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What Is A Calorie?

September 28th, 2010 · No Comments ·


“This hot dog is loaded with calories!” “That drink has less calories.” When people talk about calories, what do they mean? A lot of people use the term and do not actually what it actually refers to.

In fact, if you have been reading this blog for some time, you have definitely see me mentioning the word of “calorie”. Most often than not, you probably have the impression that too much calories are not good. But, what is a calorie and how exactly calories relate to diet control?

A calorie is not a tangible thing. It is a unit of measurement for heat energy. If you still remember your physics or chemistry subject in school, one calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. During my school day, we burned a peanut in a calorimeter and measured how much hotter the water has got. One calorie equals 4.184 of joules.

Don’t understand? Relax. It is just a scientific way to measure energy.

One calorie is actually a tiny amount of energy. One kilocalories is referred as “Calories” with the capital C, but most publications are still using calories in place of Calories. From this point onwards, when you see the word of “calorie”, I am referring to kilocalories.


Can Calories Be Stored As Fat?
Calories are not necessary bad for you. You need energy to live and that energy comes in the measurement form of calorie. This energy is the fuel that runs our bodies. We need it to walk, move and breathe.

When you have excess calories, your body puts them in storage in the form of fat. If you have 3,500 extra calories sitting doing nothing, then it will be stored as fat and you are likely to gain a pound of fat. So, 3500 calories = 1 pound of fat which is about 0.45 kilogram.

If it takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound, you will too need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of weight. In order to lose weight, you need to cut some calories from your regular diet and exercise to burn calories. Say, if you can reduce 200 calories a day from your regular diet and burn 300 calories from your exercise, you will get rid of 500 calories a day. In a week, you will most likely lose 3,500 calories or a pound, which is a healthy and sustainable rate to lose weight. Losing too much weight too soon puts your health at risk.

How Much Calories in Your Food?
When you shop for packages foods such as canned or frozen foods, you can see the calories information from on the Nutrition Facts label. However, it can be more difficult to identify the amount of calories of food if the foods are fresh fruits and vegetables, or when eating in restaurants.

Just a guideline, here is how many calories you have in your food containing:

  • 1 gram of protein has 4 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories
  • 1 gram of fat has 9 calories

So, indirectly, by knowing how many carbohydrates, fats and proteins in any given food, you know how much calories that food contains.


How Much Calories Do You Need?
The recommended daily calorie intake is about 2,000 calories a day for woman and about 2,500 for man. However, the amount varies, depending on your age, job and other factors.

Here are few important facts:

  • If you eat more calories than you need, your body will store the extra energy as fat.
  • If you eat less calories than you need, you will burn fat to provide the extra energy.

Based on my experience, do not get too obsessed with calories counting in what you eat. Low calories food not necessary mean healthy. Some calorie free or “lite” version of foods have questionable nutritional value. No doubt, knowing calories matter, but it is not the only factor to consider for successful diet control.

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Category: Other Fitness/Sports Articles

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