How to burn calories more efficiently

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“I’m on a diet, how many calories can I eat per day? How much do I need to train to burn calories and lose weight? ”

“How many calories does a banana / an apple / a pizza / an egg / a beer / a kebab have?”

These are the typical questions and the most frequent Google searches that we continually ask on the subject of calories every time we decide to pay more attention to the way we eat or how we train: calories that food contains, calories we eat, calories we consume.

We need some clarity .

A calorie (cal) is, by definition, the unit of measurement of energy, corresponding to the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one degree (from 14.5 ° C to 15.5 ° C) one gram of distilled water at the pressure of one atmosphere.

In common practice, a multiple of it is usually used, the kilocalorie (kcal or Cal or large calorie), corresponding to 1000 calories.

When we talk about nutrition, we refer to calories as the energy contained in food, understood precisely as the energy dose that those same foods provide our body.

The calorie content depends on the composition of the individual food. Each nutrient provides a precise number of calories: carbohydrates and proteins provide around 4 kcal per gram, while fats provide around 9 kcal per gram.

To find out how many calories a food contains, we just need to know its bromatological composition, i.e. which and how many nutrients it contains .

For example, knowing that oil contains 100% fat, if we have 10 grams of oil we just need to multiply by 9: we will have 90 kcal.

With more complex foods that have more nutrients, we’ll do the same. For example on 100 grams of wholemeal bread we will have:

7.5% protein – 30 kcal

1.3% fat – 11.7 kcal

53.8% carbohydrates – 215.2 kcal

with a total of 256.9 kcal taken per 100 grams of product consumed.

To find out the nutrient content of foods, use the official databases, such as that of the European Institute of Oncology, the Italian Inran or the American USDA.

Obviously, these are the average nutritional contents of foods, especially in the case of crops and livestock products, where there is a variability given by cultivation methods, soils and feed.

In the packaging of food products, we find these data in the nutrition label .

Usually there are two columns, one with the values ​​on 100 grams of product and one on the portion: it is important, if you want to compare two products, to examine the one referring to 100 grams of product.

In the labels we also find energy with another unit of measurement, “kJ”: it is the kilojoule (or kilojoule). One kcal equals 4.184 kJ. Basically they indicate the same data, but expressed with different units of measurement.

There are both because although the kcal is the most recognized by the population, in fact it is the kJ the official reference of the International System.

At this point how many calories should we eat and how much physical activity to do to burn more ?

Our daily energy requirement is made up of 3 elements:

  • about 60% is given by our basal metabolic rate,
  • 25% is determined by physical exercise
  • 15% from the thermogenic effect of food.

The metabolism basal therefore determines the major part of our expenditure energy and depends on a series of subjective characteristics, such as age, sex, weight, height, time of life.

It is usually calculated using predictive formulas .

The thermogenic effect of food is the energy that we consume for the process digestive of the nutrients that compose them, while physical exercise includes all activities that we actively in the day , including training.

To know how many calories we spend with physical activity, there are dozens of tables available on the web, however, calculating exactly the calories spent is very difficult because this depends on many factors: on the same activity the expenditure will be different depending on the body characteristics of the single person and also of his / her diet.

Physical Activity Levels (LAF) are used in clinical practice, calculated as multiples of the basal metabolic rate and used as multiplying factors depending on whether it is light, moderate or high activity, but the subjective variables are very large, so as the margin of error.

Currently there are numerous technological devices that help us understand how many calories we burn with a given activity and that can be good supports in our daily lives, although even in this case the reliability can vary a lot.

How to burn more calories without getting sick

More than knowing how to burn calories, we should be interested in how to maintain a balance between calories ingested and calories expended.

What we need to do is evaluate our energy balance between energy intake and calorie expenditure, but how do we do these evaluations without going crazy with the calculations? I have good news: the calculations are only useful up to a certain point.

In fact, our body is not a boiler. It is not enough to simply eat less: a calorie restriction given by the diet will cause an adaptive response of the basal metabolism, which will slow down its functions and carry out its activities with less energy, saving with compensatory mechanisms.

Diet and physical activity do not form a linear equation , but they are factors that work in synergy on the energy flow in and out.

Diet can affect energy balance and health beyond just providing energy .

Influencing factors are the total food intake, the distribution of macronutrients and the percentage of energy from proteins, fats, carbohydrates, the energy density of foods in relation to the volume and timing of food intake.

