering a system and something leaving. They are used in endless real world applications by a number of different people including scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to name a few. Mass balance equations can be used to describe whether an object will heat up or cool off depending on the heat entering and leaving the object. They can predict if a reservoir, or a lake, will have enough water to supply a city based on runoff water going into the lake, evaporation, and water demand by the city. They can also predict the amount of a pharmaceutical drug that builds up in your body based on the rate of consumption and excretion.

What other group of people use the mass balance equation??? You guessed it, nutritionists use mass balance to determine whether a person will gain or lose weight. This is science and just like gravity, everyone’s body plays by the same rules. This entire blog is based on the beautifully simple concept that if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, calories are the only factor in the equation and it doesn’t matter what foods you derive those calories from. Our bodies are truly miraculous in their ability to use and store energy for future use and the way they do that is remarkably predictable using the mass balance concept. Not only are our bodies remarkably predictable they are also extremely consistent from person to person.

A great way to imagine this concept is to think about your body being a water balloon. When you wrap the balloon around a garden hose nozzle and turn the hose on, the balloon gets bigger as it fills up with water right? Now what happens if you poke a small hole in the other side of the balloon? A small amount of water shoots out the hole. The balloon still gets bigger but not as fast because now some of the water is leaving the balloon though the hole that was poked in it. This is the same thing that happens when someone eats more calories than they burn. Calories come in faster through the “garden hose” than they leave through the “poked hole” and the person gets fatter. If you poke a lot more holes in the water balloon so the same amount of water is coming out that is going in, the balloon will stop getting any bigger. Of course you could poke even more holes in the balloon and the rate of water leaving the balloon would exceed the amount entering it and the balloon would actually start getting smaller. .

If you’ve wrapped your head around this concept you’re ready to learn about different types of calories and where you get them from.

Please enjoy the powerful information I am sharing in this blog but remember that I am NOT a nutritionist or a professional. I am simply passionate about the subject. Please consult with your doctor and nutritionist before implementing any diet