What Do You Know About Calories?

by : elgerdh

We talk about them frequently. Some people are obsessed. Others cannot control them. I am talking about calories, typically on the mind of Americans who struggle with weight.

What exactly is a calorie? A calorie is a unit of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree centigrade. Food calories are actually kilocalories, or 1 calorie x 1000.

In reality, the calorie we so often refer to is the amount of energy to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram (not 1 gram) of water 1 degree centigrade.

What is the difference between calories we burn and calories we eat? It is all about energy. Exercise requires energy in the form of calories. The more you move, the more you burn.

Food, which contains calories, is used by the body as its primary source of energy. If you eat more than total calories than you use up, the remainder converts to body fat and is stored.

How many calories are contained in foods?
1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of alcohol= 7 calories

One gram weighs .035 ounces. If just .035 ounces of a food that is 100% fat contains 9 calories, then 1 ounce of that food must have 257 calories! That is what we call a calorie dense food! Fat contains more than double the amount of calories then either pure carbohydrate or protein.

How many calories, or units of energy, are required to burn off one pound of body fat? Physical activity increases the need for calories, and the amount of energy required to burn off just 1 pound of pure fat is around 3,500 calories.

How many calories are available for fuel in the body? According to Physiology of Sport and Exercise by Wilmore and Costill, even lean adults store in the neighborhood of 70,000 to 75,000 calories of fat in muscle and fat cells.

Are all fat calories evil? NO! We know now that some fats are actually healthy! Fats from vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and olives have all sorts of health benefits. It is saturated fat that creates havoc with blood lipids and increases the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats are commonly found in meat, full fat diary products, and foods that are fried. Good or bad, all fats contain the same amount of calories.

Are all calories created equal? Perhaps not, at least that was the conclusion reached by authors of an interesting study published in the International Journal of Obesity in November 2003. In the study, two groups were put on a low-calorie diet containing the same number of calories for 24 weeks. One diet contained moderate fat from almonds (39% fat), while the other was put on a more conventional low-fat plan (18% fat).

Even though the calorie levels were the same, the almond-eating group lost significantly more total weight, reduced waist circumference and fat mass. The authors speculate that perhaps due to the high fiber content of nuts, not all of the fat calories from the almonds were absorbed.