Calories. We count them and cut them. But do we really know what they are and what on earth they do to us?
According to Websters, a calorie is a unit of energy. It 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. When we are talking in terms of food though, a calorie contains 4,184 joules. The same rules apply when we are talking about exercise. Specific exercises burn x amount of calories. As humans, we need the energy that calories provide in order for our bodies to be able to breathe, to pump blood and to move. Without calories, our bodies would cease to function. You can understand how important the little buggars are now can’t you?
The number of calories in a food is a measure of how much potential energy that food possesses. A gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories, a gram of protein has 4 calories, and a gram of fat has 9 calories. Where the calories come from doesn’t matter most of the time – a fat calorie is the same as a protein calorie. If we are eating the same amount of calories that we are burning with exercise, our weight shouldn’t fluctuate. And for the record – one pound of body weight is equal to 3,500 calories.
Calories aren’t our enemy. Our need to fill our bods with too many calories is usually the problem for most people. Well, that and not being able to figure out where the calories are hiding when they are shoving food in their mouths.
So where do they hide?
SUGAR is the biggest culprit. 10 calories per cube, 45 calories per tablespoon. Sugar hides easily as several different names too. Be sure to hunt your labels for High-fructose corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, sugar, syrup, corn syrup, sucrose and dextrose. (Really, there are tons more too)
Beverages seem to be where everyone loses their calorie count. Admittedly, it is easy to do. Especially when you grab your morning cup of coffee…made with milk, scooped up with a teaspoon of sugar and topped with some yummy whipped cream. A Grande Latte from Starbucks holds a whopping 180 calories. Add to this your diet soda with your lunch, your sweet tea for your afternoon break and your sparkling fizzy drink with your dinner and this adds up to an estimated 780 calories in a day! That is almost half of your recommended daily calorie intake for the day.
Think that ordering a salad for lunch is your healthy option? Not if you aren’t careful. Most salads from the fast food restaurants will come with about 500 calories and that doesn’t include your dressing.
I never recommend counting your calories. I do however recommend that you understand them and have a good idea of where they are. Every few years, the FDA raises their recommendations for caloric intake. This does nothing for our national obesity issue other than continue allowing us to be fat. A great baseline to go by is to take in 10 – 12 calories for every pound of weight. If you are 150 pounds, you should be consuming 1500 – 1800 calories each day. As “diets” go, this one is easy.