How Important Are Calories?

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With summer here, weight issues surface anew. As we welcome summer, here's to bathing suits and shorts, and body baring fashions.And as many of us become more body conscious, questions reappear with regards to diet once again.

There is not a day that goes by in my office that a patient doesn't ask about weight gain/loss and diets. There are those who come in and swear by the Atkins diet, the Sommers diet or some other diet. Well folks here it is:

The bottom line is that weight-gain occurs when the amount of food intake (energy, otherwise known as calories) exceeds the amount of energy the body spends. There are illnesses, and metabolic disorders that may be the cause of this imbalance. And yes, the research 
shows there is a genetic component. However, for the majority of Americans, it is really either over eating, and/or under exercising.

Let us start with the question how much energy (measured in calories) does it take for my body to function? This is known as the RMR, or resting metabolic rate. This is an individual's energy requirement needed for the body to do the basic functions, such as breathing, and maintaining brain and vital organ functions.

This measurement can be done by an instrument that is known as a calorimeter. This is a simple test that requires breathing into an apparatus for a period of time, in the morning, prior to eating and exercising and the number is displayed on the digital screen.

Now, the reason this number is significant, I believe, is that most people think they need and burn more calories than they actually do. After some testing, it was rather surprising at truly how low this number is in patients who are considered physically active and fit. Of course this number is only the beginning of determining how many calories your body truly needs, and what would be my recommendation as the FIRST step in any weight loss/gain program.

Additional caloric needs are then taken into account, and are also a consideration in an individualized program. Quality of food does matter. 

While calories are calories, there are some difference in the quality of a calorie. You may ask what does that mean? So, why isn't a donut with its fat and carbohydrate calories, otherwise known as "empty calories?"When the body digests, and breaks down food, it needs enzymes, vitamins, and other physiologically active substances. These substances are affected by the food. Take the donut. Due to its usually high simple sugar content, a physiological affect may be the spike in some persons insulin (a hormone). Also, the donut probably wouldn't be considered as a rich source of vitamins, and/or phytonutrients. And, in fact it probably contains trans fatty acids.

Another analogy would be this. Let say you own and drive a Ferrari. Would you really get the cheapest gas available? You might get where you want to be with a lesser quality gas in your Ferrari, but at what cost to the rest of the car, and its parts? Even my 4-wheel drive pings on low quality gas.

So, back to our body's. The quality of food matters, if you want performance. Yes, most food will in fact give you the calories one way. However, if the food is chosen by its calories and NUTRITIONAL value, just think how well you really could feel!

Here's to fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, oils, and high quality hormone free poultry, eggs, fish and meat.And high performance high octane fuel for all you Ferrari car drivers! Let us say we are eating well.Like the gas filled Ferrari, just gassing it doesn't keep it functioning well. It loves to be driven. (OK, it loves to be driven fast) And, so too our body's likes to move.

So, yes exercise is important. (And, that's a subject for another day).Our evaluation of the total energy need of our body and total caloric intake is the RMR plus the daily energy requirement of our body with exercise, a very active lifestyle and/or job.

 Call 541-383-3424 to get your RMR tested.