|Calories--they're everywhere. We hear about them constantly. We know we need to reduce our intake of calories, but what exactly is a calorie?
In the most technical terms, a calorie is a unit of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius at a specified temperature.
NOTE: We were recently contacted by a visitor who advised that our definition of calorie differs from that provided on other sites. The simple truth is that our definition is of a "large calorie" which is the type used to determine the calorie counts in foods. A "small calorie" is defined as a unit of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. A "small calorie" is the type of calorie used in chemistry and physics. It takes 1000 small calories to equal a "large calorie" or "food calorie." As far as your diet goes, a "large calorie" or the definition provided above this note is the one you should be concerned with. We hope that clears up the confusion. Thanks to R.J. of Chicago, Illinois for putting us on notice!
Well, that isn't terribly enlightening. Perhaps it is easier to understand a calorie in less technical terms. Every food contains calories. Almost every liquid we consume contains calories with the exception of water, coffee, tea, and diet soft drinks.
A gram of fat contains approximately 9 calories. A gram of carbohydrate or protein contains approximately 4 calories. Of course, some carbohydrates may be slightly higher or lower. But the 4-calorie rule is a good base.
A pound of body fat contains approximately 3,500 calories. By reducing calorie intake (what you eat every day) by 500 calories per day, you will lose one pound per week. If you work out and burn an additional 500 calories each day, you will lose two pounds each week.
Counting calories is important when using most diets. Carefully review your diet to see if you need to "count calories." If you do, don't forget to include caloried drinks, condiments, and those little breath mints. After all, adding 500 calories a week in little "extras" will reduce your weight loss by 1/7-pound per week. That doesn't sound like much, but if you need to lose a lot of weight, you'll start adding up extra dieting days quickly.
Calorie counts can be found on the labels of most prepacked foods. We have also provided calorie tables for some popular foods including fast foods.