Nutrition 101

September 3, 2013

Any discussion of nutrition is sure to include the word Calorie. We know that food consists of Calories, and that we eat less Calories when we want to lose weight and more when we want to gain weight. But do if someone asked you what a Calorie actually is, could you define it?

Believe it or not, a Calorie is not a sneaky little creature that makes your clothes smaller in the middle of the night. A Calorie is actually a unit of heat, specifically, the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. Therefore, a Calorie is simply energy. And recall from high school physics that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it just changes forms.

Weight Gain
When food enters our body, it does two things. First, it is digested and serves as the energy source for life sustaining processes such as heart pumping, muscle contraction, hormone generation, breathing, and many other body processes. Then, once enough energy has been consumed for these processes, extra Calories are stored as fat. Weight gain is simply a result of ingesting too much energy in the form of Calories.

Weight Loss
Weight loss occurs when too few calories are ingested and your body recruits previously stored fat to energize those body processes. Fad Diets work by eliminating significant amounts of Calories from your current daily intake. Thermogenic aids, or diet pills, claim to enhance weight loss by stimulating fat loss, but fail to stimulate more weight loss than a consistent exercise combined with a healthy diet routine. Quick fix plans rarely work in the long term, and most importantly do not improve overall health. Long term, sustainable weight loss occurs slowly; 2 to 3 pounds a week is ideal. Determining exactly how many calories you need to consume for weight loss can be tricky, since the amount varies based on your current weight, gender, activity level, body type and goals.

Understanding nutrition and your personal needs can be overwhelming. A nutrition consultation with a qualified professional, like the one included with the HEH Executive Physical, can help you better understand those needs and what type of program will be most effective.

Written by Amanda Allen, Exercise Physiologist, Hoag Executive Health