Do you know What is a calorie? If you ever really need proof of how the human body works, find your way into the metabolic chamber. There are about 30 of them in the world and they cost millions of dollars. They use the best technology to measure every single ounce of energy that is either consumed or burned.
These chambers allow scientists to better understand diseases that affect the human body, including things like obesity and metabolic disorders. They also definitively answer a question that has been debated for decades: calories matter. And they are the primary factor that affects whether you gain or lose weight. The question is whether “a calorie is a calorie” and more about understanding why all calories are not created equal.
Are no trips to your nearest metabolic chamber planned? Do not worry. We’ll help you understand what foods affect your metabolism and hunger and how you can make food work for you.
What is a calorie?
We often think of calories as something we eat, but the truth is that a calorie is simply a unit of energy. More precisely, a calorie is energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.
What does water temperature have to do with the calories in your food? Scientists determine the number of calories in food using a technique we’re all guilty of in the kitchen: burning it.
This process is called bomb calorimetry. First, you place the ingredient in a sealed stainless steel container surrounded by water. Heat is then applied to the food until it burns. This chemical reaction creates tons of heat and slowly warms the surrounding water. The scientists then measure how high the temperature of the water rises to calculate the number of calories in the food.
Although this process is accurate, it is slowly falling out of favour. Today, most calories reported by the USDA and FDA are calculated differently. Instead of burning the food, the total number of calories is determined by adding the calories provided by the individual components of the food. This means determining the amount of energy from protein, carbohydrates, fat and alcohol.
what is a calorie: Ingredients
This method works because the calories per gram of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and alcohol remain constant. Each macronutrient has the following caloric values:
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
- So, 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories
This way you add calories to your food. However, that is not the whole story. As you’re about to discover, macronutrients are metabolized differently, so not all calories are created equal. Some foods (like protein) burn more calories during digestion, and other foods (like the fibre in your carbs) affect hunger and appetite.
Understanding how to balance your diet so you get the right amount of sanity—while not letting your hunger get the best of you—is key to staying in control of your diet.
Why calories are not equal (A What it means for your food)
Confusion about calories is less about how many grams are in a particular food after it’s cooked or packaged, and more about how your body uses those calories once you eat and digest the food.
The human body is the greatest machine ever built. You need a certain number of calories to perform daily functions such as breathing, walking, and thinking. And because your survival depends on calories, your body processes food differently to help meet all your needs.
To understand how you gain and lose weight, you need to think about energy balance, which is the old calorie vs. Although many things can affect energy balance, the type of calories you consume plays a big role. This is why not all calories are created equal.
Your daily metabolism is affected by many things. The three main components are:
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): This is the amount of energy your body needs to work.
Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): This is the amount of energy you burn when you eat. Exercise and activity: These are the calories you burn through movement and exercise. You can break it down into different categories like NEAT (thin-like movement and wiggle) and your traditional exercise. Most people don’t realize that 65 to 80 per cent of the calories you burn each day come from your basal metabolism. Physical activity and the food you eat make up the rest of your metabolism, but that doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.
Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are metabolized differently. Eating 100 calories of protein is different from eating 100 calories of carbs because protein has a higher thermic effect on food (TEF).
When you eat protein, you can burn up to 30 per cent of calories. In the above example, if you ate 100 calories of protein, roughly 70 calories would hit your body because 30 calories would be burned as a result of the high TEF protein.
In other words, the higher the TEF, the more it affects the calories “spent” minus calories in the equation (because not all of those calories end up in your body and get stored). By comparison, carbohydrates have a TEF of only 5 to 10 per cent, and fat is usually around 3 to 5 per cent.
This is one of the reasons why high protein diets tend to be associated with weight loss and weight maintenance. But, that’s only part of the story.
Domino effect Eat more protein
Protein also has a knock-on effect on hunger, making it a great foundation for gaining muscle and losing weight.
When you eat protein, you increase what is called satiety. This means that protein-rich food will fill you up and make you want less food (i.e. eat fewer calories).
This is why high-calorie (some might consider them empty calories) foods like fast food or ice cream can leave you feeling hungry just a few hours later. It’s not just about the number of calories in these foods. This is because they don’t meet your body’s needs to control hunger, so you crave more food even when your calorie intake is high. These foods are fine to have once in a while, but they make it harder to stay whole.
A high-protein meal can increase the release of a hormone (ghrelin) that helps satisfy your hunger and plays a role in determining how quickly your hunger returns after a meal.
Combining all the benefits makes it easy to see why eating more calories from protein in your diet helps create a calorie deficit. Protein burns more calories (the higher the TEF) and reduces the “calories in” part of the equation by affecting how much you eat later in the day. All quotes told are USATODAY taken. Also, check out more blogs in the fashion and health section.