What is Dietary Compensation and Why it May be More Important Than Calories in Foods

  • By Fahad Ahmad
  • In Blurbs

What is Dietary Compensation and Why it May be More Important Than Calories in Foods

When you are at a grocery store and looking at food labels, you will most likely flip it around and look at the calories and the ingredients of the food. What those two things don't clearly indicate is how they will influence your fat loss or body recomposition goals. This is where dietary compensation becomes very relevant but at the same time is not as easily measured.


The dietary compensation of a food, in simple terms, is described as the ability of a food's caloric value to be compensated by a reduction of energy intake in the future. A food is fully "compensated" when what you ate led you to consume less calories later and leading to no extra energy intake, leading to a state of net energy balance.


The practical implications of such a concept are huge. Though the term is very general, it takes into account other factors that can influence the ability of a food item to help you or be counterproductive to your body recomposition goals. For instance, we know foods such as nuts which are considered to be high in calories have a very high dietary compensation(1). Then you have other factors such as the form of food and we know that milk has a "weak" dietary compensation and favors a positive energy balance compared to cheese, even when matched for calories and water content(2). Interestingly, protein shakes, part of many fat loss and muscle gain diets, favor a positive energy balance or have low dietary compensation(3), making them counterproductive to most people's goals.


A practical takeaway here is to be not afraid of foods that are high in calories but are eventually compensated by a reduction in energy intake later in the day. It could be paradoxically true if something that is very high in calories but may favor fat loss because of how the food is structured or composed. We will discuss this more in our membership section and our courses while applying these concepts to our products as well and explaining why several foods on "low carb" and "ketogenic" diets may result in fat loss despite being higher in calories.


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Fahad is the founder of Ketogeek and hosts the Ketogeek Podcast, a world class health show about food, nutrition and health. He is into resistance training, Ashtanga yoga, calisthenics and various forms of training styles. Armed with a idealistic goals distilled in a world of realism, his goal is to help the world make a better place. He leads a life of extreme generalism or as he describes it, 'The Renaissance Lifestyle'.


It never ceases to amaze me how prosaic, pedestrian, unimaginative people can persistently pontificate about classical grammatical structure as though it's fucking rocket science. These must be the same people who hate Picasso, because he couldn't keep the paint inside the lines and the colors never matched the numbers.”
― Abbe Diaz

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