UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS OF CALORIES

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VOCABULARY

There are three types of calories that come from the food we eat:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Proteins
  3. Dietary Fats

Pure Carbohydrates (Complex): derived from non-animal foods (rice pasta, beans, bread, potatoes, fruit, yams)

Manufactured Carbohydrates: anything usually made with flour or sugar (cakes, cookies, candy, and desserts)

Fiber: the body lacks enzymes to break down and does not cost you any calories – but may burn calories trying to break down the fiber in order to digest it.

Glucose: blood sugar that stimulates the pancreas to release insulin

Homeostasis: a balanced state

Insulin: storage hormone that regulates how much glucose shall remain in the blood

Glucagon: a storage tank for sugar

Protein: derived from animal foods (chicken, turkey, lamb, fish, dairy products)

Essential amino acids: tiny building blocks of protein required for health (immune support, hormone production, etc…)

Saturated Fat: solid at room temperature

Unsaturated Fat: liquids at room temperature

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates come from food that is “non-animal” and are digested and absorbed by your body as *glucose.  The body prefers a concentration of glucose to be 70-110 mg/ml of blood in order for it to be stable.

If the body reaches levels of glucose above 110, the body will try to reach a level of *homeostasis and will begin to take the excess sugar out of the blood and store it into the fat tissue. If the level of glucose is below 70, the body releases *insulin to pull the *glucagon out of the fat tissue to put back into the blood.

All carbohydrates we eat will be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose. The body’s blood sugar stimulates the pancreas to release insulin and it will regulate how much should remain in the bloodstream.  The total amount of insulin release to the concentration of glucose in the blood is related to your total carbohydrate intake.

Thus, the kinds of carbohydrates you want to ingest are complex carbohydrates not manufactured carbohydrates.  Complex carbohydrates are found in nature and some examples include yams, potatoes, wild rice, beans, corn, peas, and old-fashioned oatmeal.  These carbohydrates elicit a lesser insulin response because it takes the body more time to digest. Manufactured carbohydrates (cookies, cakes, potato chips, etc…) are easier to digest; thus, the glucose is immediately released into the bloodstream and a large amount of insulin is deposited into the bloodstream making it harder to control body fat.

Fiber is a separate group of carbohydrates and is known as a nondigestible. The body is not equipped with enzymes to break down this substance and it actually burns calories trying to digest it. For instance, vegetables are known as fiber and give the body zero energy.  The body actually uses its energy in order to break it down and it does not affect insulin levels.  Thus, calories are burned by ingesting fiber and this makes it difficult to overeat. Vegetables are high in fiber paired with a complex or simple carbohydrate stunt the insulin from hitting the blood stream.

Examples of Vegetables High in Fiber:

Asparagus, Cauliflower, Dark green leaf lettuce, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Wax beans, Eggplant, Spinach,  Zucchini, Celery, Okra, Cabbage, Squash, Green beans, and Radishes.

PROTEINS

Proteins come from animal foods and contain all the *essential amino acids.  These proteins are broken down and absorbed as amino acids the same way carbohydrates are broken down into glucose.

Protein is the most important macro-nutrient in building or maintaining muscle mass. It is the only nutrient that directly rebuilds and helps develop lean muscle tissue. If your body does not receive enough protein from a low-calorie diet, the body begins to scavenge for the essential amino acids while the body enters a state of *cannibalism.  Thus, if losing weight is the goal, too few calories, and insufficient protein intake create the worst recipe because it will lower your metabolic rate.

DIETARY FATS

Nothing is more fattening than fats.  Fats do not take up as much space in the stomach nor are they as capacious. Gram for gram, they yield more calories than proteins or carbohydrates because the body absorbs 97%.  Consequently, a diet high in fat creates fat cells to expand bigger than they were previously and elevates insulin which will make it difficult for the body to ever use these cells.  Thus, they stayed stored and do not retreat.

All animal sources of fat found in meats, eggs, and dairy contain *saturated fat. Saturated fat can be a great source for good health, but can also clog arteries and drive glucose into the muscle. If the proteins you are consuming are not labeled as “fat-free” it is important to monitor your intake of these particular proteins.  A high saturated fat diet can promote cancer growth.

WHAT THIS ALL MEANS

After understanding the basics of what a calorie really consists of it is important to understand how many calories an individual needs to maintain life.  The first thing that is important in understanding how much of you is an actual muscle and how much of you is actual fat. In order to find out this information, you must get your body fat measured.  The most convenient way to do this is through a simple skin fold test.

An example of this would be an individual weighing 180 pounds finding out his body fat is 15%; thus he would carry 85% muscle.

How you figure this out mathematically:

Weight: 180 pounds   15% body fat

150 pounds x .15 =   19.4 pounds of fat

180 pounds -19.4 pounds fat = 168.4 pounds of muscle (lean mass)

Therefore, he would be 180 pounds walking around with 15% fat and have 19.4 pounds of body fat and 168.4 pounds of muscle mass.  His *BM, since he is carrying 168 pounds of lean body mass would be approximately 1680 calories a day.

If an individual drops his caloric intake below his BM the body will begin to burn protein from the individual’s lean body mass and the body goes into the “flight or fight” response. Thus, muscle is shed and the BM drops affecting insulin resistance and the receptors on fat cells for insulin are downgraded encouraging fat storage.

The healthiest way to shed body fat is to add lean body mass because it increases how many calories you burn each day while choosing the calorie level best suited for your lifestyle.

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