Measuring Calories in Food

We hear about them everyday: calories; but what exactly is a calorie? A calories is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water (one milliliter) by one degree Celsius. To put this in another perspective, to burn 1 kilogram of fat, one needs to burn 7700 calories (3500 calories to 1 pound).

To understand more about calories, here is another way to look at them:

  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories

As a general rule of thumb, the average male should consume approximately 2000 calories a day to maintain weight and the average female should consume approximately 1500 calories a day to maintain weight. Of course there are a lot more factors to this: age, weight, height, metabolic rate, fitness level, lifestyle, etc.

A good way to calculate your approximate daily calorie intake would be the following formula. This is known as the Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR.

  • Men: 66 + (6.3 * Weight in Pounds) + (12.9 * Height in Inches) – (6.8 * Age in Years)
  • Women: 655 + (4.3 * Weight in Pounds) + (4.7 * Height in Inches) – (4.7 * Age in Years)

Here are 2 examples to calculate the Basal Metabolic Rate:

  • Male: 200 pounds, 5’10” (70 inches), 25 years
    = 66 + (6.3 * 200) + (12.9 * 70) – (6.8 * 25)
    = 66 + 1260 + 903 – 170
    = 2059 calories
  • Female: 130 pounds, 5’ 5” (65 inches), 30 years
    = 655 + (4.3 * 130) + (4.7 * 65) – (4.7 * 30)
    = 655 + 559 + 305.5 – 141
    = 1378 calories

Of course, this is a rough estimate as there are other factors to take into consideration as mentioned above.

Now that we know what our baseline should roughly be, we need to start tracking how many calories we are actually eating. Fortunately, by law, the manufacturers of foods are required to place nutrition panels on the packaging to tell you how many calories are in one serving size or specific weight. It’s also becoming more and more common to see caloric values on the menus, receipts or information brochures of some fast food joins and restaurants.

There are also websites to help you keep track of weight loss. I personally recommend Fitday.com as it has a very large and extensive database, as well can also tract weight, training, measurements, goals and other critical metrics.

Let’s take an example food now to see what exactly is “under the hood”.

1 Medium Chicken Drumstick, Meat and Skin:
[table id=104 /]

1 Medium Chicken Drumstick, Meat Only:
[table id=105 /]

You can see three things quite easily:

  1. Frying, leaving the skin on, and coating with a batter increases the total number of calories.
  2. Chicken from a fast food chain has 6 times the calories of raw chicken consisting of meat and skin. This can be as much as 25% of a man’s daily calorie intake
  3. By preparing our foods by baking, roasting or stewing them at home to get the most nutritional calories

Now if we did this for all the foods we ate, we can see where our calories are going, and have the ability to maximize our intake with food we enjoy, not having to worry about being hungry or on a diet. Weight loss and fat burning starts in the kitchen.

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