What is a calorie?
A calorie, or kilocalorie, is a unit used to measure energy. Specifically, a calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise 1 kg of water by 1 degree Celsius. Calories in our diet come from fat, protein, carbohydrates, and alcohol. Carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram. Each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. Fat has 9 calories per gram.
How are calories used in the body?
Since calories are simply a measurement of energy, this question could be re-worded to ask, “How does the body use energy?” Obviously, the body uses energy to perform all of its functions. If we consume more energy (calories) than our bodies need, the excess is stored as fat. This body fat can then be broken down later to provide energy to our bodies when a food shortage exists. If you would like to lose excess body fat, you simply need to create an energy shortage by consuming a low-calorie diet or by increasing your activity level.
How many calories do I need in my diet?
Each person is different. The amount of calories needed depends on age, gender, height, weight, goals, body composition and metabolic rate. After calculating the number of calories needed to maintain your weight, you can then determine the calories needed to lose weight. Each pound of body fat stores roughly 3500 calories. If you would like to lose one pound per week, you would need to create a calorie shortage of 3500 calories per week or 500 calories per day.
Which foods contain large amounts of calories?
The number of calories in a food item depends on the quantity of carbohydrates, fats, protein, and alcohol. Ideally, we should consume foods with a relatively high number of nutrients per calorie, or nutrient-dense foods. Otherwise, we are eating “empty calories”. Soft drinks are a good example of empty-calorie foods. They supply the body with calories but very few nutrients. Nutrient-dense foods include unrefined food items, fruits, vegetables, etc.