What Are Calories?

I would guess everybody on the planet has heard about calories by now, but what are calories? Are calories bad, are they important, or are they just evil fairies adding more weight to my body?

As you know, you see the word everywhere. All packaged foods have a label advising you of just how many you’ll eat, and even restaurant menus. Get on most any piece of modern gym equipment and see how many you are burning as you exercise. If you want to know more about what the word means, read on and try to stay with me. It gets interesting, and I’ll keep it short.

The word ‘calorie’ refers to a certain unit of measurement and is used to measure anything that contains energy.

Does All Food Have Calories?

Pretty much anything you put in your mouth to eat or drink has calories, with the exception of water. Granted, some foods have far less than others, and that’s important if you’re dieting.

Lettuce, for example has very little energy to add to your body. In fact, an entire cup of shredded lettuce has less than 10 calories of energy.

On the other hand, one can of soda will have about 200 calories. So, if you’re worried about your weight or losing weight, they become an important part of the “puzzle”.

How Many Calories Do You Need?

Here’s the thing to remember: Calories are actually a way to measure a unit of energy, and a human requires energy to function. And it’s not just for moving around and physical activity either

From 10-20% of the calories used are consumed by your brain. It’s easy to think you just need healthy food to stay active, but the truth is that without ample nutrition, your brain doesn’t work and perform well.

But, back to the question of how many you need to function at your highest level. No one can really answer that question because it differs from one person to another. However, the general consensus is that adult males need 2-3 thousand a day, and females from 16-24 hundred calories a day.

I like this calorie calculator. It will calculate how many you need based on your age, weight and physical activity level. It will also show you how many to eat in order to lose weight.

A more accurate amount needed by an individual hinges on measuring a couple important factors, such as:

  • Your personal physical activity – The amount of energy that you use depends on your daily physical activities.
  • BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate – This refers to the amount of energy needed by your body when at rest — to be able to continue performing vital functions. For example, your lungs require energy to keep breathing and your heart to keep beating. All the functions that you don’t consciously think about.

Calories Are Energy

So, you need the energy from food that is measured in calories for fuel for every part of your body. Calories keep your muscles, organs, and brain working, healthy, and active. You also need calories for growing and repairing all body tissue.

The more active you are the more calories you burn. Athletes and highly active people naturally require much more fuel than “couch potatoes”.

Are Calories Bad?

This is an interesting question that people really ask online. Of course, calories aren’t bad or good. Well, if you plan on moving your body from the sofa to the fridge, they’re pretty good for supplying the fuel to get you there?

The problem of course, comes from the indisputable fact that all of the food you consume that is not used for fuel, is immediately stored as fat cells. What are fat cells? Extra pounds and inches around your waist line as well as other body parts.

Calories Are For Using

So, if you are living a sedentary lifestyle, or just have a job that requires you to sit all day, you aren’t burning many calories. If you aren’t using the fuel you consume, you gain weight? What’s the answer? Either eat less, or try exercising right at your desk with this simple machine.

Of course if you are using more energy than your caloric intake, your body is using any reserves you have stored as fat cells for energy. That’s the long and the short of losing weight. And you can see from that how ridiculous it is to think you can take the magic pills and portions so often advertised as a fast way to lose weight while continuing to eat the foods you love.

That’s why the most appropriate method of losing weight is calorie counting.

A healthy weight loss program always requires a healthy diet with fewer calories than you use. If you don’t have a good idea how many you are eating and how many you are using in your exercise program, you’re doomed to fail.

Of course, calorie counting isn’t the end all be all. All research indicates that the people who get off the dieting merry go around, lose weight, and keep it off for good are the ones who take their health, fitness, and body seriously. They get the message that it takes a lifestyle change that includes eating healthy, regular exercise, and some basic knowledge of what calories are, along with other nutrients.