Calories and Optimal Food Intake – Part 1

This week we will hear from coach Paul, who has over 7 years experience in the industry,  about how calories fuel our bodies and the importance of using a full range of motion during workouts.

Paul“I grew up as an athletic kid, but it took some time for exercise and nutrition to peak my curiosity. Although I was in decent shape I wasn’t content with the way that I looked. I started training several years ago and I quickly realized I had a passion for training and a desire to work hard and improve every day.

I feel extremely blessed to be part of the Pinnacle team, working on all aspects of health, and strengthening my teaching skills and abilities. I believe in practicing what you preach, and I’m excited to be on this journey with my clients helping them reach their health and fitness goals.”

So without further ado, let’s cover the basics about calories and metabolism.

What is a calorie? By definition a calorie is a unit of energy, it is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.

Calories are the energy that fuels the tissues of your body like your brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. The minimum number of calories needed to perform the basic body processes is called your resting metabolic rate, and the number of calories needed varies from person to person depending on age, gender, genetics, activity level, and body composition. The more lean mass (muscle) that you have, the more calories you burn at a resting state.

The number of calories in food is a measure of how much potential energy that food has. A gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories, a gram of protein has 4 calories, and a gram of fats has 9 calories. Foods are a compilation of these building blocks.

Our bodies burn calories through metabolic processes where enzymes break down carbohydrates into sugars, fats into fatty acids, and proteins into amino acids. These molecules are then transported to the cells and are either used as energy or stored as fat.

Healthy Digestion Man

However, not all calories are created equal. Even though carbohydrates and protein contain equal calories per gram, protein requires nearly double the number of calories for the body to break down. A high-quality protein source, such as animal products, requires more calories to metabolize than lower quality plant protein. And omega 3 fats stimulate fat burning, whereas other fats don’t.

Vegetables are extremely low in calories and the body uses most of the energy provided to chew and digest them, and because vegetables are high in fiber and indigestible carbohydrates it results in a lower proportion of calories being absorbed by the body.

This is the thermic effect – the number of calories it takes your body to break down food. Protein has the highest thermic effect, followed by carbohydrates, and lastly by fats.

The metabolism is the rate at which the body processes the food you put into it, and the more muscle tissue that you have the faster your metabolism. Muscle requires the right amounts of nutrients to grow, so if you don’t eat enough your body can’t use the calories for repair and growth. For every pound of lean mass lost, the body loses the capacity to burn 35 to 50 calories per day.

Now that we have looked at the basic terms, let’s look at the role of calories in weight loss in the next post.


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