I queried my posse of nutrition-minded friends. “What IS a calorie?”
While most people know what a calorie does – gives us energy, fuels us, and sometimes if we eat enough of them, adds weight to our bodies – they’re not exactly sure how to define it.
A calorie is a unit of heat. It is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one(1) gram of water one (1) degree Celsius. All calories come from either carbohydrates, proteins, fats or alcohol.
• Each gram of carbs contains 3.75 calories.
• Each gram of fat contains 9 calories.
• Each gram of protein contains 4 calories.
• Each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories.
Calories listed on food packages are actually kilocalories (1,000 calories = 1 kilocalorie). A food calorie contains 4,184 joules. A joule is a unit of energy. (A calorie is a measure of energy.) Four joules is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of a gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.
Most of us think of calories in relation to food (and weight), as in “This piece of cake has 360 calories. I’ll blow my entire day if I eat this.”
A calorie is also a unit of measurement of energy produced by food when it is used in the body. We need calories to fuel us. If we ingest more fuel into our bodies than we need for the amount of activity we do, our bodies will store this unused fuel. It may be stored as fat, or muscle, if we perform enough muscle-building exercises (i.e. weightlifting).
It’s a simple matter of calories in and calories burned. You “burn” calories (fuel) when you perform physical activities, and you also burn calories just by sitting still, breathing and even thinking. A person who is physically active can eat more calories each day without gaining weight, because this person is using the fuel she pumps into her body, rather than storing it!
Are all calories created equal?
Calories from fat are easily converted to body fat – only 3 percent of these calories are used up in the conversion process. Carb-calories, by comparison, are less easily converted to body fat, as up to 25 percent of these calories are used up in the conversion process. (Something for the anti-Carb people to think about.)
25 Treats Under 300 Calories
Spread the word … NOT the icing!
Janice Taylor is a Life & Wellness Coach, Cert. Hypnotist, author,columnist, seminar leader and 50 pound big-time-loser.
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