Similarly, exercise physical affects the balance energy well beyond the simple loss of energy .

Depending on the type, intensity and duration of physical activity, the amount of energy consumed can vary greatly, affecting appetite and the hormones that regulate it, the absorption of nutrients and their use as a source energy or storage.

So what to do when you eat?

First of all observing a diet balanced .

Half of the work is in fact given by how much and what we eat and in this the Harvard single dish can be of enormous help: it will allow us to measure both visually and qualitatively what to include in our meals.

Performing adequate physical activity will be the second step of our strategy, in the next paragraph we will see how .

We can keep our progress under control by monitoring our weight: this does not mean getting on the scale every day and being obsessed with the number that appears on the display, but evaluating of week > in week if there were changes in weight that not may be due to other factors such as water retention or exceptional behavior.

Even if there are significant variations, but we are following a balanced diet and regular training, do not be afraid: probably the composition of our body is changing and body fat is giving way to muscles (which weigh more).

How to burn fat instead of lean mass (muscles)?

Physical activity is not all the same .

Some types of training in fact affect our muscle mass in a more important way than others, allowing us a better regulation of the balance energetic and consequently also of fat body .

In weight loss programs it is typical to recommend low intensity and long duration aerobic exercises, but although it is a great way to improve blood pressure and heart function, is not entirely suitable for work on the muscles , indeed in some cases it can be also counterproductive .

We should therefore choose activities that allow us to preserve (or increase) our muscle heritage , making sure to include in our training routine an activity physical with weights that tone and allows you to increase hypertrophy or maintain the mass of the muscle .

In addition, strength training not only improves muscle mass, but also affects resting metabolism and helps maintain bone mass .

How much does nutrition, schedules and intensity of training affect? ​​

Nutrition and training affect each other on many levels , including the times of intake of the different nutrients and intensity of the various types of physical activity.

Coordinating physical activity sessions with timing of energy intake and macronutrient ratio can improve tissue recovery and repair, increase muscle protein synthesis and improve mood after exercise. high or intense.

For example, consuming carbohydrates exclusively or in combination with proteins during endurance exercise increases the stores of glycogen muscle , prevents muscle damage muscle and facilitates greater adaptations to training .

On the other hand, the intake of high quality protein within 2 hours after a strength training stimulates the increase of mass muscle and in general satisfy the need of proteins during the day contributes to increase the performance physical .

Meal frequency also has a strong impact on weight loss and body composition and can improve appetite and satiety.

Are there fat burning foods?

Fat-burning foods are a imaginative legend metropolitan , not they exist miracle foods that magically eliminate fat from our body or destroy the fat we eat from our diet.

However, we can adopt diets that include foods with high thermogenic activity and foods with negative calories, that is, which require more energy to be digested than they provide.

All nutrients cause a effect thermogenic in our body and require energy to be digested, but some more than others: it is the case of proteins. In fact, to metabolize 100 calories of protein we already consume about 25.

Proteins therefore play a key role in regulating body weight through satiety related to diet-induced thermogenesis .

Translated into what to do : insert a protein quota in each meal to increase its satiating effect and to give our muscles the bricks to build with, preferring healthy proteins from fish, eggs and some types of lean meat.

Other substances that allow weight control through thermogenesis are caffeine, which affects the energy balance of lipolysis and has effects on appetite, and capsaicin, which together with catechins is involved in metabolic processes with an effect on weight .

So coffee, green tea, cocoa and spices such as chilli and pepper can potentially be considered as body weight regulators. and included in our diet.

On the other hand, all those foods that burn more calories than they provide are part of the category of negative calorie foods : basically all vegetables, which are part of a balanced diet occupying half of the already cited single dish.

It is important to include them in our meals but not to consume them exclusively: our nutrient needs not would be entirely satisfied and this behavior could cause deficiencies important .

In summary, the quality of your metabolism and the efficiency with which calories are used and burned depends on what you eat, how much you move and what type of physical activity you do.

We can summarize the indications with some fixed points:

  • monitors weight trends over time and body composition;
  • alternates aerobic physical activity with weight training sessions in the gym;
  • eat according to the rules of the single dish and include a correct amount of healthy proteins in your diet.

If you want to know more about the effect of proteins and other nutrients on your body , on the timing of nutrition and on the distribution of macronutrients , discover my Potential Nutrition course.

You will learn how to use your diet to perform more in every area of ​​life .

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