All calories are created equal. If you need to change your weight – either to weigh less or more, you need the straight-up facts about calories.
Are you ready to learn more about calorie science?
Fact #1 There are calories in the food you eat.
- Eat more calories than your body burns and you will gain weight.
- Eat fewer calories than your body burns and you will lose weight.
- Eat as many calories as your body burns and you will neither gain nor lose weight. Your weight will stay the same.
Fact #2 A calorie is a unit of measure. It measures the energy we get from the food we eat. Specifically, a calorie is the amount of energy, or heat, it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). One calorie is equal to 4.184 joules, a common unit of energy used in the physical sciences.
Fact #3 Food is made up of three macronutrients that provide calories to your body and micronutrients that provide no calories, just necessary elements for good health. The macronutrients are:
- These macronutrients are the source of the calories in your food.
- Every gram of protein contributes 4 calories to your meal or snack
- Every gram of carbohydrate contributes 4 calories to your meal or snack.
- Every gram of fat pushes up the calorie count by 9.
The science is irrefutable. Body weight is a relationship between how many calories are consumed and how many are burned. All foods contribute calories.
Fact #5 Several factors influence the calories in food besides the macronutrient content.
Water, fiber and air can all increase the volume of food without adding extra calories. It’s believed that greater volume and a lower calorie content in food can be more satisfying than less volume with more calories. This seems to be a conditioned or learned response. Research with children age 18 months to 5 years suggests satisfaction is purely a reaction to having ingested enough calories to supply the body’s energy needs.
Is weight management just a matter of calories?
It can be, however, counting calories without understanding something about the source of those calories makes weight management much harder. Successful and lasting weight loss is counting something smarter than just calories.
Fact #6 Your body uses calories to digest food. Foods high in simple carbohydrates (sugars) and fat require fewer calories to process than foods higher in protein of fiber.
That means burning 150 calories of ice cream requires about only half as many (7 calories) as burning 150 calories of roasted chicken breast (15 calories) While it makes no sense to eliminate the foods you love because they burn fewer calories to digest, it does make sense not to make them the foundation of your food choices. The foods that burn more calories are usually more filling (keeps hunger away longer) and more nutritious.
So there it is, the science of calories. What you do with the science will determine how well you manage your weight, nourish your body, and enjoy the food that you eat.