Quick Facts About Calories
- A calorie is defined as a unit of energy supplied by food which the human body needs to survive. Whether someone is eating carbohydrates, fats, sugars, or proteins, all of them contain calories.
- When you consume more calories than your body needs, the extra calories are stored as fat. Each person requires different amounts of energy each day depending on a number of factors.
- Foods high in energy but low in nutritional value provide empty calories.
- Calories are listed in the nutritional information on all food packaging.
Is a Calorie Just a Calorie?
Technically, yes, because all calories are equal energy-wise, but some calorie sources are better than others. It’s recommended to consume most of your calories from nutrient-dense foods. While 300 calories from a dessert are utilized the same as 300 calories from fruits and vegetables combined, the latter is obviously much better for your health.
How Many Calories Should You Eat Daily?
The number of calories you need depends on a variety of factors such as age, height, current weight, activity levels, metabolic health and several others. An average woman needs to consume about 2,000 calories each day to maintain weight and only 1,500 to lose one pound per week. An average man needs 2,500 to maintain and 2,000 to lose. A pound of fat is roughly equal to 3,500 calories, so you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. Decreasing your calorie intake by 500 calories per day should result in losing a pound every week.
What Are Empty Calories?
Empty calories are those that provide energy but very little nutritional value. The parts of food that provide empty calories contain virtually no dietary fiber, amino acids, antioxidants, dietary minerals, or vitamins and mainly come from solid fats and added sugars. This means all those tasty desserts and delicious fast foods only hurt our health and weight loss goals. Alcohol also contributes empty calories to your diet but sugary drinks are surprisingly the leading source.
Physical activity requires energy, so the more you move around, the more calories you burn. Resistance training builds muscle which increases your metabolism, meaning your body requires more calories even when you’re not doing much. This means that building muscle if a good way to help you reach a healthy weight but don’t overestimate the amount of calories you’re burning in a day and consume extra calories.
Even if you’re eating extremely clean and healthy, you may not be aware of the amount of calories you’re consuming. This was my problem for a while. I knew I was making healthy choices (with maybe a treat now and then) and I was even working out every day but I wasn’t seeing any results. It’s eye opening to realize and understand how many calories are in the foods we consume on a regular basis. You can use a notebook or food diary but these days with our technology, I think the best way is to use a calorie tracking website or phone application. Using a counter also helps you understand how many calories, carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals you are truly eating.
Is Late Night Eating Bad?
When it comes to weight loss, it’s not the time of day that makes adifference, but rather what you are consuming. It’s back to the simple equation of needing to burn more calories than you consume in order to lose weight.
You might think that your metabolism slows down drastically at the end of the day but calories consumed at night won’t change your metabolism or count more than calories consumed during the day. Even though your metabolism is slower at night when you are stationary, it never stops working.
So back to why people think late night eating leads to weight gain. Typically, people have already had dinner so snacking at this hour is mindless eating of high-calorie foods while unwinding in front of the TV after a long, stressful day.
Calories seem to be linked to weight gain in most people’s minds, but they are vital for health. They only pose a health risk when people consume more than the recommended amount.
When thinking about calories, you should be considering your diet as well as your level of physical activity. Click here to read about diet vs. exercise.
Remember, it doesn’t matter what time you eat. The only thing that matters is the amount of calories you’re consuming in a day and the quality of those calories.