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The word calorie is often viewed in a negative light, as in the fewer the better. A calorie is a measure of energy that while many people are trying to reduce the number that is in their diet, the reality is that to sustain life, a certain number are necessary to consume each day. Is there a way to determine how many are needed or what type are needed? Yes is the answer to both questions.The number neededTo determine the necessary quantity of calories is very simple, multiply your weight in pounds times 10 or in kilograms times 22. This is the TOTAL that is needed on a daily basis to maintain your current weight. To lose weight, you must either eat fewer than that number or add exercise to your daily routine in order to use more calories than that number.Uses for caloriesThe calories that you need on a daily basis are simply to maintain your body the way that it is now, which is known as your metabolic rate or simply your metabolism which means:1. The continual function of your brain, heart, and all of the other organs of the body. In fact, the brain itself uses 25% of your daily needs. This total represents 65% of your normal requirement.2. Maintaining the shape and tone of the muscles of the body use 25% of the day’s total.3. Maintaining the normal body fat which exists mainly as a long-term energy source uses the remaining 10%.Types of caloriesWhile the total number is of primary importance regarding body functions, calories are found in three different forms with different primary purposes1. Carbohydrates: The primary use is as a short-term energy source with the length of time being up to about 2 hours. Simple carbohydrates found in fruit are absorbed and used in minutes whereas complex carbohydrate must first be digested and take longer to be absorbed and used.2. Proteins: These are used to build the muscles of the body which control how we move.3. Dietary fats: The primary use is as a building block of the trillions of cells in the body and also to transport some of the vitamins that are provided by food.The percentage that you should eat of each type is equal to the uses outlined above; 65% of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 25% should come from protein, and the remaining 10% from dietary fat. Part of the problem with weight control and obesity is that commonly, people eat 45% carbs, 45% fat, and 10% protein. Reducing the number from fats and increasing the number from carbs, will allow for a greater amount of food to be eaten, while at the same time reducing the total number of calories in the diet.Timing of mealsThe amount of time necessary to digest and absorb a meal is 1/12-2 hours. Hunger and fullness are controlled by two hormones and this cycle normally lasts for 3-4 hours. Everything put into the stomach will be digested all at once; there isn’t an order to it. The idea is to eat enough energy now that lasts for 3-4 hours and then repeat at that time. If more calories are consumed than needed for that time period, the extra will be converted and stored as body fat. By eating smaller meals more frequently, hunger can be avoided and the creation of fat deposits can be avoided. The idea of eating large meals with long time periods in between does not keep hunger from returning as the stomach has been emptied after two hours and thus the hunger hormone will return. But the number of calories eaten in excess of the amount needed for the 3-4 hour window will be deposited as fat. Portion sizeA portion of food equals the size of your fist which is 3 ounces (84 grams) for a woman and 4 ounces (112 grams) for a man. This is for both proteins as well as carbohydrates with one of each making a meal. Some people will see this as a small amount of food, but the hunger hormone (ghrelin) stops being produced as soon as food enters the stomach and the fullness hormone (leptin) will start being produced in 5-10 minutes. This cycle lasts for 3-4 hours when hormone sensitivity is normal. Obesity disrupts the body’s sensitivity to the hormones. Obesity does not occur because of hormonal problems, the opposite is true, hormonal problems results from obesity.
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