The Basics of Nutrition – Energy Balance

Over Christmas I wrote some BLOGs to help you all start consuming a healthier diet. These included 10 Nutrition Tips for 2012, Soups and Smothies for increased fruit and veg intake and an Example Healthy Shopping List. Today I want to give you a greater understanding of Basic Nutrition and Energy Balance.

We all need to eat so we have energy to function. Energy is defined as the capacity to do work and is quantified in terms of calories (usually seen as kcals). Calorie content of food is calculated by measuring the amount of heat needed to burn it in a sealed chamber. There are 3 main food groups that produce energy, which are Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats.

1g of Carbohydrate and 1g of Protein both produce 4kcals of energy. However, 1g of Fat produces 9kcals of energy and therefore more work is needed to burn off fat. Therefore, check out some food labels in the supermarket, you should see that foods with greater fat content have a greater total energy. This is because fat produces 9kcals of energy to the 4kcals of carbohydrates and protein.

Energy determines whether we maintain, lose or gain weight. Energy Intake is the amount of energy we consume through our diet. While Energy Expenditure is the amount of energy we burn on a daily basis through our resting energy expenditure and our daily activities and exercise.

To maintain a stable weight – Energy Intake = Energy Expenditure

To GAIN Weight – Eneregy Intake > Energy Expenditure

To LOSE Weight – Energy Intake < Energy Expenditure

Therefore, manipulating either your energy intake through your diet or energy expenditure through your daily activities and exercise can hopefully make the GAINS (muscle) or LOSS (fat) in weight you desire. However, this is sometimes trickier than it seems, especially with athletes.

Everyone is individual and this can be helped by calculating the calories you personally need. Calorie intake depends on a number of factors (such as age, sex, height, body composition and activity level) and can be calculated using a formula known as the Harris-Benedict equation. The Harris-Benedict equation calculates your resting metabolic rate, which is then multiplied by your activity levels to calculate an approximate total calorie needs. The equations are:

Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age)

Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age).

For sedentary people multiply BMR by 1.2, for low active people multiply BMR by 1.4, for active people multiply BMR by 1.6 and for very active people multiply BMR by 1.8. This should give you an approximate Total Calorie Needs.

Why don’t you use these formulas to start calculating your energy needs now. To gain mass you need to be aiming to eat an additional 500kcals per day for a 1kg gain in mass per week. To lose weight you need to be aiming for a deficit of 500kcals a day for a 1kg loss in mass per week. Also remember other factors such as the number of meals a day, meal timing and the intensity and type of exercise you undertake play a part in how you gain or lose weight. For more nutrition information contact us now!


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