Calories
Your Source of Energy



From a nutritionist's point of view, calories are a unit of energy contained in food and released upon oxidation by the body and are required during resting metabolic processes as well as for growth mechanisms.

Energy-producing food is digested in the stomach and small intestines and eventually allows the body to build muscle proteins, cleanse itself, strengthen bones and stabilize itself.

Energy is needed for all your bodily functions in the proper amounts. Not enough - and your body will tear itself down. Too much - and it will be converted to fat and you will experience weight gain.

The average person's caloric diet needs range from 1,500 to 2,400 per day with higher levels required as activity levels increase.

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Avoid eating high-calorie foods, such as sugary sodas, candy, and fast food by eating a healthy balanced diet with adequate exercise.

Look at all the ingredients. When buying food look at the nutritional facts label describing the components of the food - how many grams of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat it contains.

Here's how many calories are in 1 gram of each:

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

Simply multiply the total grams of each by the conversion number to give you a total number of calories for the food product.

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Height, weight, gender, age and activity level all affect your caloric needs. There are three main factors involved in calculating how many calories your body needs per day:

  • Basal metabolic rate
  • Physical activity
  • Thermic effect of food

Basal metabolic rate (BMR): the amount of energy your body needs to function at rest accounting for about 60 to 70 percent of the calories burned in a day and includes the energy required to keep the heart beating, the lungs breathing, the kidneys functioning and the body temperature stabilized. One of the most accurate methods of estimating your BMR is the Harris-Benedict formula:

  • Adult male: 66 + (6.3 X body weight in lbs.) + (12.9 X height in inches) - (6.8 X age in years) = BMR
  • Adult female: 655 + (4.3 X weight in lbs.) + (4.7 X height in inches) - (4.7 X age in years) = BMR

Physical activity: This includes everything from making your bed to jogging but the number of calories you burn in any given activity depends on intensity and your body weight.

Thermal effect of food: This is the amount of energy your body uses to digest the food you eat - it takes energy to break food down to its basic elements in order to be used by the body. To calculate the number you expend in this process, multiply the total number of calories you eat in a day by .10, or 10%.

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Carbohydrates: The principle source of energy for the body, are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules that are digested in the small intestines, metabolized, processed in the liver and converted to blood sugar or glucose.

These sugars supply energy for strengthening organs, regulating the blood and maintaining the brain and nervous system. Vehicles for carbohydrates include fruits (with simple sugars) and grains (with complex sugars). Simple sugars include oranges and berries while complex sugars include potatoes, breads and pastas.

Protein:Composed of amino acids and nitrogen, protein is considered a macronutrient that, combined with carbohydrates and fat, plays a chief role in the building of muscles, the transportation of oxygen and the regulation of hormones.

As a macronutrient, protein is required in large amounts for achieving optimal health. Nitrogen in protein, for example, is a key factor in staving off infection as it promotes the growth of anti-bodies. A lack of protein results in loss of muscle mass, insulin imbalance and hormonal problems.

Fats:Fats are also regarded as a macronutrient that imbues the body with nutritional energy. Fats are composed of fatty acid strands that are 1 or 2 links of hydrocarbons and acids. Unsaturated fats are strands missing some hydrogen molecules and are considered the best fats to consume, as they do not affect the cardio-vascular system as adversely as do saturated fats.

Fatty acids in moderation are necessary for the body as they aid in cell function, organ insulation, body temperature regulation and mood regulation. Omega 6 essential fatty acids are found in green leafy vegetables and plant oils such as soy, sunflower and corn oil while Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish such as tuna, trout and salmon which are needed for energy storage and skin and hair health.

Digestive breakdown of fat, moreover, yields chemicals that are converted by the liver and used to produce glucose. The transportation and absorption of certain vitamins such as A, E, K and D is also facilitated by fat consumption.

Metabolism:The sum of physical and chemical processes occurring within a living organism that is essential for sustaining life.

During metabolism, some substances are broken down to yield energy while other substances are synthesized. Nutrition and exercise affect the process of metabolism - exercise stimulates metabolism while insufficient caloric intake decreases one's metabolic rate. To reduce fat storage and lose weight, one must regularly exercise rather than diet.

During catabolic metabolism, the body breaks down larger molecules into smaller ones, creating energy, facilitating muscle movement and allowing toxins to leave through the skin, lungs, kidneys and intestines. During anabolic metabolism, the body builds larger molecules out of smaller ones promoting energy storage and cell growth.

Cutting your calories is definitely a good start for any weight management program - but it is not the total answer. Be sensible with your diet, avoiding inappropriate foods and search for good wholesome nutritional sources while increasing your physical activity, which together, will all play a huge part in your health and wellness and weight management.

Remember; before considering any new type of dieting or exercise program please consult first with your personal health care professional for advice.

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