Understanding calories needn't be overly complex, contrary to what the authors of the dozens of books on the subject want us to believe.
What the heck is a calorie, anyway?
It is a unit of measurement for energy. Plain and simple. Calorie is not even the proper term to use, if we must get technical. Kilocalorie, or 1000 calories, is actually what the food manufacturers are referencing when they print the calories per serving on the nutritional labels of your food. So, when you read 200 calories per cookie, the information is really conveying that you will intake 200,000 true calories. Fret not, however, as diets and nutritional plans maintain the term and notation we are all accustomed to. And honestly, 200 calories sounds a lot more forgiving than 200,000.
That's fine and all, but what does this energy do and why do we measure it?
Our bodies, as the remarkable organic machines they are, need fuel (food) to convert into energy in order to function. The slightest movement, the most minuscule biological process, and even a fleeting thought requires energy. We measure calories because science has allowed us to understand that individuals require varying amounts of energy to live a healthy life. Many people can function on 2000 calories a day. A lumberjack may require around 5000 calories while a sedentary person can often get by with as little as 1000 to 1200 calories per day.
If one wants to gain weight, an increase in caloric intake is needed. Want to lose weight? At Progressive, we believe that improving the quality of your food is paramount and must always come first, but an important piece of the equation is consuming fewer calories than you burn.
Okay, where are these calories within our foods and beverages?
You've most likely heard of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats? All of those contribute to the amount of calories within your food. Each one of these macronutrients contribute differing, set amounts of calories. Fat contains 9 calories per gram while carbohydrates and proteins are both comprised of 4 calories per gram.