In reading about nutrition and health over the past few weeks, I have been intrigued by what nutritionists call “energy balance.” After converting to a whole food plant based diet over four years ago, I never gave the idea of calorie intake that much of a thought. Now that I am seriously training, it has become much more of a focus. Especially on days that I feel less energized in the middle of a workout session. I believe I am only beginning to grasp the first steps to awareness of my “energy balance” in my food choices.
Understanding Energy Balance
Energy balance is just as important for those living a sedentary life as it is for those pushing their bodies to the limit. By understanding energy is going to be expended we can know how much fuel needs to be in our “tank.” This post will be the beginning of that idea and will continue in further posts in the future.
The first step is to understand the unit used to most commonly measure energy. That term unit is the almighty calorie. Other terms like kilocalorie (kcal) and kilojoule are also used when referring to energy. For most basic uses, 1 calorie is equal to 1 kilocalorie and can be used interchangeably.
The Long Game In Energy
The energy balance equation (energy in vs energy out) can be balanced or unbalanced depending on energy expenditure, energy intake, or both. It takes approximately 3,500 calories to gain or lose a pound. That seems like a lot but over the course of a week, month, or year it can play havoc with your body. Here are a few examples:
- One 32 oz Gatorade® Thirst Quencher has 4 servings of 8 fl oz.
- If you consumed the whole bottle, you would drink 200 kcal (8 oz = 50 kcal).
- If you drank one 32 oz Gatorade® per day every day of the year without increasing your activity level, you would add 73,000 kcal (200 x 365 days/yr), which is 20.8 lbs in one year.
- One Clif® Builder’s® Protein Chocolate Mint bar per day would provide 270 kcal of energy.
- Eating one Clif® Builder’s® Protein Chocolate Mint per day for an entire year without increasing your activity level, would add 98,550 kcal (270 x 365 days/ yr), which is 28.2 lbs per year.
The Almighty Beer
- Drinking one extra Lagunitas® IPA beer per day would provide an additional 180 kcal of energy.
- Drinking one beer per day for an entire year without increasing your activity level, would add 65,700 kcal (180 x 365 days/year), which is 18.8 lbs per year.
Thinking Twice For Energy Balance
Just doing the research for the information above puts a lot of thoughts into my head. It also opens my eyes into the quality of calories that I put into my body. I am pretty good at quality overall. However, adding that extra beer really puts some perspective into how it may affect my overall energy balance. Am I going to cut out beer or a glass of wine out of my diet altogether? Absolutely not! Life is too short not to enjoy it. But, I will definitely think twice about it when I look at my overall energy intake for each day, week, and month.
Next time, I want to go over what I’ve learned about Resting Energy Expenditure. This number sets the stage to determine the energy needs throughout training and life in general. Until next time…