Calories 101

Whether you’re a devoted calorie-counter or an occasional calorie-checker, chances are you’ve tried to make sense of the calorie conundrum at some point. To get the facts on calorie consumption and what it all means, read on.

What are calories and what do they do?
Ready for your science lesson? A calorie is a unit of measure for the energy that your body receives from food and then uses to perform bodily functions.

How many should calories should I be consuming?
Most women should consume between 1,200 and 2,000 calories a day depending on their metabolism, age, weight, height and, most importantly, activity level. For example, if you sit at a desk all day and station yourself on the couch for Sex and the City reruns at night you’re going to need fewer calories than the kindergarten teacher who hits the gym on her way home from work. Look online for a calorie calculator that can give you a personalized estimate.

How many calories should I be burning?
If you want to maintain your current weight you need to burn the same number of calories as you consume. If you’re looking to loose a few pounds, you need to burn more calories than you consume. However, this doesn’t mean you need to spend eight hours on the elliptical! Don’t forget that your body burns much of your caloric intake in order to circulate blood, digest food, breath, blink, talk and do just about everything.

What happens if I consume too many calories?
When you consume more calories than you burn, these calories are stored in your body as fat. This, essentially, is what causes you to gain weight. To put it into perspective, 3500 calories is equal to one pound of fat. Take that into consideration next time you’re tempted by a 540-calorie Big Mac.

What happens if I consume too few calories?
When you burn more calories than you consume, you begin to burn fat, causing you to loose weight. For many, cutting back on calories can be an effective form of weight loss. However, extremely low-calorie diets can seriously drain your energy levels, making you feel like you haven’t slept in weeks.

How do I know how many calories are in a food?
You know that little chart on the back of most packaged foods that you need a PhD in advanced calculus to decipher? That is where you’ll find your calorie count. For non-packaged foods like broccoli and bananas, there are several online databases like Caloriecount.com that will give you the number of calories for that food along with other nutritional information.

 

Tags: calories, counting calories, daily calorie intake, healthy food, nutrition, Wellness

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