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Calories: Friend or Foe?

April 3, 2018

Calories are measures of the energy in foods.  They can be consumed in the form of the 3 different macronutrients; proteins, carbs, and fats.

 

There is endless controversy today on the topic of how many calories one should eat. A good place to start is with the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). The BMR measures the calories you require to sustain yourself while at rest.  Think of the BMR as the bare minimum you need.  To estimate how many total calories you need to either maintain your weight, lose weight or gain weight, we have to factor in your activity during the day. 

 

Surprisingly, a moderately large proportion of physically active people, in an attempt to gain better control over the weight, will actually eat far less than will help them lose weight sustainably, and some even go so far as to eat less than the BMR. 

 

We store body fat for several necessary functions, but we can also store any excess calories as added fat.  It can seem that “if I lose a little weight being 200 calories below my needs, maybe being 1000 below my needs will help me lose 5x more weight!!”  If only things were this simple, weight management would be easy for all of us.  The reality is that we store fat as a hedge against starvation.  Despite incredible technologic advances, our bodies remain unaware of the wonders of Wegmans!   In short, if you underfeed by too great a margin consistently, your body can read this as a crisis, and in such a crisis it will act to save every calorie it can…you guessed it...as fat!  This is done by slowing the metabolism, or the cost of our body’s functions. 

 

We need calories, or energy, to survive and to function properly.  To lose weight, and to maintain that loss, strive for a diet that keeps you 300-500 calories below your total needs.  To gain weight in the form of muscle, with minimal fat gain, aim for a diet that keeps you 300-500 calories above your total needs. Our INBODY machine is a great way to help you follow your results, as it tracks the changes in your body fat and muscle mass over time.  If you’re interested in finding your individual calorie needs, based on your age, height, weight, gender and activity level, as well as your overall goals for weight management, you can schedule a time to meet with our staff physician, Dr Paul Cialone, aka, “Doc.”. 

 

Once you discover your daily caloric intake, it is important to understand the breakdown of those calories into macronutrients. Each macronutrient fuels a different purpose in the body. Protein is the primary element for muscle building, while carbohydrates and fats fuel our energy systems. If we are missing substantial amounts of one of these components in our diets,  it can be difficult to ensure optimal performance and weight management. 

 

Diets that fail to take these issues into account can work for short periods of time, but tend to have a very high rebound rate.  This is the source of most Yo-Yo dieting effects.  It can work in the short term, but has consequences that should be discussed and managed in advance so that your overall goals can stay on track and your health and wellness can be maintained.  Please contact Tim if you have any questions or wish to schedule a consult with Doc.

 

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