What are Calories?

Hundreds of thousands of people worry about the amount of calories that they consume in the foods that they eat, but what is a calorie? Our website is all about calories in food so it makes sense to have something explaining what calories are and that is exactly what this page is going to do.

Anyone that has any interest in dieting and weight loss will be over familiar with hearing the word 'calorie' but whether or not they know what calories are is a different matter. It is all very well looking up how many calories are in an egg or the number of calories found in a banana but it is important to recognise just what all of the fuss is about when it comes to calories and the effect that they can have on the human body.

Counting calories is what many people do on a daily basis in order to consciously manage their weight. If you want more information on calorie counting or find yourself asking the question 'how many calories do I need in a day?' then please check out our dedicated page. By counting calories you can successfully lose weight because you can ensure that the number of calories that you consume is below the amount that you need just to maintain your weight.

What is a calorie?

Ok so now we are going to answer the million dollar question for all those that are interested in calories, 'what is a calorie?'. Calories are quite simply a measure of energy, in the same way that a yard is a measure of distance and a pound is a measure of weight. If you were to look up the word 'calorie' in the dictionary you would be given a more technical explanation that will portray calories as the amount of energy that is required to change the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree celsius. We consume calories by eating food and drinking liquids, everything that we consume has a different calorific value, calories are what fuel our bodies.

So as a measure of energy calories are what the human body needs in order to do anything, to get up in the morning, to go to work, take a run, even to eat more calories, just as a car needs petrol in order to make a journey. Each different activity that we take part in or simple bodily function that we carry out will require a different amount of calories to be done successfully. Exactly how many calories that you personally require will depend on a number of different factors, most notably what it is that you do during your daily activities such as sleeping, working, exercising or eating.

The average male adult requires approximately two to three thousand calories each day to be included in the foods and liquids that he consumes. This amount of calories would see the average adult male maintain his weight, so not lose weight or gain weight either. The reason for this is that the amount of calories specified is the amount of calories that his body needs to function normally on a daily basis. How many calories that you need will depend on your age, gender and the daily activities that you carry out.

The more that you do the more calories that your body will require, however the less that you do means the same, you will not need as many calories but if you were to consume as many as you would on days where you were doing more you would end up putting on weight because the energy is not being burned.

What do calories do?

Now that you know what a calorie is we will continue to explain in more detail what calories are used for. We have said that different people require a different amount of calories just for their bodies to function normally, but exactly what functions do we mean, below are a couple of examples:

  • Our heart to beat and pump blood around our body
  • Our ability to eat and digest food as well as process it for the things we need before ejecting the things we don't
  • Our ability to breath
  • Our ability to maintain a comfortable temperature
  • Our ability to move from place to place

There are tons more of course, but basically a calorie is what provides us with the fuel to do all of these things. These are basic functions that keep us alive and well, the amount of calories needed for a person will increase depending on the extra things in a day that they do which will require energy, some examples of such activities are as follows:

  • Exercising
  • Working a physical job
  • Playing video games
  • Walking to the store

Once again the list of things people do on a daily basis is vast, in fact almost endless. Further calories are what are needed to fuel the body to do these things.

This basic amount of calories that we all require is something that is called the 'basal metabolic rate', there are ways to calculate your own basal metabolic rate so please see our dedicated page on the subject where you will find the simple formula.

It stands to reason that a larger person will require more calories to function that a smaller one, we have used the comparison to cars earlier on in the page but it really is a great example. A mini cooper is going to require a different amount of fuel to make a journey than a big old hummer or range rover!

What is a calorie? - How to control your own weight

There are a great many people who are interested in what a calorie is and how many of them that they require because this is the secret to being able to gain and lose weight as they please. One of the most effective ways of controlling your weight is to understand what your basal metabolic rate is and understanding the extra calories that you may need to burn in a day because then it really does come down to them only needing to count the amount of calories that are in everything that they consume and ensuring that they do not go over a certain limit each day, it really is that simple! Too many calories are what cause people to gain weight so the same applies, by understanding how many calories you need can help you to make sure that you eat over the amount in order to put weight on.

We hope that you have found our answer to the question 'what is a calorie?' sufficient and that you have been able to understand what calories are used for. There is much more to our site than just an explanation as to what a calorie is so please take a look round as we answer some questions posed by thousands of people each and every day.


Disclaimer: The text on calories in foods.com is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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