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What Exactly is a Calorie?

What Exactly is a Calorie?

I know all of you have seen the word calorie many times before, but how many of you have actually thought about what a calorie actually is? Probably not too many. When it really comes down to it, calories are what help us achieve our weight loss or weight gain goals, so it’s important to understand what a calorie actually is and how it affects those goals.

Most of you probably already know that to lose weight you need to have a caloric deficit in your diet and to gain weight you need a caloric surplus, let’s explain why this is so.

A “calorie” is actually a unit of energy. More specifically, a calorie is the amount of energy or heat it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most of us think of calories as having to do with food, but calories can be found in almost anything that contains energy. The calories we see in food are actually kilocalories (1000 kilocalories = 1 calorie), but it’s easier for people to think of everything as calories, so that’s what we use.

So, are you starting to see how these caloric deficits and surpluses can help us? Let’s look at it further.

As for the body, it needs energy to survive. It needs energy for every single solitary function the body performs. If you were to eat a meal that has, say, 180 calories, your body will take it and break it down through metabolic processes (more on that in another article). These metabolic processes break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins and send them through the bloodstream to the cells, or continue the metabolic process where they react with oxygen and release energy.

To put it simply, carbohydrates, fats and proteins are real energy when our body breaks them down. So 1g of carbs = 4 calories, 1g of fat = 4 calories and 1g of protein = 9 calories. If you take these numbers and calculate them for the food, you will notice that it adds up to about the same number of calories as listed on the label.

You’re probably asking yourself, “How the hell does this affect my weight loss/gain?”. Well, consider this. If my basal metabolic rate or BMR is 2,500 calories per day, which is the amount of energy my body needs to maintain current state, and I consume 1,900 calories per day, then my body will have to replace the 600 lost. calories somewhere else.

Usually in the form of fat, causing fat loss. Likewise, if I consume 3,000 calories, my body won’t need 500 of those calories, so it stores carbs, fat, and protein, which cause weight gain.

Of course, this all depends on the type of food you consume. If I eat 1900 calories from fat and carbs, I will most likely lose a lot of muscle, but you can bet I will lose weight. Therefore, it is important to maintain a good balance of macronutrients that includes protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.

By idiet4health

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