What Do Calories Measure and How Do You Burn Them

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You’ve been counting calories and watching what you eat but still don’t understand what do calories measure. I didn’t either at first so don’t worry.

What do calories measure?

The body requires a certain amount of energy to be functional and is referred to as calories. Every piece of food or drink you consume adds to your daily calorie intake. For every gram of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats we consume, our body gains additional calories.

When absorbed in excess, the calories get stored in the body tissues. They turn into fat, leading to an increase in weight. Exercising and other activities performed by the body leads to energy consumption, where calories are burnt. This leads to loss of weight if a balance in food intake is not maintained.

What do calories measure?

Calories measure the amount of energy derived from a specific amount of food.

Calories don’t just measure our foods, they are also measuring the amount of heat energy required to increase the temperature of water by 1° C. When a gram of water at 14.5° C is heated until it rises to 15.5° C, one unit of energy, one calorie, is spent in the process.

How to Measure Calories in Foods

Processed foods and beverages have calorie information outlined on their packages. Always read the nutrition labels on packaged foods so you know the amount of energy present in one serving.

As mentioned earlier, one gram of proteins or carbohydrates offers the body 4 calories when broken down. Fat calories are more than double the amount found in protein and carbs. For fat calories, you’ll need to multiply the grams consumed by 9. This will guide you on how to make your calculations for homemade foods.

Kilojoules (kJ), are used as a unit measure of the energy in food. 4.184 kJs are equal to one kilocalorie. Food processing factories must include the nutrient content and facts on the labels. You’ll need to put in a little more effort in calculating the outlined configurations to come up with the exact calories present.

Measure Calories 2 Ways

  1. Through the addition of nutrients
  2. By using digital calorie-counters (apps and software)

Measuring Calories Through Addition of Nutrients

After reading the nutritional information on the package, note down the number of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins available per serving. The information is provided in percentage. Vitamins, iron, and calcium values are also present in most packs.

If one serving contains 20 grams of fat, multiply this by 9 to get the number of calories it contains. As mentioned earlier, every gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories. For this reason, 20 grams of fats are equal to 180 calories.

Figureing out Protein and carbohydrate calories can be done by multiplying the grams in each by 4. That’s because there are 4 calories in every gram of proteins or carbs eaten. If there are 25 grams of each in a serving, their caloric equivalent is 100.

To get the total number of calories in the packaged food, multiply the number of calories you have gotten from the above calculations by the number of available servings. According to our results, 380 calories are what you attain from one serving. Let’s assume the package has 4 servings. That would mean the total calories are 1520! 380 multiplied by 4, 1520 calories in one package.

People’s intake of calories has a medical limit, depending on their age, gender, activities, and other factors. This will help you decide how many you need for your body to be fit. Taking in too much of the recommended number leads to weight gain while too little leads to weight loss or malnutrition.

Measuring Calories Through Digital Methods

In the age of smartphones, calorie trackers have been a great method for calculating the nutritional value of foods and drinks. You can use them to count calories on both packaged, non-packaged, and homemade foods.

The one I use and really like is MyNetDiary on the iPhone. They do have an android version as well but I don’t have any experience with that one. The food database is constantly growing through user inputted nutritional facts. There is occasionally some incorrect info, but you can easily just correct it within the app and submit the changes for everyone.

The application has a search bar on which you type the name of the food you want to evaluate. In an instant, you’ll receive information about the nutrients present in that food or beverage. One thing I like is that your calories are automatically calculated even if you don’t have a full serving.

Some calorie trackers take the initiative to inform you of the size of the serving that is recommended for you.

Before the digital methods were invented, there were calorie guidebooks with outlined nutritional information on all available foods. They are still available and in use.

How to Calculate Burning Calories

Calculating the number of calories burnt daily helps you to keep charts on your weight. You can know whether you are gaining, losing, or keeping it constant.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR), refers to the calories burnt by a person naturally. Genetics, age, size, and sex are the factors that affect it. To calculate the total calories you burn in a day, multiply your BMR by your current activity level.

To calculate your BMR, use this formula for men and women. It has constant numbers and spaces where you input the non-constants. For this method you need to add your age in years, weight in pounds, and height in inches.

  • Women’s BMR: 447.59+ (3.09× height) + (9.24× weight) – (4.33 × age)
  • Men’s BMR: 88.36+ (4.79× height) + (13.39× weight) – (5.67× age)

Use these numbers for calculating your activity level

  • 1.9 points- highly active (Heavy exercise for 5 to 7 hours at least 6 days)
  • 1.725 points- Very active (Exercises for 3 to 4 hours for about 5 days a week)
  • 1.55 points- Moderate exercises about 3 to 5 days every week.
  • 1.37 points- Slightly active for about 1 to 3 days per week.
  • 1.2 points- Not active.

To calculate the number of calories you burnt, simply multiply the BMR by the activity points. The most accurate way, however, is the use of smart devices. Devices like the Apple Watch or Fitbit do their best to calculate the number of calories burned using your heart rate.

What Do Calories Measure, Answered!

Hopefully after reading through it will give you a better understanding of what do calories measure and the ways to track, as well as burn them.

Drinking your calories can add up quick. Check out 15 low-calorie drinks you can find at most bars and restaurants.

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Jamie Wilkinson

Hey! My name is Jamie and welcome to Surviving the Day. I'm a jack of all trades but master of none. I love learning new things and living a healthy lifestyle. Hopefully, you'll find some of the information I share useful to you and your family. Feel free to drop me a line and I'll be sure to respond!

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