What are calories

You might have wondered what calories actually are? What are people talking about? Well,to put it simply:

  • Calorie (cal) is the amount of heat that’s required to raise 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.
  • Kilocalories (kcal) is the amount of heat that’s required to raise 1 kilogram of water

by 1 degree Celsius. On kcal is equal to 1000 cals. Sometimes we refer to kilocalories as “food calories” or we just cal them “calories” when we talk about food.

Calories are a unit of measurement. One calories measures how much energy there is in the food and in the beverages we consume. This energy is vital for our body. The food we consume is digested to provide energy. Healthy foods give us energy in the form of calories as well as important nutrients which our body needs. Calories are also found in drinks. But there are some calories which aren’t healthy for us. As an example, soda may be referred as “empty calories” because it only gives us calories but no other nutrients.

Calories and weight gain

If you consume too much calories, you may gain weight. The body stores the excess calories as body fat. You need some stored body fat in order to be healthy but if it’s too much, then you may find yourself with some health problems.

So, it’s important to understand the caloric needs of one’s body. The caloric need is how much calories does your body need in order to execute the basic metabolic function and the perform the daily physical activities. There are some basic formulas and online calculators which can help you with that.

It’s recommended that an average person takes about 2,000 calories per day but the number may vary for individual needs.

Calories and weight loss

One pound of body fat can contain 3500 stored calories. If you want to lose a pound of fat in one week, you have to consume about 500 fewer calories a day than you expend due to metabolic activity and exercise.

Your body burns calories to maintain its temperature, to breathe, circulate the blood, digest the food, build and repair cells and tissues, eliminate wastes and perform the brain and nervous function. This is the basic metabolic function.

But you can also burn calories through exercise. Those calories are burned through cardiovascular activities – like walking, swimming, cycling or running. The amount of calories burnt depends on how intensive the exercise is, what your body weight is and how long do you perform the exercise. The more intense exercises burn more calories per minute.

Depending on how longer and how intense the exercise is, the body will burn up the available blood sugar, glycogen and fat. If the exercise is too strenuous or you run out of stored fat and carbs, the body will start to burn muscle. In order to lose body fat, try and exercise at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate for about 45 minutes. In this zone about 85% of the burnt calories come from fat. But remember that your body will first expend the energy stores which are more easily-available – as carbs – and only after this will go to fat for energy.

Calories in food

Different foods give our bodies different energy levels. The three main macronutrients – proteins, carbs and fats – don’t have the same number of calories. Protein and carbs have about half less calories per gram than fat.

Fat provides more calories per gram and that’s why people who go on a diet try to limit how much fat are they consuming. But some types of fat are vital for the body. For example, the polyunsaturated fat is required to maintain your heart healthy. And, yes, carbs may provide less calories but some types of carbohydrates are unhealthier than others. For example, the refined carbs are considered to be the so called “empty calories”.

Proteins contain 4 calories per gram.
Carbohydrates also contain 4 calories per gram.
Fat contains 9 calories per gram.

But in the end, a calorie is a calorie. If you want to lose weight, focus mostly not on what type of macronutrient are you getting the calories from but on consuming less calories and burning more of them.

Still, there are some calories which are specifically helpful if you want to lose weight. To take as an example the calories which come from protein – they help build and maintain muscle mass. If you have more muscle mass, then you can be more active throughout the day and you’ll also burn more calories just through the metabolic function. And if you consume foods which have more fiber, this will allow you to feel full for longer and will lower down your hunger levels.


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