What Are Calories?Need To Burn Them All
Or Else You Gain Weight?
Calories; they're such a rage now
But what are calories? Do you need to burn all of them off so you won't gain weight?
I'll cut out all the complicating stuff and give you a straight, simple version you can understand.
(Note: I'll be referring to calories in food)
A calorie is a unit of energy sourced from food, any food you eat.
If a food contains 200 calories, this means that you'll get that much of energy in caloric form, from the food you eat.
Why do you need the energy from food?
Well, to survive - to breathe, move, play, exercise, work, eat, sleep, pump blood and more....
In other words, just about every activity in your daily life that makes you "you", is the job of the calories and the energy they provide.
However, the number of calories needed can be different for you and me and everyone else.
You might need more calories; I might need less; your friend even lesser.....
The amount of calories needed depends on your height, weight, gender, age and how active you're.
What are Calories in Food then?
Typically, food contains carbohydrates, protein and fat which are considered the 3 main building blocks for your body.
1 gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories; 1 gram of protein 4 calories and 1 gram of fat 9 calories.
If you know how many carbohydrates, fats and proteins are in any type of food, you know what are the calories and how much energy that food contains.
All food (and drinks) have calories. The difference is - some have fewer calories; some have more calories.
For e.g., all fruits and vegetables have low calories; deep-fried and oily food have high calories.
What else? Oh, sugary stuff, dairy products, fast food, cakes, pastas, pizzas- all have high calories.
What are Calories Functions?
There are 3 main ones:
- For Basal Metabolic Rate (aka BMR)
BMR = calories that go to power your body for all your daily physical functions such as breathing; sleeping; eating; exercising; pumping blood; sweating; sitting, doing chores, resting......,to keep you going day to day.
Calories burned off this way is 60-70% of the total calories you consume.
Usually, men have a higher BMR than women.
- For Exercise And Other Physical Activities
Calories that go to work to power you in this are 30% of the total calories you consume.
Exercise - can be cardio (running, walking,jogging, swimming, biking,dancing.....).
In exercise, what are the calories burned?
They depend on your weight, the amount of muscle you've and the intensity of the exercise you do.
Physical activities - ranging from cooking, sweeping floor, walking the dog, jumping around, watering plants, gardening to just moving around.
- For Thermic Effect Of Food
Calories that go to digest the food you eat. You need energy to break down food to its basic elements in order for it to be used by your body.
You use about 10% of the total calories you consume in this manner.
You know now what are the calories that sustain you in good health. So don't have this idea that you've to burn off all the calories you eat or you'll gain weight!
It's just not true....
What are Calories - for you and me, how much Needed?
On average, for us ladies, we need about 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight.
For average men, it's 2,500 calories a day.
However, these calories are based on averages and could be different from one person to another due to age, gender, height, weight and how active that person is.
A woman who weighs more will generally require more calories. On the other hand, if she becomes less active, her calorie needs will also go down.
Men tend to need more calories than women, probably as a result of a leaner body composition. Not fair, huh?
For teenagers, what are calories needed?
You come in all sizes and each person's body burns energy (calories) differently, so there isn't one standard amount of calories for you too.
The recommended range though for most teenagers is around 1,600 to 2,500 calories a day.
For girls who reach puberty, you need more calories but your caloric need is still lower than the boys'.
For boys who reach puberty, you need as many as 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day.
Thing is, whether girls or boys, if you're active and move around a lot, you need more calories than your friends who don't.
What are Calories - how much Needed to Lose Weight?
It's a matter of practicing calorie balance, really.
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat.
1 lb of fat (weight) = 3,500 calories
To lose this 1 lb of fat, you need to create a calorie deficit of 500 each day either:
- Through exercise alone;
- Through healthy diet alone or
- Through a combo of exercise and healthy diet
My recommendation is - you go for the combo as it's the tried and true formula that's balanced and healthy.
What are Calories - does it Matter what you Eat?
You may think it matters where your calories come from.
A calorie is a calorie. A protein calorie is the same as a fat calorie; both are units of energy. If you burn what you eat, you maintain weight and if you burn more than you eat, you lose weight. Simple.
If you're talking about nutrition, then it does matter where the calories come from. Carbohydrates and proteins are healthier sources of calories than fats.
Though you do need a certain amount of fat to function properly (sufficient fat enables your body to absorb the vitamins you consume), excess fat can cause you to have health problems of all kinds: diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney complications......
(P/S: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends a maximum of 30% of your daily calories come from fat)
What are Calories? Not as easy as you Think, right?
My insight on this subject is this - strike a calorie balance by exercising and eating a healthy diet, whether you want to maintain weight,lose weight or gain weight
Don't be bothered by all the noises on how to calculate calories this way or that way.
To help you, I've got all the major foods' calories laid out here:
And calories burned in some popular cardio exercises:
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