Straight Up: What is a Calorie?
You can’t hold one, they are invisible and they aren’t actually a “thing”. But most people will tell you that calories make them fat. So calories have a really bad reputation, they are hated by many and feared by others.
But calories don’t do anything to anyone. They are a measure of the energy in food, which is the energy that our bodies burn to do everything from keeping our hearts beating to playing the piano. We need the energy that calories measure to live and without it, we wouldn’t be here.
Calories suffer a bad reputation because we think that they are the energy and not simply the measurement of it. Similar to how our bodies use food energy to function, cars use gasoline to run their engines. Gas is measured in litres. In that way, saying calories make you fat is a little like saying litres make your car go too fast, or centimetres make you too tall.
This is a calorie: the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius. That’s it. Innocent, harmless and non-fattening.
Generally, as adults, we burn 1000 to 1400 calories of energy a day just to run our basic organs, like our heart, lungs and brains.
We need to burn more energy for everything else we do. Generally, we burn at least 400 to 600 calories of energy to carry out our daily activities.
That’s an approximate total of about 2000 calories of energy a day that we need to function.
Our bodies use fat to store food energy until it’s needed. That’s why everyone needs fat. Weight problems, and the bad rap that calories suffer, start when we consume more energy than we burn. Our bodies are programmed to keep storing excess energy in fat in case we need it later. When there is not enough fat to store the excess energy we consume, our bodies make more fat. Eventually, if we continue to consume more food energy than we need, we become overweight.
Everyone is different. We all consume and store food energy at different rates. Anyone who wants to lose weight, or fat, must use more energy than he or she consumes. But our bodies are complex and simply reducing the amount of food we eat or increasing our levels of exercise can cause more problems than it solves. Before anyone starts a weight loss program, they should consult a nutritional counselor and make sure they are on the right nutritional program for their needs. When they do, they can ensure their bodies have the proper nutrition and energy levels it needs to maximize the effects of the weight loss program.