Fitness and Well-being

What Exactly Are Calories, Anyway?

Since the advent of smart watches, almost everyone has been constantly checking how many calories they burn with every activity. Every time one steps out, climbs stairs or even does some heavy lifting, these watches always keep calculating. 

But what exactly does it mean to burn calories? Are you burning enough to keep your body fit and healthy? To answer these questions, let’s take a quick look at what calories mean. 

What is a Calorie?

Calorie is nothing but a unit of energy. The unit Kcal or kilogram calorie, is used to measure the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of a kilogram of water by 1° C. This makes Kcal large calorie.

Cal is the amount required to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1° C, giving it the tag ‘small calorie’.

Therefore, one Kcal equals thousand Cal. Now let us look at this in terms of nutrition.

Calories in Food

Calories, in edible commodities, are usually mentioned under the ‘Nutritional Facts’ section on the back. What you have to keep in mind, however, is that almost all companies use Kcal or large calories.

Therefore, when a product mentions it has x number of cal, multiply it by 1000 to calculate the actual amount of intake per serving.

Though high in energy, some foods or drinks come without any other nutritional value. These have empty calories. This is especially true when they’re loaded with sugar. Sugary drinks like Coke contain about 108 Kcal per 250ml.

Essentially, while empty calories give you an instant boost of energy, they can’t be used for the building of muscles, promoting healthy growth or for any other nutritional benefits.

How many calories should I consume in a day?

The age-old question that everyone asks when they start dieting. While the number varies from person to person based on their weight, height and sex, it’s best to have an intake between 2400-3000 kcal per day if you’re a male between the age of 19-30 and between 2000-2400 if you’re a female of the same age group.

To understand exactly how many kcal you need to take, it’s best to consult a doctor or a dietician. However, considering most of us do not count the calories before we dig into our favourite dish, it’s better to ensure that we are always burning enough. In other words, always be physically active.

Best Ways to Burn Calories

Most people burn 1800 calories a day without really doing anything physically exerting. But to burn the extra calories that one consumes, it is important to make sure our bodies are always in action. 

A 30 minute walk helps you burn about 100-200 Kcal depending on your weight amongst other factors. A 30 minute run, on the other hand, burns anywhere between 200-500 calories. However, incorporating this into your already busy lifestyle is hard. Especially when it’s coupled with procrastination, the same reason most people don’t go to gyms or quit after a month or two.

But we have good news!

Playing a sport regularly can burn way more calories than going for a walk or a run. And the best part is that you don’t need to push your procrastinating self to play a sport as much as you would to go for a run. 

While running, jogging and cycling are some of the best ways to burn calories, playing a sport like badminton for an hour can burn upwards of 300 calories! And you don’t even have to be a great player of the sport. Just a casual game for recreational purposes can cause a serious drop in calories.

It is even easy to make a habit of playing a sport. All you have to do is find a set of friends who want to play or convince your friends the need to burn calories. If you don’t have people to play with, you can always find players on the ‘Meet’ section of the app!

As long as you follow a healthy diet that doesn’t include foods that have empty calories, playing a sport regularly can keep your body fit and mind energized. So don’t waste time, go ahead and book sports venues near you!


Pratheek Suryadev