What Are Calories?

15 Mar

A Calorie is a unit of energy that measures how much energy food provides to the body. The body needs calories to function properly. The amount of Calories in food gives you energy, protein, carbohydrate, nutrients and fat to fuel your body. When you eat food, your body turns the food into fuel, burning it to produce calories (energy). Everyone knows that people need a minimum amount of calories to survive. If we don’t eat enough calories we will lose weight; if we take in too many, our weight will go up.

Everything you eat and drink (besides obviously calorie-free things like water, etc.) has calories in it. It’s how many calories and exactly where those calories are coming from that effect your body and your weight. The way the human body works is pretty simple. There are a certain number of calories that your body requires every day in order for it to maintain its current weight. If your diet plan is made up of less calories than you burn in one day, you will lose weight. If it’s made up of more calories, you will gain weight. And calories are made up of 3 things. Protein, carbohydrates (carbs), and fat. Weight gain though is related to total energy intake and has absolutely nothing to do with macro nutrients, eating too many calories makes you fat and not your choice of macronutrients. So whether these excess calories in your diet plan are coming from protein, carbs or fat makes little difference. Fat used to be the bad macro nutrient, these days it seems to be the carbs. Never avoid either fat, carbs or protein if you want to get fit and stay healthy, you need them all.

A calorie is a unit of heat used to express the energy value of food. A pound of fat stores about 3500 calories, so in order to lose a pound of fat, you need to burn an extra 3500 calories. If you cut 250 calories from your diet and burn 250 calories with exercise each day, you’ll lose about a pound a week.

One way of calculating your calorie need.

A common way of calculating your calorie need is to set your daily calorie intake at 12 calories per pound, (12 calories x your weight in pounds= daily amount of calories).
This number will be your basic need in one day= basic metabolic rate (BMR). If you exercise or if you have an active job you will need to consume more calories, especially if you lift heavy weights.
An example of a diet could be about 20% fat, 40% carbs and 40% protein (depending on your goal and exercise, this example is for someone losing fat while gaining muscle mass and mostly used in fitness circles. Obese people may want to stick to a 20% fat, 50% carbs and 30% protein diet to begin with, and  then later progress to the diet above.)

1 gram of fat is 9 calories.
1 gram of carbs is 4 calories.
1 gram of protein is 4 calories.

And lets say that you weigh 166,5 pounds and that will make your daily calorie need 2000 calories (BMR), this is how your calories would be divided per day:

20% fat= 400 calories from fat, (400/9= 44,5 grams of fat)
40% carbs= 800 calories from carbs, (800/4= 200 grams of carbs)
40% protein= 800 calories from protein, (800/4= 200 grams of carbs)

But here is where it gets tricky. Your daily calorie needs varies depending on your sex, body weight and training program.
It’s hard to say how many calories one should eat per day/what diet you should be on without a proper assessment. Every body is different and built differently and goal/exercise is different, so the above diet is just a common advice.

Another way of figuring out for yourself how you should eat is:

0,8 g x kilo you weigh (one kilo is about 2,2 pounds). When in hardcore training, especially weight lifting you will need more protein and then 1,2-1,5 g x kilo you weigh is recommended.
Protein is an extremely important part of all diet plans. That’s because your body needs protein, and lots of it. It is the building block of muscle mass. But too much protein is bad for your kidneys and heart and it drives water and calcium out of your body, so don’t over do it with the protein…

Great protein choices:

* Chicken Breast
* Turkey Breast
* Tuna
* Cottage Cheese
* Egg Whites
* Salmon
* Lean Beef
* Whey Protein
* Almonds

Are different depending on your goal, endurance exercise like a marathon demands high levels of carbs and carb loading with up to 6-10 g per kilo. A normal person needs about 2,2 g x kilo you weigh and the more you exercise the more you need.

There are fast carbs and slow carbs. Slow carbs (whole grain) will slowly work their way into your blood and leave you feeling full longer, fast carbs (white bread) will work fast and make you hungry again very fast after your meal. Carbs are used as natural fat burners in the body, as energy and repairing tissue after a workout. Weight gain is related to total energy intake but it is easy to eat too much of carbs and any excess carbs will be stored as fat.

Great carb choices:

* Parboiled Rice
* Baked Potatoes
* Whole Wheat Pasta (not too often)
* Sweet Potatoes
* Oatmeal
* Low sugar Yogurt (good for your stomach, but not too often)
* Beans
and of course vegetables and fruit!

0.5 g x kilo you weigh.

