What is a Calorie?
A calorie is a unit of energy that your chemistry professor would call a Kilo-Calorie. It’s the amount of energy to raise 1000 grams of water 1 degree Celsius. In these scientific terms, it may have to do with raising the temp of water, but in nutritional terms, a calorie means the amount of energy in a specific amount of food which could be in the form of a carbohydrate, a protein or fat.
Technically, the unit we call calories in nutrition is kilocalories, so a single calorie is technically 1/1000’th of the number of kilo-calories on the food labels. So go tell your friends that the yoghurt they’re eating contains 8,000 calories and I’m sure you’ll get a good laugh, but then you’ll have to explain it to them, too! For convenience, food labels don’t state ‘kilocalories’ but instead they simply write ‘Calories’ with a capitalized “C” in front which represents ‘Kilocalories.’
Counting Calories for Weight Loss
The principle behind losing weight by counting Calories is pretty simple but that doesn’t make it easy. Just think Calorie intake versus Calorie output. If you eat more calories than you burn during the same period, then your body has to find somewhere to store the excess calories unless it is going to send them out. So what does your body do with extra Calories? You guessed it, your body will store these for later use. Some of the storage forms include sugars for immediate use, proteins for use in the body functions, and the body also store the excess as fat as we’re all well aware of. That’s how we put on pounds if we aren’t mindful of the Calories in-Calories out the concept.
On the other hand, you drop the pounds you’ve added through excess Calories by burning the stored fat. You do this by burning more calories during a period than you ate. So losing weight boils down to burning more calories worth of exercise and activities in a day than you ate in Calories that day.
So to start you’ll need to know how many Calories you’re burning in a day. As you settle on a number for your daily calorie needs, you’ll consider your age, sex, weight, height and also the amount and level of activity that you participate in. These factors all go into consideration in arriving at an accurate figure.
Of course, you would also want your Body Mass Index (BMI) to be within 19 & 25 because that is the healthy zone for most people (excluding people like bodybuilders or people with high amounts of muscle). Anything above that range puts you into the overweight category and anything below that could also suggest that you’re underweight. Okay so that said, a single pound of fat on your body typically takes about 3,500 calories to burn off. So if you want to lose 10 pounds of body weight, you’ll consider burning a total of 35,000 Calories. But don’t worry, when you start looking at how many Calories you’re consuming, you’ll be happy to find that you’ll be able to cut this amount out of your diet.
So next then, how can you achieve this? Well, that just depends on how quickly you wanna lose the pounds! As an example, if you cut back 350 Calories per day from what you were consuming previously, you’ll drop one pound of weight in 10 days. (350 X 10 = 3,500.) But if you wanna lose more than one pound of body fat in 10 days, then you could consider eating 700 Calories less per day i.e 700 X 10 = 7,000 Calories. This would take it down to 2 pounds in 10 days. And I know this may sound like it’s too slow for what you want, but you will start seeing results from doing this consistently.
How do you Count Calories in Food?
Essentially, to successfully use Calorie restriction and “count Calories”, you’ll need to have a good idea of how many calories are in the food that you’re eating regularly as well as any food you consume at special occasions.
Here’s a basic outline:
- Carbohydrate – 4 Calories/gram
- Protein – 4 Calories/gram
- Fat – 9 Calories/gram
But you don’t need to look at this as much if you focus on the total Calories in your serving. A the same time you’ll begin to realize that some foods pack a lot more in Calories than others of course… i.e. sweets, junk foods, etc. Fat holds twice as many calories as carbohydrate and protein. So foods high in fat will add up quickly. But there is theory and way of approaching weight loss that doesn’t buy into the fact that avoiding fat will get you the weight loss you want. But we won’t get into that. We’ll just focus on the fact that if you restrict your Calories through discipline, you’ll get the results.
Using your food labels and the internet or a handy app for your phone, you’ll be able to easily sum up how many calories are in your food. Fibre gets a lot of attention because fibre content in food doesn’t count towards Calories because it isn’t digested. On the contrary, it’s healthy for your digestive tract and helps your overall health in that manner. But make sure you understand that you’ll be more regular if you start adding a bunch of fibre to your diet.
There are lots of online calorie counting apps and programs that remove the headache of counting your Calories. Most of these will easily handle Calories in Vs Calories out and will take into account your level of physical activity. Just faithfully do what Weight Loss Wars’ Calorie App tells you to do and enjoy the results – a new lighter you.