What is a Calorie?
Calories are not something to be avoided! They are simply a measurement of the amount of energy stored in food. We mainly consume calories in the form of macronutrients, which are also known as carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each macronutrient has a different caloric density.
What is a Macronutrient?
The 3 main macronuteints we consume are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They provide your body with its structure and the biological fuel necessary to live!
• Carbohydrates are our primary source of fuel. They are stored in our muscles and liver for ready and available energy. (See Focus on Carbohydrates for more information)
• Proteins make up the bulk of our structure. They are used for building muscle, bone and enzymes. Proteins make up 17% of our body weight! (See Focus on Protein for more information)
• Fats provide energy during endurance exercise and between meals. They also insulate your body and protect your bones and organs. Unsaturated fats decrease the risk of heart disease and can assist in growth development and brain function (omega-3). (See Focus on Fats for more information)
Where does Fiber fit in?
Fiber, though not a macronutrient, causes you to stay full longer, lowers blood cholesterol, decreases heart disease and type-2 diabetes, and maintains a healthy digestive system. The recommended daily intake is 38g for males and 25g for females. (See Focus on Fiber for more information)
What is a Micronutrient?
Micronutrients are substances we only need in small amounts, but without them our bodies cannot function. Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, and calcium are among the many micronutrients that enable our bodies to produce enzymes and hormones necessary for growth and development.
What is Caloric Density?
Caloric Density refers to the amount of calories packed into 1 gram of a macronutrient. Here is the calorie breakdown of 1 gram of carbohydrate, protein, and fat:
• Carbohydrate – 4 calories / 1 gram
• Protein – 4 calories / 1 gram
• Fat – 9 calories / 1 gram
For example, a piece of whole wheat bread has 13g of carbohydrates, 3g of protein, and 1g of fat. This piece of bread amounts to 73 calories. Here’s how we got it: [(13g carbohydrates x 4kcal) + (3g protein x 4kcal) + (1g fat x 9kcal) = 73kcals]
How do I divvy up my calories?
It is always up for debate what percentage of calories should come from each major macronutrient. Percentages can vary according to level and intensity of physical activity. Here is a general guideline for how to break up your calories into carbohydrates, protein, and fat:
• 45-65% of calories should come from carbohydrates (No more than 25% coming from added sugars)
• 15-25% of calories should come from protein
• 30% of calories should come from fat (Saturated fats: 10% of total calories)