What you need to know about calories to understand your body weight

Calories, this word has been used for decades, yet many people still don’t know what it really means. Calories are more than just a word linked to weight loss. Read on for essential aspects of the meaning of calories to understand your body weight.

Understanding calories.

The measure used to quantify the energy you get from food is called a calorie. Calories tend to be stored as fat, and are not burned when there is an excess of them. Maybe you didn’t know it, but there are several types of calories. Although, to be more explicit, this actually means that there are different ways that we get our calories.

Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are the main types of calories, which, when used by the body, are burned and converted into heat or calories.

What you need to know about calories to understand your body weight?

Each type of calorie is distinguished in terms of its physical and chemical properties. We can find them in various types of food, either exclusively or in combination. Here are the essential things you need to know about each type of carbohydrate, protein, and fat calorie to understand your body weight.


Carbohydrates are probably the most common type of calorie. They contain 3.75 kilocalories/gram and are found in foods that are mainly high in starch and sugar. Most carbohydrates can be taken from plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, and grains. Legumes, such as lentils, beans, and peas, are also high in carbohydrates. Dairy products would be the only foods that come from animals that have a high amount of carbohydrate content.

Generally, carbohydrates can still be classified into two subdivisions: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are basically sugaring, like glucose and fructose, that come from fruits and some vegetables. Another type would be lactose, which comes from milk. The last one would be sucrose, which comes from cane sugar.

The sugar that is for daily use is pure sucrose. Many of the simple carbohydrates you eat are sugars mixed with processed foods such as cookies and soda. Today, these supplements are the main reason why sugar accounts for 16% of the total calories consumed by most in Western culture.

Complex carbohydrate types are simple carbohydrate chains that consist primarily of starches along with fiber, which can be found in all foods that come from plants. However, plants store carbohydrates in the form of starch. Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates would include grains and products like bread and pasta. Additionally, potatoes, beans, corn, and other vegetables are also high in complex carbohydrates.

Regardless of the form (except fibers), the body converts carbohydrates into energy, glucose. The main difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is the time it takes for the body to convert them to glucose.

Complex carbohydrate types tend to give a more gradual and sustained release of energy compared to simple carbohydrates, which do so with a sharp increase in energy – usually accompanied by a sharp decrease in energy as well.


Since carbohydrates seem to be the most popular type of calories, proteins on the other hand, seem to be the opaquest in comparison to the fame of fats and carbohydrates. However, it is also an important type of calorie that you need to build muscle in the body.

Proteins have 4 kilocalories/gram. Most of these types of calories could not be produced naturally by the human body and must originate from dietary sources. The main sources of protein include: eggs, nuts, meats, legumes, grains, dairy products (milk and cheese).

According to recent studies, men between the ages of 19 to 70 should consume 56 g of protein every day in order to avoid deficiency. On the other hand, women within the same age range should get at least 46g/day. People who aspire to build muscle generally have a lot of protein in their diet.


Fats, as the name implies, would probably be the least desired type of calories for many.  However, it still plays an important role in the normal function of the body. For example, the body cannot absorb vitamins A, E, D, and K without fat. In addition, they are an important source of fatty acids. They play an important role in maintaining healthy hair and skin. Protection is another function, as they protect various organs from blows. They are also insulating. This is very important for people who live in colder climates.

Fats can be obtained from both animals and plants. Some animal fats include lard, butter, and fish oil, while vegetable fats include soy, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives, coconuts, sesame, and vegetable oils.

How to adjust carbohydrates, proteins and fats?

As a starting point, let’s review the current carbohydrate, protein, and fat recommendations, as well as the default goals for these nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates: 45-65% of calories.
  • Fat: 20-35% of calories.
  • Protein: 10-35% of calories.

While there is no combination that will magically melt the pounds, you can optimize your diet for body weight loss by adjusting your calorie composition.

When it comes to choosing what to eat more and what to reduce, in weight loss, consider first what you want to achieve. The goal of losing body weight is to reduce fat stores, while you have to preserve, or even add fine tissue, what we call muscle.

Adjust carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel for our muscles during exercise and are the only source of energy for our brain and red blood cells. One thing to realize is that once the carbohydrates you have eaten have been converted to glucose, what is not used to fuel body functions and replenish muscle glycogen, is transported and stored as fat. Unused carbohydrates make you fat. Your main goal with carbohydrates is to provide enough energy to fuel body functions and muscle activity each day and no more.

Complex carbohydrates like vegetables and whole grains contain fiber that has a beneficial impact on both satiety and blood sugar. Put them on your plate in place of highly refined or plain carbs and sugary treats.

Adjust fats.

Fats are just as important, especially those rich in omega-3s, playing important roles in everything from brain function to cell structure, but if you’re trying to lose weight, it may not hurt to swap some carbohydrates and / or calories from fat for an increase in protein.

Adjust protein.

Calorie for calorie, protein has the most metabolic benefits for weight loss: it increases satiety, stimulates energy expenditure, and preserves muscle. Lean protein offers muscle-saving benefits with very few calories from fat.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all ratio, you may find that making some modest adjustments to your macronutrient intake can help your long-term weight loss efforts. Feel free to experiment, but remember: The quality of the protein, fat, and carbohydrates you eat are just as important as the quantity.

Note: Modest changes in macronutrient intake can be beneficial for body weight loss, however these adjustments may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly those with diabetes, kidney disease, or other diseases affected by diet composition. As always, it’s best to check with a dietitian or doctor before making these changes, especially if you have medical problems.

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