Part 1 in this series on fueling yourself for success explains calories.
In the busy world of business, it isn’t a secret that many business owners and CEOs struggle to make the time to eat properly. This could mean grabbing snacks whenever there is a spare moment, stopping for fast-food on the run because it’s quick and convenient, or getting to the end of a day that seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and realizing they haven’t eaten at all. While there should still be enjoyment in eating, the main purpose of feeding ourselves is to fuel our bodies with the energy and nutrients we need to function. There are many reasons that could be given as to why eating well is not a priority, however, when it comes down to it, fueling your body is key to fueling your business. In this series we will take a look at the basic components of eating to fuel yourself for success, including what gives us energy, the basic parts of a meal, as well as when and how to eat. To begin, in this article we explain calories.
What is a calorie?
A calorie is a unit of energy. According to the history of a calorie, in 1863 a calorie was defined as the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water from 0 to 1 degree Celsius. In 1925, they changed to being defined in joules: the amount of work needed to force one newton through one meter. This is why calories are sometimes referred to as kilojoules. One calorie equals 4.18 joules. As the amount of heat required to make a calorie differs at varying temperatures, scientists have now named different types of calories. A small calorie, also referred to as a gram calorie or 15-degree calorie refers to the heat necessary to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water from 14.5 to 15.5 degrees Celsius.1
The calories referred to in nutrition are actually 1,000 of these small calories. Some researchers refer to these as kilocalories which are also called large calories, dietary calories, nutritional calories, food calories and Calories with a capital C. This means the calories we see on food labels are actually kilocalories, or kilojoules. All types of food including fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (macronutrients) are important sources of calories, which we need to live and function as calories fuel us with energy and nutrients.
How many calories should we consume in a day?
The number of calories we need in a day for adequate energy and nutrition depends on many different factors that influence how much energy we burn and how fast we burn it, also known as our metabolic rate. This can include age, lifestyle (how active we are), height, weight, hormones, medications, or even being sick/unwell.2 The minimum standard to ensure we are getting enough macronutrients and micronutrients, is that men should consume no fewer than 1,500 calories in a day, and women should consume no fewer than 1,200 calories. The different macronutrients have standard amounts of calories:
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
The official Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that for an adult, 45 to 65 percent of calories should come from carbohydrates, 20 to 25 percent should come from fat, and 10 to 35 percent should come from protein.3 Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and the number of macronutrients needed depends on the individual and their requirements. For example, an athlete that is burning more energy will need more carbohydrates, or someone trying to develop more muscle will need more protein.
Foods that have a high number of calories relative to their serving size are considered high calorie. While high-calorie foods are often associated with “junk food” such as fast-food, fried foods, and sweets, there are high-calorie foods that are also high in nutrients. Healthy foods that are high in calories include avocados (227 calories each), quinoa (222 calories per cup), certain nuts (828 calories per cup of peanuts), and olive oil (119 calories per tbsp).
Low-calorie foods have a low number of calories relative to the serving size. There are also many low-calorie foods that have a high nutritional value. Fruits and vegetables are typically low-calorie foods that are high in nutrients. For example, spinach (7 calories per cup), celery (10 calories per stalk), corn (106 calories per cob), broccoli (31 calories per cup), oranges (87 calories per 1 large orange).
Empty calorie foods contain few to no nutrients and are generally high in calories. It is important to keep that in mind when choosing which foods to fuel us for success. Most of these foods contain high amounts of added sugars, alcohol, and fats that solidify at room temperature such as butter and shortening, or processed oils. These added sugars and processed fats tend to make them taste better to us, which is why we may want or “crave” them even though we know they have little or no nutritional value for our body. Some of the foods that are considered empty calorie are soda, energy drinks, chocolate bars, candy, ice-cream, processed oils (canola and soybean), most fast-food products (burgers, hot dogs, french fries), and alcohol.
Calories – A Fuel for Energy
While many of us see calories as a “bad” thing, it is important to understand that they are an essential fuel for energy. There are things we can eat that provide the necessary calories for enough energy to make it through a busy day, while also giving us the vital nutrients we require for our body to repair cells and tissues, rebuild and replace bones and tissues, heal injuries or wounds, and recover from infection or illness. Our body requires fuel for us to perform at our best, whatever that performance may entail, and the grade of fuel we put into our body affects that performance. Most of us have heard the saying: “You are what you eat.” So, if you were to pause and think about that statement, consider asking yourself: “Is what I’m choosing to eat fueling me for success?”
Next up in this series, Part 2 explains proteins, one of the essential macronutrients to fuel your success.
Download the Fueling Yourself for Success: Part 1 – Calories.
1 Hargrove, James. “History of the Calorie in Nutrition.” The Journal of Nutrition. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/136/12/2957/4663943
2 “Metabolic Rate.” Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/metabolic-rate
3 “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acides, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids.” National Academies Press. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10490/dietary-reference-intakes-for-energy-carbohydrate-fiber-fat-fatty-acids-cholesterol-protein-and-amino-acids