Understanding Calories

Understanding Calories
Weight loss is a popular topic of conversation. It seems the majority of people are trying to lose weight and are trying one type of diet or another. The number of calories consumed and burned seemed to be one area of obsession; but what is a calorie?

A calorie is simply a way of measuring the amount of energy we are using. One calorie represents the amount of heat energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1°Celsius. A kilocalorie represents 1,000 calories. This is often written as Calorie, which is the same as a kilocalorie.
We burn calories all the time, as this is what is required for our bodies to function and stay healthy. A typical adult can burn 1500-2500 calories per day to fuel their normal activities. Women need less and men more. The calorie requirements vary depending on an individual’s activity, age and health.

Competitive athletes burn significantly more while someone who sits all day may burn much less than average. Growing children having a higher daily caloric requirement than a fully-grown adult. Pregnant women definitely require much more since they are providing the fuel for themselves and a developing fetus.
All nutritious calories come from carbohydrates, fat and protein. This is why they are called the energy nutrients. Carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories per gram while fat provides 9 calories per gram. In situations where food sources are limited, fat is a highly desired sustenance since it provides more than twice the amount of energy as an equivalent amount of protein or carbohydrate. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram but is not a recommended fuel for the human body.

The daily energy used can come from the calories just consumed or can be pulled from stored calories. The body stores calories in a number of ways. Carbohydrates are either immediately available in the blood stream as glucose which was recently absorbed or as glycogen which is stored in the liver and muscle fibers. The body stores about 2000 calories as carbohydrates. Fat is stored intramuscularly or as adipose tissue beneath the skin or around the internal organs. There is approximately 50-100,000 calories stored as fat in the average body composed of 10-30% fat. Protein, which should not be used as an energy source, is stored in the muscles of our body. There are up to 30,000 calories stored here. It is utilized in a small percentage during endurance exercises or in individuals who are malnourished especially those who have had a long illness.
A good understanding of calories and how they are used is required when you are attempting to meet your weight management goals. This information helps you to make better food choices to meet your nutritional needs which will vary depending on whether you are over or underweight, undergoing medical therapy or undertaking a physically demanding challenge.

I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:

Live healthy, live well and live long!


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