Calories: Your Questions Answered
By PW Nutritionist Grace Scott
Anybody that has tried any diet, looked at a food label or counted them, knows the word calorie. But do you actually know what that word means?
So, what is a calorie? What is a calorie deficit? Why do calories matter? And should I be tracking them? Read on to have your questions answered!
What is the purpose of calories?
Scientifically speaking, a calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1oC, but in terms of food, calories in food provide energy for our bodies to function, even automatic functions such as breathing, blood pumping around your body and metabolic functions. If we dip below a minimum of approx. 1200kcal* a day, these functions may start to falter.
Are all calories created equal?
Not all calories are created equal, each macronutrient has its own worth of calories. For example; 1g of protein contains 4kcal, 1g of carbohydrates contains 4kcal, 1g of fat contains 7kcal and 1g of alcohol contains 9kcal.
Is calorie dense and nutrient dense the same thing?
They are not. A food that is calorie dense doesn’t necessarily mean it’s packed with nutrients, for example a fast food burger is usually high in calories but doesn’t provide many nutrients in terms in micronutrients. Nutrient dense foods are foods that are packed full of macronutrients AND micronutrients. Confused as to what these words mean? Check out our blog on nutrients here!
What’s a calorie deficit?
Put simply, a calorie deficit is when you are consuming less calories than you are using, this creates a deficit and leads to weight loss. It’s based on your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) which is how many calories your body needs to function when at rest, this will vary from person to person depending on a number of different factors, including age, gender, height, weight, muscle mass etc. Want to know your calorie deficit? Click here to see our blog on how to calculate a calorie deficit.
What is my daily calorie goal?
Your daily calorie goal will change depending on what your goal is. If your goal is to lose weight you will need to be in a calorie deficit, if you’d like to maintain your weight you’d consume maintenance calories (usually approx. 2000 for women and 2500 for men) and if you’d like to gain weight you would need to be in a calorie surplus.
What happens if you consume too many calories?
If you consume more calories than you need it’s known as a calorie surplus. Being in a regular constant surplus will lead to weight gain. Some athletes use calorie surplus’ to gain muscle but you must be training to build your muscles otherwise additional calories can be stored as fat. If you’re looking for a protein shake to suit a calorie surplus our Superman Blend or Whey Protein Concentrate is a great option!
What happens if you don’t consume enough calories?
Often when trying to lose weight people think the fewer the better, but this can be seriously dangerous! On a physical capacity, a lack of energy can cause hormone disruptions, weight loss & cognitive decline, but additionally in a mental health capacity where a relationship with food is severely affected by over-restriction and quality of life is reduced. Food is nourishment and is there to be enjoyed!
Should I avoid all high calorie foods?
As mentioned above, not all calories are created equal so there is no need to avoid all high calorie foods. For example, half an avocado contains approx. 115kcal per half which can seem like a lot for small amount of food however it’s nutrient dense! Packed full of healthy fats!
Should I be tracking my calories?
It’s not necessary for everybody to track calories but it can be a useful and educational tool! Sometimes things contain hidden calories that you may not realise and if you’re on a weight loss journey and don’t seem to be losing weight, tracking can be a great way to highlight anywhere where you could be making mistakes! Our Slender Plan Guide has a great tracker on the back few pages!
If you have any further questions or would like help to work out your own daily calorie recommendation or calorie deficit, get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org
*Based on an adult women, average minimum daily calorie intake.