Calories: A Love-Hate Relationship

Calories - Your Fitness Daily This article is written to shed light on something people often overlook. Here I will define what a calorie is, the proper view on calorie counting, and general ideas on weight gain and weight loss.

Calorie

There is a misconception on what a calorie actually is. The common, ill-informed perspective is that caloric intake is a quota that needs to be met on a day-to-day basis, and is a constant number without fluctuation. Everything about this assumption is wrong.

A calorie is a unit to describe energy. That is it.  It is not a magical number where if you consume the exact right amount, and thus all of your fitness dreams come true.

Calories should be accounted for in their relation to what your body needs to survive. Meaning, if you sit in a desk for four straight hours, your body is burning somewhere around 300 calories. Therefore, in that four-hour period, you should not consume more than 300 calories if you are trying to maintain your current weight.

Weight Loss and the Mythical 2,000-Calorie Diet

The 2,000 calorie diet is bullshit… for the most part. If you’re only focusing on the not exceeding 2,000 calories consumed, you’re doing something wrong. You should be paying attention to eating within a range of calories according to what you’re burning, and focusing on where those calories come from.

1 gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories; whereas 1 gram of carbohydrates or 1 gram of protein is equivalent to 4 calories. By focusing on the number 2,000 and ignoring where the calories come from, the majority of those calories could come from fat- and that is absolutely wrong when you’re trying to shed gravity’s pull.

It is thus much more important to consume energy-economic and beneficial calories like carbs and protein as opposed to fat, because a protein heavy meal doesn’t cost as many calories as a fat heavy meal. The cost I am talking about is how much work you will have to do to burn off the extra calories from fat.

In order to lose 1lb, your body needs to burn off 3,500 calories. That means, if you are consuming 2,000 calories a day, you would have to burn 2,000 calories as well as 3,500 more to lose a pound in a single day- 5,500 calories! This is completely and utterly unhealthy, and should not be done in any circumstance.

How you should handle weight loss is giving yourself more time to burn 3,500 extra calories. For example, in the span of 2 weeks, you would have to burn 250 calories a day. And no, I don’t mean going to the gym and doing 10 minutes of running and calling it quits, I mean burning every calorie you consume, and on top of that, 250 more. Here is a quick mathematical equation:

Calories Consumed in a Day: +2,000 C

Calories burned in a Day[1]: -2,250 C

Net Consumption: = -250 C

If performed for two weeks:

Net consumption (-250) X 14 days = -3,500 C

Weight Gain

This is the exact opposite of weight loss. The goal here is to consume an 3,500 calories more than you’re burning. This is what the equation would look like:

Calories Burned in a Day: -2,000 C

Calories Consumed in a Day: +2,250 C

Net Consumption: +250 C

Net Consumption (+250) X 14 days= +3,500 C

There is something very essential to note, however; GAINING WEIGHT IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO GAINING MUSCLE. Your body does magically turn fat and carbs into muscle. That is a misunderstanding of the physiological functions of your body.

Your body has to synthesize protein in order to repair and build muscle… including muscle mass. To gain an entire pound of muscle, your body would have to synthesize 3,500 calories of protein.

To believe that this can happen purely based on consumption, you are completely off. No matter how much protein you consume, your body can only metabolize and synthesize 10-20g per hour. It takes 1.5 hours for your body to digest whatever protein it can; so at maximum, you are looking at 25-30 grams synthesized and hour.

If you stay awake for 16 hours, and consistently consume 25g every 1.5 hours, the caloric intake from protein consumption would be 1,066 calories. That is functionally the best your body could do.

It would take you almost four days of consuming as much protein as possible to gain a single pound of muscle. However, your body cannot function on protein alone; your body needs carbohydrates and other nutrients to sustain life and healthy organ function.

So, some calories have to come from other sources and if you’re trying to only concern X amount of calories, you won’t be able to consume that much protein. The healthy approach is in the one listed above; consuming 250-300 excess calories from protein. It will take longer for you to gain muscle, but you’ll be gaining actual muscle, and not just weight in general.

Summary

A calorie is a unit of energy. To be calorie conscious, whether in gaining weight or losing weight, you should be conscientious of how many calories you’re burning, and how many you’re consuming. However, it is not enough to just count these calories- you have to know what calories you’re consuming. If the excessive calories come from fat, you are going to gain fat; if the excess comes from protein, you will gain muscle.

Please note, I am not a doctor. These statements embody my opinion that have come from reading case studies and experiments, and through studying the physiological functions of the human body.


[1] This is from the rate you metabolize calories while sitting, eating, jogging, walking, working out, and other activities; and then adding them up.

Nick

About Nick

Nick Levato has been involved with the fitness community for over 8 years. Not only is he a Certified Personal Trainer but, has also been trained in martial arts. Nick has overseen the training of many individuals spanning all ages and fitness goals; and experimented most diets; for competitions, cutting, vegetarian, and general diets to coincide with weight training at the time. In addition to training on an individual level, Nick has also taught many group classes. He takes pride in pushing himself to his limits in the gym and in his everyday life.

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