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7 Facts You Need To Know About Calories

by: Justine Membrido, RND

You woke up today from a good night’s sleep. You are ready to start a brand new day. You have enough sleep and you think you can function well. But were you able to take your breakfast today? Is sleep really the enough reason why you think you are ready to conquer today? Yes, sleep might have helped you to function properly but where does your energy really come from?

You might be asking; I was talking about sleep a while ago but suddenly there was a question if you were able to take your breakfast today. Well, I asked that because today we are talking about major sources of energy which is food and how energy is measured through food.

Yes. I am talking about the famous nutrition term – “calories”. Some of us have been so obsessed with our diets, healthy eating, counting “calories”, all efforts to gain or maintain, or lose weight. But what are we counting exactly? Today, we are answering several questions you might have in mind regarding these and all will be listed below.

1. What are calories?

In technical terms, CALORIE, the standard unit of energy, is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of I ml of water at 15o C by 1’C. Amounts of calories involved in the metabolism of foods are quite large, KILOCALORIE / KCAL is term used to in measuring and quantifying amount found in food. In simpler terms, calorie is a way of describing how much energy your body could get from eating or drinking a said amount of food.

2. Are calories bad?

Who said calories are bad? As I’ve mentioned above, calorie is just the unit to measure energy. You need energy to be able to move. But having excess calories from eating too much food beyond your actual requirement will result to weight gain especially if you are not burning these calories through exercise.

3. What's the difference between calories and macronutrients?

Again, calorie is the unit of energy. Macronutrients on the other hand, are what makes up the caloric content of food. The three (3) macronutrients you need to be familiar with is the Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fat. The three abovementioned are the energy yielding components of food. Meaning, all foods may contain the three and these are the main provider of energy.

If you’re interested in counting your calories or how are they computed, the table below shows how much kilocalories per gram each macronutrient can provide. In case you’re wondering, alcohol is an energy yielding component of food thus provides specific amount of calories as well. ;)

MACRONUTRIENT

KCAL PER GRAM

Carbohydrates

4 kcal/gram

Proteins

4 kcal/gram

Fats

9 kcal/gram

Alcohol

7 kcal/gram

 

4. How would I know how much calories do I need?

Determining how much calories you would be needing is a tough one. There are so many factors to consider if you would want to know your energy requirement. Energy requirement differs depending on age, gender, physical activity, height, actual life stage, and even state of health. 

Yes, statement above defines that caloric requirement differs for each individual. Caloric requirement of a 13-year-old boy differs to a girl even if they have the same height. Caloric requirement for someone who has an active lifestyle differs to one who has a sedentary one. Caloric requirement for someone who has no disease differs with someone who has a certain medical condition.

If you’ve checked references, there is a known Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). The RDA can be used as a reference as this meets the requirements of almost all individual in the population as it provides minimum requirement plus a margin of safety to account for individual variations. Here in the Philippines, the RDA was changed into the Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intakes (RENI) in 2002. The RENI emphasized standard in terms of levels of energy or nutrient intake needed by an individual that is considered adequate to maintain health and well-being of all population.

The RENI is just a guide as it is just a standard for the whole population but for individuals with specific goals, it is always best to consult to a registered nutritionist-dietitian to determine the actual caloric requirement considering all factors needed to arrive to a specific caloric requirement.    

5. Do taller persons require more calories?

As I’ve mentioned above, there are several factors your nutritionists consider to determine how much calories do one individual need and height is one of them. Taller persons normally have bigger organs and larger lean mass. This leads us to taller people have faster metabolism, meaning they can burn energy faster than shorter people can. With this, they would be needing more energy to be able to function well. Height is also usually considered in computing for the daily caloric requirement of an individual. Which arrives us to an answer that yes, normally, taller people require more calories than shorter people.

6. How can calories help me lose/maintain/gain weight?

As calorie is a unit of energy, knowing this can actually help you know how much you need to lose/maintain/gain weight. Considering you get energy from food intake, you will be needing to release energy through physical activity. Remember the three energy equations.

Energy IN < Energy OUT: LOSE Weight

Energy IN = Energy OUT: MAINTAIN Weight

Energy IN > Energy OUT: GAIN Weight

Abovementioned equation simply states that by eating less what you burn, you will lose weight. Eating the right amount with the right amount of physical energy will maintain your weight. And lastly, if you consume more food and you have low physical activity, then it will result to weight gain.

Important: Calories matter when embarking on a weight loss, maintain or gain journey. Although the source of nutrient (carbohydrates/proteins/fats) does not directly affect your weight loss or weight gain since it is the amount of your intake matters, it is equally important to consider the kind of meals you will eat. It will dictate your performance not just during physical activities but even regular day-to-day activities. Always opt for whole foods, lean meat, and vegetables and do not eat for more than what is required.

7. How much calories do I need to burn to lose a pound of weight?

1 pound of fat contains 3500 calories. In order to lose one pound of fat, a 500 kilocalorie deficit per day is normally recommended. A healthy calories deficit will be within 500-1000 kcal for 1-2 lbs weight loss.

So, there you have it. These in embarking on a healthier lifestyle, regardless of what your body goal is, it is important to keep track of your caloric intake. But this is not the sole determinant of your success, you have to consider too the sources of ‘em calories. This is because, so you won’t end up binge eating on empty calories (foods with high calories but no nutrition), which will ruin your diet or worse, make you pay in the longer run (i.e. health complications).

If you have any more questions, please feel free to leave your comments and I would be most glad to answer it!

 

Justine a.k.a Paleo Manila®'s 'Millennial Tita'. She studied in University of the Philippines Los Baños with a degree of BS Nutrition. Right now, she's enjoying her work as a Customer Experience Officer (not to mention enjoys bullying our Executive Chef and Assistant HR Officer occasionally) in Paleo Manila® as she gets to give pieces of nutrition advice to lots of people. She is really passionate about educating people about nutrition so years from now, she is aiming to take up public medicine. She dreams to be a catalyst of a improving the nutrition education in the Philippines for healthier Filipino community while being the fab tita she is destined to be.  

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