How Calories Work

January 12, 2014 - 4 minutes read

How calories work

Think of your body the way you think of your car. In order to make your car run, you first have to fill it up with some sort of fuel – if there’s no gas in the tank, your car isn’t going anywhere, right? Well, the same goes for your body. In order for your heart to pump or your stomach to digest or your fingers to wiggle, you have to provide your body with some form of energy otherwise, like your car, it can’t function.

Where does our fuel come from?

Each day you fill your body with energy that is contained in the foods you eat. This energy is measured in kilocalories; a measurement that is more commonly referred to as simply calories – the basic measure of energy for your body. Every time you ingest a piece of food, you are providing your body with the energy that is contained in that bite, which will eventually get used throughout the body to put it through the millions of internal and external tasks you put your body through each day.

Does it matter where my calories come from?

We’ve all heard the saying “a calorie is a calorie”, as long as you burn it off it doesn’t matter where it came from; however, from a health and nutrition standpoint, yes it absolutely does matter where your calories come from.

There are three major sources of energy that allow our bodies to function – these include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Each one not only gives you energy, but also provides a set of unique and essential benefits with their own vital role in keeping your body healthy. This is why it’s extremely important that we get enough calories from each and why it is suggested that we ingest foods belonging to each category in specific amounts.

What happens to extra calories at the end of the day?

Think back to the car analogy…your gas tank is able to hold enough fuel to get you 100kms. If you fill it up all the way but only drive 50kms during the day, what happens to the gas gauge? It shows that you still have 50kms left over. Does this gas just disappear when you turn off the car for the night? No. Well the same rule applies to the energy you take in for the day. If you ingest 2000 calories on Monday but only burn off 1500, you have an extra 500 calories that don’t just disappear when you go to bed at night, but rather get stored in your body for a rainy day.

To put things in perspective, 3500 extra calories ingested over time will get stored as 1 lb of fat; therefore, if you were to experience the above scenario every day from Monday through Sunday, you would find that in one week you would be 1 lb heavier than you were the Sunday prior.

A bit scary to think just how quickly that can accumulate but luckily the same applies for the reverse. Burn 500 extra calories a day for 1 week and voila, your body converts that same amount of stored fat into energy to compensate and you lose 1 lb.