The Curvy Calorie - Why, What and How of Calories
Calories are essential for survival
The human body needs calories to survive. They are essential for our health. It is the basic fuel needed to carry out and perform all functions in the body. Everything, from moving a muscle to performing a particular action, to thinking, it takes a certain amount of energy to execute and perform it. One receives this energy from a Calorie. People absorb this energy from foods and drinks.
Without energy, the cells in our body will start to die, and the organs would not be able to carry out the basic processes needed for living. If we all consume only the number of calories needed every day, we would probably lead healthier lives. Consuming too many or too few calories can lead to health issues.
It is important to know your calorie consumption and dive deep into the making and breaking a calorie.
The number of calories in any food or beverage tells us how much potential energy they will provide. It’s not just calories that are important, but also the substance from which they are extracted.
What is Glucose and Fructose?
To understand how calorie works and what this fad is all about - let's understand this. The two main simple sugars in our diet carrying a calorie are glucose and fructose. Comparing them Gram per gram, both provide the same number of calories. But the way they are absorbed in the body is completely different. Glucose can be metabolized by all of your body's tissues, but fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amount. Fructose is known as fruit sugar, commonly found in fruits and honey. It has the sweeter taste compared to glucose but has a lesser impact on your blood sugar.
The fructose may be stored as fat today and used for energy tomorrow, while the glucose is almost always used up immediately. Besides, your body doesn’t burn calories. It burns the glucose from the glycogen stores, only turning to fat when the glycogen runs out. Your body has distinct priorities for the type of food molecule to break down.
Know Your Food Glycemic Index
One more factor to consider is the Glycemic Index (GI) - it is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.
Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised causing a slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. Food with High GI levels often leads to a ‘Blood Sugar Roller Coaster’. When you consume refined carbs that are low in fibre and high GI, they are digested quickly. Hence leading to a rapid spike in your Blood Sugar. When you eat something that spikes Blood Sugar fast, it tends to lead to a crash in Blood Sugar in a few hours. When that happens, you get cravings for another high-carb snack.
Solution to Health is Simpler Than Keto Diet
We’re running around finding our way around calories and the right way of consuming food. Diets, in general, have so much of contradiction - how do we know which method is best. Should we restrict the calories, have more healthy fats? Is Keto the right thing, or is Paleo the way to go. Is going Vegan the new trend? One thing is for sure, we’re becoming more mindful of what we consume. Calculating, counting, memorising calorie content and making decisions around them. One pays more attention to counting them instead of the food kept in front. It’s like looking at an excel spreadsheet on a plate.
So how useful is this tiring activity of counting calories? Also, how accurate are these calculations? There are several formulas to choose from and they all give you different answers. Not only does it get you focusing on numbers instead of enjoying the food you’re eating, but it can also be a slippery slope from paying attention to calorie counts to obsessing over them. Hence one’s health cannot be determined just by their calorie intake.
What we need to understand is, not everybody needs the same number of calories each day. People have different metabolisms that burn energy at different rates. The number of calories we burn during a particular activity depends on many factors like - body weight, fat percentage, age, physical fitness, genetics and even where we live. Calorie consumption also depends on one’s BMI (Body Mass Index). BMI is the ratio of one’s weight to their height and finding the optimum weight.
For example, a 15 minute brisk walk will burn following calories depending on your weight. Even varying workouts will have different effects on your body.
If we understand the numbers involved in eating vs burning calories better, we would think twice before we eat or drink something. It is so much harder to burn calories doing a physical activity but so easy to consume it!
Even if two people have the same weight their metabolisms could be very different and how they process these calories can have different results on their bodies.
Also, using calorie deficit for weight loss is like assuming startup success hinges on funding alone, with no concern for what the startup does with the money. Is money important? Sure. Is it all that matters? Certainly not.
Maybe we can begin by really knowing what we put inside our system and start by reading the labels. What you must be cautious about is solid fats and added sugar. As good as they taste, they rot our systems from within and aren’t even close to what our body thrives for.
More than often, we end up consuming empty calories. The foods that have no nutritional value - with little or no essential vitamins or minerals. In other words, these foods provide nothing of value to your body beyond calories that create excess fat.
Now, here are some comparisons that can get you thinking – if a person's weight is 70 kgs and he does an intensive workout for 30 minutes while the distance covered is 3 km, he will burn 186 calories.
See the chart below to see how much we need to walk for some of the foods we tend to indulge in.
What we believe in, is consuming the right kind of calorie. Go ahead with a protein-rich meal and break those with an intense workout. Make sure your body absorbs the right kinds of food. Make sure you truly nourish your body with good food.
You should eat foods that are nutrient-rich. Consuming a variety of foods will give us different vitamins and minerals - foods that are naturally nutrient-rich include fruits & vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, legumes and nuts. They also are low in sugar, sodium, starches, and unhealthy fats. They truly nourish your body and keep you healthy.
All hail the Nutrients!!
You are allowed to cheat on your meal, once in a while. But don’t make a habit out of it. Like we always say, opt for an enriching lifestyle with mindful eating habits and some exercise. Keep a tap on the calories, and use it to your advantage.