What exactly are calories?

Last Modified: 10/06/2022

what are calories

It’s not surprising that our bodies need calories to survive, but why? For help shedding light on the subject, we turned to Ryan Singerman, DO, PPG - Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery. Read on as he explains what calories are, why we need them and the different ways you can track your daily intake.

Defining calories

Simply put, calories are a measure of energy. Just as we measure miles per gallon for fuel energy or kilowatt-hours for electrical energy, a calorie is how we measure the amount of energy needed to supply the essential functions within our body. Everything we do, from moving to lying still (and everything in between), we constantly burn energy. That energy arrives in our body solely through what we eat or drink. The energy needed to keep our body functioning fluctuates drastically based on age, activity level, and sex.  

Excess calories 

Our body is tremendously adaptable, and it does not waste energy needlessly. It is capable of storing excess energy for a rainy day, ready to utilize the stored energy when we cannot eat or drink enough to sustain our body. However, calories consumed that exceed your body’s needs get stored as fat. Over time, this fat accumulates, increasing our overall body weight and decreasing our health. On average, one pound of body fat contains about 3,500 calories of energy and an adult living in the United States needs about 1,300 calories a day, far from the 2,100 calories a day usually consumed.  

Tracking your calories

Once you’ve established your caloric needs with a medical provider, it is important to be mindful of your daily intake and keep it near your goal. Research has shown that most diet plans can succeed when you consume an appropriate number of calories. There is a wealth of resources online that can help you with this. There are a few we frequently utilize in our office, but they are not mandatory. To help you with your calorie counting, here are a few tracking and food journaling options you might find helpful:

  • Eat this much – This is a calorie counter and meal planner with grocery lists and several diet options to accommodate your personalized plan. There are free and paid subscriptions available.
  • My fitness pal – This is a calorie tracker and food journal with a reliable and expansive food and restaurant database. There are free and paid subscriptions available.
  • Skinnytaste – You can find healthy recipes and meal planning options for the entire family.

Whatever you choose, remember to take your time, research your options and speak with your primary care provider. They can help you find the plan that is right for you.

Where to turn for help

To learn more about the resources available to you at PPG - Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery, including our free seminars, please fill out this form and one of our care team members will contact you with more information.

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