Calories: What They Are, How They Work, Why You Need To Know

May 17 2018

Calories: What They Are, How They Work, Why You Need To Know

Calories get a bad rap, but your body needs them. Most are used up by functions like breathing, making your heart beat, talking, and walking. If any are left over, your body stores most of them in the form of fat. But it also stores some in your liver and muscles that can be released quickly into your bloodstream if you need a burst of energy.







Everyone’s calorie needs are different, and the 2,000 per day you see listed on nutrition labels is really only right for a small group of fairly active women who aren’t trying to lose weight. To get a better sense of how many calories you probably need each day, visit the Calorie Control Council’s Healthy Weight Calculator.


Calories: How Much Reduction To Lose Weight?

The number of calories you’d need to cut out of your diet to lose weight depends on several things, including your sex, your age, and how active you are.

It’s true that you need to take in fewer calories than you burn off if you want to lose weight. But be careful about going too low. If you cut too many, your body may think food is scarce, click into starvation mode, and burn off the excess more slowly. In other words, your body is going to hang onto that small number of them very tightly.

For example, in one study, people who cut their daily calories by this 15% lost an average of about 20 pounds over 2 years, and slowed down their metabolism. While that might not sound like a good thing, it means their bodies needed fewer calories to carry out basic functions, and that might delay the aging process.


Calories: Is There A “Negative Calorie”?

While some foods are very low in calories, there’s no evidence that any food is “negative-calorie.” Only about 5% to 10% of all the calories you burn each day are actually used to digest food and store energy. For example, fat has more than twice as many calories per gram (9) as carbs and protein (4 each), but there’s no need to shun it completely. You need all those nutrients, along with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, for a healthy diet.


Calories: How Much Exercise Do I Need?

Do you like gardening? Walking? Swimming? How much or how hard you exercise certainly helps to burn calories, but does your body size and nutrition. The message is clear; you don’t have to go to the gym to burn calories. Everyday activities combined with a healthy diet will keep excess pounds off your body.


Calories: Good Nutrition Is Key

A small splash of olive oil and vinegar dressing might seem harmless enough, but 2 tablespoons can tack 150 calories onto your meal. Hummus is a close second, at 110 calories per 2 tablespoons, though the protein and fiber in it may help fill you up so you eat less. If your goal is to keep the calorie count low, go with honey mustard. Despite the slightly sweet flavor, 2 tablespoons have only 40 calories, and you don’t need much to add lots of flavor.

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Barry G

Barry graduated from City University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology.

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