What are calories?

Where do calories come from? What do they have to do with energy? And how many calories do you need? In this article, we explain.

| Rens van Dommelen
What are calories?

Simply put, calories (or actually kilocalories) represent the energy in food. So you could also think of calories as the gasoline for your body. The more calories in a product, the more energy it provides your body. The number of calories is calculated based on the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat it contains. Together, these three macronutrients or macros are called macronutrients.

The amount of energy in a food depends on the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats.

1 gram of protein contains 4 kcal

1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 kcal

1 gram of fat contains 9 kcal

The amount of calories a person’s body needs to function and move is called energy requirements. This is important because this energy provides for keeping your body warm, digesting food and moving, among other things. Energy requirements depend on gender, height, age, weight, how much he or she moves and the severity of exercise.

When all the energy that comes in through food is also used again, the body is in energy balance. When more energy comes in than the body uses, energy “left over,” your body grows. It may be growing in muscle mass, but also in fat. When this happens for longer periods in a row, body weight increases.

If the body receives less energy than it uses, your body “eats” the stored calories and you lose weight. Under normal circumstances, the energy balance fluctuates from meal to meal, day to day and week to week.

The amount of energy taken in each day varies greatly between people, as well as in the same person. A constant body weight means that over long periods of time, longer than a week, a person takes in as much energy as his body needs.

Compare the body to a bowl of water. The container gets filled up by the water (gets filled up by food). It empties again by using up the water (nutrition). When this container becomes too full it will overflow and there is too much to use. When the container is empty, this container is due for refilling and it is not usable at that time.