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Monday, September 27, 2010

Calories: by Personal Trainer Zandra Alexander

The following article about calories was written by Zandra Alexander, a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach originally from Sweden, now living in Phoenix, AZ. She is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Scandinavian Academy of Fitness Education and Sports Aerobic Training System. Therefore, Zandra has extensive knowledge of the fitness industry.

This article is copyright of Zandra Alexander (2010) and has been republished here with her permission.

Enjoy!! :)

All diets are made up of calories. Everything you eat and drink (besides obviously calorie-free things like water, etc.) has calories in it. It's how many calories and exactly where those calories are coming from that effect your body and your weight. The way the human body works is pretty simple. There are a certain number of calories that your body requires every day in order for it to maintain its current weight. If your diet plan is made up of less calories than you burn in one day, you will lose weight. If it's made up of more calories, you will gain weight. And calories are made up of 3 things. Protein, carbohydrates (carbs), and fat. Weight gain though is related to total energy intake and has absolutely nothing to do with macronutrients, eating too many calories makes you fat and not your choice of macronutrients. So whether these excess calories in your diet plan are coming from protein, carbs or fat makes little difference. Fat used to be the bad macronutrient, these days it seems to be the carbs. Never avoid either fat, carbs or protein if you want to get fit and stay healthy, you need them all.

A calorie is a unit of heat used to express the energy value of food. A pound of fat stores about 3500 calories, so in order to lose a pound of fat, you need to burn an extra 3500 calories. If you cut 250 calories from your diet and burn 250 calories with exercise each day, you'll lose about a pound a week.

One way of calculating your calorie need.
A common way of calculating your calorie need is to set your daily calorie intake at 12 calories per pound, (12 calories x your weight in pounds= daily amount of calories).
This number will be your basic need in one day= basic metabolic rate (BMR). If you exercise or if you have an active job you will need to consume more calories, especially if you lift heavy weights.

An example of a diet could be about 20% fat, 40% carbs and 40% protein (depending on your goal and exercise, this example is for someone losing fat while gaining muscle mass and mostly used in fitness circles. Obese people may want to stick to a 20% fat, 50% carbs and 30% protein diet to begin with, and then later progress to the diet above.)

1 gram of fat is 9 calories.
1 gram of carbs is 4 calories.
1 gram of protein is 4 calories.

And lets say that you weigh 166,5 pounds and that will make your daily calorie need 2000 calories (BMR), this is how your calories would be divided per day:

20% fat= 400 calories from fat, (400/9= 44,5 grams of fat)
40% carbs= 800 calories from carbs, (800/4= 200 grams of carbs)
40% protein= 800 calories from protein, (800/4= 200 grams of carbs)

But here is where it gets tricky.
It's hard for me to sit here and say how many calories one should eat per day/what diet you should be on without a proper assessment. Every body is different and built differently and goal/exercise is different, so the above diet is just a common advice.

Another way of figuring out for yourself how you should eat is:

0,8 g x kilo you weigh (one kilo is about 2,2 pounds). When in hardcore training, especially weight lifting you will need more protein and then 1,2-1,5 g x kilo you weigh is recommended.

Protein is an extremely important part of all diet plans. That's because your body needs protein, and lots of it. It is the building block of muscle mass. But too much protein is bad for your kidneys and heart and it drives water and calcium out of your body, so don't over do it with the protein..
Great protein choices:

* Chicken Breast
* Turkey Breast
* Tuna
* Cottage Cheese
* Egg Whites
* Salmon
* Lean Beef
* Whey Protein

Are different depending on your goal, endurance exercise like a marathon demands high levels of carbs and carb loading with up to 6-10 g per kilo. A normal person needs about 2,2 g x kilo you weigh and the more you exercise the more you need.

There are fast carbs and slow carbs. Slow carbs (whole grain) will slowly work their way into your blood and leave you feeling full longer, fast carbs (white bread) will work fast and make you hungry again very fast after your meal. Carbs are used as natural fat burners in the body, as energy and repairing tissue after a workout. Weight gain is related to total energy intake but it is easy to eat too much of carbs and any excess carbs will be stored as fat.
Great carb choices:

* Parboiled Rice
* Baked Potatoes
* Whole Wheat Pasta (not too often)
* Sweet Potatoes
* Oatmeal
* Low sugar Yogurt (good for your stomach, but not too often)
* Beans
and of course vegetables and fruit!

0.5 g x kilo you weigh.

Unlike protein and carbs which are both 4 calories per gram, 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. This explains why high protein foods are usually low in calories, while foods high in fat are high in calories.
Fat itself does not make you fat. Eating too many calories makes you fat. Whether these excess calories in your diet plan are coming from protein, carbs or fat makes little difference.

Sometimes people on a specific weight loss diet plan try to eat less fat (or even fat free) and think that that alone will work. What they don't realize is that they are probably replacing those fat calories with calories from protein or carbs. Their fat intake has become lower, but their calorie intake evens back out to what it was, if not even more. Fat is used as transportation in the body for vitamins A, D, K and E and is also needed in building up cells. Avoid saturated fat though it raises the bad cholesterol, and choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat instead.
Great fat choices:

* Avocado
* Olive Oil
* Pumpkin seeds
* Nuts
* Flax Seeds
* Fish Oil
You can read more of Zandra's articles on her blog by clicking HERE I recommend you follow Zandra's blog, which is filled with fitness and nutrition advice.


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