Unlike protein and carbs which are both 4 calories per gram, 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. This explains why high protein foods are usually low in calories, while foods high in fat are high in calories.
Fat itself does not make you fat. Eating too many calories makes you fat. Whether these excess calories in your diet plan are coming from protein, carbs or fat makes little difference.

Sometimes people on a specific weight loss diet plan try to eat less fat (or even fat free) and think that that alone will work. What they don’t realize is that they are probably replacing those fat calories with calories from protein or carbs. Their fat intake has become lower, but their calorie intake evens back out to what it was, if not even more. Fat is used as transportation in the body for vitamins A, D, K and E and is also needed in building up cells. Avoid saturated fat though it raises the bad cholesterol, and choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat instead.

Great fat choices:

* Avocado
* Olive Oil
* Pumpkin seeds
* Nuts
* Flax Seeds
* Fish Oil

Online calculations:

Simple online calorie calculators, on the other hand, could definitely give us a more defined answer, but still would not be completely accurate, for the simple reason that everyone’s metabolic rate is unique.
If you want to use an online calorie calculators look for those who use more than one formula to calculate your results. They can include:

  • The Mifflin-St Jeor equation, which is based on body weight;
  • The Harris-Benedict formula, which takes Lean Mass, or fat percentage in account;

Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) not once, but for various levels of physical activity.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Most online calorie calculators are able to estimate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), or the amount of energy you need per day. A simple BMR only includes limited activity, such as resting in bed the entire day. If you are more active, you will have to include your level of activity to receive an accurate BMR reading.

When researching your BMR you may also stumble upon the following related terms: Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) and Resting Energy Expenditure (REE).

Always keep in mind that any BMR result is only a calculated guess. We all have a different metabolism and all respond differently to the activities we do. For example, one person may burn 100 calories on a 10 minute run, while the person running alongside may burn 150 calories.

Mifflin – St. Jeor Formula

The BMR equation, created by MD Mifflin and ST St. Jeor, in 1990, overshadowed most of the already existing prediction equations as soon as it was published. This new formula was found to be the most accurate yet.

Male: BMR = 10×weight + 6.25×height – 5×age + 5
Female: BMR = 10×weight + 6.25×height – 5×age – 161

These equations require the weight in kilograms, the height in centimeters, and the age in years.

Harris-Benedict Principle

This equation does not take into account calories burned during activities by large amounts of muscle mass, nor does it account for the additional calories supplied by excess body fat. Therefore, this equation will be most accurate in people with either a lean or normal body type.

66.5 + (13.75 X weight) + (5.003 X height) – (6.775 X age)
655.1 + (9.563 X weight) + (1.85 X height) – (4.676 X age)
These formulae also require the weight in kilograms, the height in centimeters, and the age in years

Using an online calculator

When using an online calculator, remember that you will have to factor in your physical activities. This means that your BMR will need to be multiplied by a number anywhere from 1.2 to 1.9.The result will tell you tour maintenance calories, or the amount of calories you need to maintain your current weight. If you want to lose fat, you will have to subtract 20 per cent, or 40 per cent for extreme fat loss.Just remember, whatever diet you decide on, make sure it is a healthy choice. Your body can only take so much change or abuse before it will start to react adversely.

Kilojoules and calories calculations:

We normally refer to kilocalories as Calories, so when you see 800 calories on a food label it actually means 800 kilocalories, and the same applies when you calculate an activity that burns 800 calories. When referring to food consumption and energy expenditure we refer to them in multiples of 1,000. Thus 1,000 calories = 1 kilocalorie or kcal.

A calorie is the amount of energy (or heat) needed to increase the temperature of one gram of water by 1C. So 1000 calories = 1 kilocalorie, is the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1kg of water by 1 degree Celsius.
There are 239 calories in 1 kilojoule – A joule is a 1 unit of electrical energy it takes to equal the current of 1 ampere passed through a resistance of 1 ohm for one second. 1,000 joules = 1 kilojoules or kJ.
One calorie has the same energy value as 4.186 kilojoules. It takes 3,500 calories to equal one pound of body weight.

1 calorie = 4.2 joules so 1 kilocalorie = 4.2 kilojoules.

The energy value per GRAM of various food components includes:

  • Water = 0kJ (0 Cal)
  • Protein = 17kJ (4 Cal)
  • Dietary fibre = 13kJ (3 Cal)
  • Fat = 37kJ (9 Cal)
  • Alcohol = 29kJ (7 Cal)
  • Carbohydrates = 16kJ (4 Cal)

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