by Amanda Allen, MS, CSCS
March is National Nutrition Month. There are sure to be plenty of blogs and articles that will include the word calories and how to change your nutrition habits and the way you consume calories. We know that food consists of calories. We eat less calories when we want to lose weight and more when we want to gain weight. But if someone asked you what a calorie actually is, could you define it?
Believe it or not, a calorie is not a sneaky little creature that makes your clothes smaller in the middle of the night. A calorie is actually a unit of heat, specifically, the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. Therefore, a calorie is simplyenergy. And recall from high school physics that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it just changes forms.
When food enters our body, it does two things.
First, it is digested and serves as the energy source for life-sustaining processes such as heart pumping, muscle contraction, hormone generation, breathing, and many other body processes. Then, once enough energy has been consumed for these processes, extra calories are stored as fat. Weight gain is simply a result of ingesting too much energy in the form of calories.
Weight loss occurs when too few calories are ingested to support the above mentioned life processes and your body recruits previously stored fat to energize those processes. Long term, sustainable weight loss occurs slowly; losing 2 to 3 pounds a week is ideal. Determining exactly how many calories you need to consume for weight loss can be tricky, since the amount varies based on your current weight, gender, activity level, body type and goals. There are several web-based tools, like myfitnesspal.com, that will help you estimate your caloric needs.
Understanding Calories and nutrition is essential to maximizing your health potential since calories fuel your body’s processes. Now that you know what a calorie is, try to consume more calories from vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats this month.
Check out our weekly focus calendar for more advice on healthy steps you can take this month.