On several occasions, I’ve heard people say ‘how do you expect me to eat right when I don’t even understand some of the nutritional terms you are using’. In order for you to eat right, you need to understand what you are eating as you would when taking a drug and the most basic thing you can know about food is that it gives energy.
Calorie is the unit in which energy gotten from food that can be measured. I mean just like the weight of the chicken you buy is measured in kilograms, the energy content in that chicken before or after cooking is measured in kilocalories (kcals). It’s very simple, foods give energy and that energy is measured in kilocalories (kcals). Energy is gotten from three nutrients in food – carbohydrate, protein and fat:
1g Carbohydrate = 4kcals
1g Protein = 4kcals
1g Fat = 9kcals
Alcohol also gives energy (1g Alcohol = 7 kcals), but the energy gotten from alcohol is called empty calories because apart from energy, they give no other nutrients. Alcohol may also interfere with the absorption of other nutrients when taken in excess.
Another unit used instead of kilocalorie is ‘kilojoule’
1kcal = 4.2kJ
How many kilocalories do I need daily?
Your caloric requirement or the energy you need from food per day is influenced by your age, height, weight, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and physical activity. Just in case you’re wondering what BMR is, it is the energy you spend resting – energy spent on breathing, blood circulation, muscle contraction, kidney function e.t.c and this represent 60- 75% of your energy use.
There are four main formulas commonly used to calculate energy or caloric requirement; Harris-Benedict Equation,Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation, World Health Organization equations and Estimated Energy Requirement equation by Institute of Medicine. The Mifflin-St. Jeor equation has been found to be the most reliable and has been validated by more than 10 studies. Our nutritional tool of caloric requirement is based on this equation
For females = 10 x (Weight in kg) + 6.25 x (Height in cm) – 5 x age – 161
For males= 10 x (Weight in kg) + 6.25 x (Height in cm) – 5 x age + 5
These equations are multiplied by the Physical Activity Factor to estimate daily caloric needs
Know your Physical Activity Factor!
Sedentary /Little to no exercise
Physical activity factor for people in this category is 1.2. it means apart from your basal metabolic activities (energy spent resting), you involve in minimal activities such as playing cards, watching TV, reading, driving, cooking, playing musical instruments, typing, ironing, sewing, desk jobs – all seated and standing activities
Physical activity factor is 1.373. It means apart from basal metabolic activities and seated and standing activities, you are involved in light exercise/ sports 1-3 days/week. This means you spend 7-8 hours to sleep, 13hours on sitting and standing, 3 hours on light exercise or activity and 1 hour on moderate activity. Light exercises are exercises that can be turned into moderate-intensity activity by increasing the speed or duration such as washing, walking, house cleaning, vacuuming, gardening, golfing, playing table tennis, e.t.c
Physical activity is 1.55. Moderate-intensity activities or exercises make the heart, lungs, and muscles work harder than light activities/exercises do.People in this category include persons in light industry, electrical, carpentry and building trades (excluding heavy laborers), many farm workers, soldiers not in active service, commercial fishermen, housewives/househusbands without mechanical appliances. This also include people that involve themselves in exercises such as jogging 5 to 6 miles per day, running (5 mph>), swimming, soccer, jumping ropes and carrying loads for 1.5 to 2 hours 3-5days in a week.
Physical activity factor is 1.725. People in this category include full time athletes or those that do competitive sports, unskilled laborers, some agricultural workers (especially peasant farming), forestry workers, army recruits and soldiers in active service, mine workers, steel workers. This level requires moderate intensity activity for most of the work day or exercise comparable to running 9 to 13 miles/day, biking or hiking on hills, jogging, swimming laps, playing basketball or high-intensity aerobics for 6-7days
Physical activity factor is 1.9. These are people who exercise seven days a week and/or have a physically demanding job. People in this category include blacksmiths, heavy laborers, female construction workers, heavy manual digging, rickshaw pullers, and coal mining. They are involved in moderate to high level of physical activity for most of the work day or exercise comparable to running 14 to 17 miles/day.
Find a balance and then lose excess weight
You are in a state of energy balance when the energy you are taking in through eating is equal to the energy you are spending on physical activities or exercise. Use our nutritional tool to determine your daily calorie or energy needs per day and your BMI. Through BMI calculation, if you have normal weight (BMI between 18.5 – 24.9), you can maintain that weight by involving in exercises that are proportional to the energy you are taking in. If you have excess weight, i.e overweight and obese, or lots of belly/lap fat, reduce your caloric intake to the amount required daily and increase your physical activities through exercise.
Note: Do not decrease or increase your energy intake below or above your energy requirement while increasing your physical activities. The amount of energy you get from food depends on the carbohydrate, protein and fat content of the food you are taking. Since fat has the highest caloric value (1g = 9kcal), when you take foods that are high in fat and don’t burn them in form of physical activities/exercise, you are likely to gain excess weight.
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