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 'The Case for Calories'
by Pulkit Soni
Registered Bodybuilder and athlete
Feb  2003

The Case For Calories-Part I

We all enjoy the variety of food that tantalizes our taste-buds. However, food performs other important functions in our body besides pampering our tongue. It is essential for survival, growth , cell reproduction and maintaining good health. Food is the fuel which supplies chemical energy to our body to support daily activities and growth. Apart from energy, food provides us with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber. All these nutrients are required by our body in certain specific amounts and a deficiency or excess of any of these can have adverse effects on our health.

What Is A “Calorie”?
A “Calorie” is a unit of measurement of energy. Physically, a calorie is that amount of heat which is required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. However, “Joule” is also taken as a measuring unit for heat. The conversions in relation to calorie are given below-

1000 Calories = 1 Kilocalorie.
4.184 Joules = 1 Calorie.
4184 Joules = 1 Kilocalorie.

Practically, the term “calorie” is taken for measuring energy contents of food stuffs. Not only this, but it is also used for calculating the energy requirements of our body. Calories are needed to sustain the basic operations of human body, while working as well as at rest.

How Much Do You Need?
The calorific requirement of an individual per day is determined by these basic factors:

1. The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)- It is that amount of energy which is required by the body to support vital bodily activities when we are at rest like- respiration, blood circulation, digestion, absorption, secretion of fluids, filtration, thought processes etc. The BMR constitutes the majority of our calorie expense in a day.

2. The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)- It is that amount of energy which is required by the body to digest the eaten food and absorb its nutrients.

3. The Active Metabolic Rate (AMR)- It is the energy required by the body for performing a particular activity or a group of activities. For any given activity, the number of calories that you expend depends upon your body weight. Higher the body weight, the more calories are expended. For e.g. while a 70 Kg. human being spends 20 cal. Per minute pacing at about 6 mph. an 80 Kg. individual spends about 40 cal. Per minute running at 6 mph.
Not only the body weight, the intensity with which an activity is performed also makes a world of difference. You can thus obviously see the difference between the energy needs of a person who walks relatively fast than a person who just carries himself/herself around. Even two athletes performing the same exercise require different amounts of energy depending upon the intensity with which they are doing it.

4. The Life Cycle Stage of an individual- The daily calorific requirement varies greatly with the age, gender, state of sickness or well-being etc. For e.g. a lactating mother needs higher energy and so does a growing child. While an aged person having no work to do at all needs less of calories and so is the variation with sex where men need a bit more energy than women do.
In the next part of the article we’ll discuss the sources of calories and their individual effect on the human body.

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