A calorie is a measure of energy, just as a kilometer is a measure of distance. It is the fuel that allows us to live and move forward. Calories provided by nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates and fats, are used to generate the heat and energy necessary for the functioning of the human body.
Here are just a few examples of the wonderful things our bodies do with these infamous calories:
In fact, about 2/3 of our energy needs are for resting metabolism, which is just the work our body does to keep us alive (without other activity)!
Excellent question! However, the answer is not simple…
There are many easily accessible mathematical formulas to calculate our needs. This is what weight loss apps often use by considering your height, age, and weight, among other things. On the other hand, these formulas have MAJOR limitations, because several other factors can greatly influence energy expenditure, including:
A beginner spends more energy than an expert for the same activity
Extreme temperatures require more effort to regulate our internal temperature
Feeling stressed and/or living with a chronic illness may require more energy
Like those observed during the different phases of the menstrual cycle
Some people naturally use more energy while others store it more easily
For example, following a diet or a lack of food
Muscle is the tissue that uses the most energy
In short, our energy needs can vary greatly from day to day and from person to person, so it is not possible to calculate them with precision.
Often, people will mistakenly think that a high-calorie food automatically makes you gain weight. It’s wrong. Our body uses these calories. Moreover, foods are complementary: some provide a lot while others contain little. For example, vegetables contain few calories, so contribute little to provide us with energy, but provide a large amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Cheese, on the other hand, does not provide fibre, but is rich in proteins and lipids, which provide energy.
In addition, the information available on nutrition labels has a margin of error as large as 20%! Also consider this: the amount of calories provided by a food, such as an apple, will vary depending on environmental conditions (such as soil quality, amount of rain and sun), fruit ripeness, size, variety, and many others. So, in the end, we cannot trust the accuracy of this information.
The body likes to be in balance. It knows that it needs a certain amount of energy to function optimally and has several internal mechanisms to signal its needs to us, including hunger and satiety signals. We are all the own expert of our body and its needs, provided that we are able to listen to it. Thanks to our intuitive and mindful approach to eating, we can help you reconnect with these signals and thus rebuild a relationship of trust and balance with your body and food.
Danya Beauregard, Nutritionist, Dt.P., RD