Let’s talk Energy Balance pt. 1

As a young female adult conscious about my physical appearance, I would like to stay in shape but still eat the foods I love. Hence, in light of my big meal last night at an all you can eat buffet, I decided to go out for a run this morning to equilibrate my energy balance.

 Energy balance is simply put, the balance between our calorie intake ( energy IN) and our energy use (energy OUT) through physical activity and basic bodily operations (Basal Metabolic Rate, will explain more later).

I am sorry to say, there is NO magic formula to weight loss and staying slim. In order to do maintain our weight, our energy balance should ideally look like this :

Energy intake = Energy expenditure + Change in energy stores

If we want to lose weight, have a negative energy balance where energy intake falls short of the combined energy use.

Very well, how do we then apply this knowledge for BENEFIT in our everyday lives?

Energy intake

We all know that energy is provided from food and drink. Our bodies oxidises the macronutrients we consume to extract this energy, which are from carbohydrates, proteins, fats and alcohol (really? this still does not justify having that extra pint!)

 * Before we proceed, let me tell you the common measurement units of energy that we see on our food labels: – Joule and kcal. Personally I prefer to use the unit kcal over Joule, but you can use either, just convert the figures to reflect the unit you are comfortable with.  To clarify, kcal and calories are used interchangeably. To my annoyance, even though ‘kilo’ represents a thousand and kcal would mean 1000 calories, in the context of nutrition (due to historical reasons), 1 calorie is often referred to as 1kcal.

  Fats are the most energy dense with 9 kcal/37kJ per gram,  alcohol a close second at 7 kcal/29kJ per gram,  and finally proteins and carbohydrates at 4kcal/17kJ per gram respectively.  So this explains why a portion of creamy carbonara is more calorific than the same portion of spaghetti and tomato sauce ( but we all know that, yes?). Hence is it wise to keep to less energy dense foods to allow for more food consumption? Lots of women try their best to avoid fat and stick to salads to control their weight, but the key is balance. We all need a good balance of macronutrients and in my opinion, as long as our plate has a fairly even spread across the macronutrients and of course portions of fresh food (vegetables, meats etc.) , AND we stick to our daily allowance of calories, all should be well.

Note : I am not obsessed calorie counting, I just think that it is a logical way for me to control my weight as numbers don’t lie!

It takes 3500 excess calories to make up 1 pound of weight gain, in this case mostly body fat gain (as opposed to  muscle). So if I eat 1 little 25g bag of Ready salted flavour crisps (or potato chips in American) a day at 133 kcals a bag, and if this bag exceeds my daily calorific allowance, I will gain a pound a month and almost 1 stone over the course of a year!!! But if I do some exercise to burn off some calories or don’t eat that bag of crisps, I can avoid the weight gain. See how awareness is helping me manage my weight?

Let me end part one with a table of the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) for calories, sugar, fat and salt content. I found this in a Morrisons magazine and thought I should share!

  Men Women Children    
      Child ages 5-10 Girl 11-14 Boy 11-14
Calories 2500 2000 1800 1850 2200
Sugar (g) 120 90 85 90 110
Fat (g) 95 70 70 70 85
Saturated fat (g) 30 20 20 25 25
Salt (g) 6 6 4 6 6


Check this article out for more detailed figures on GDAs for individuals of different ages and physical activity :


 Stay tuned for part 2 where I explain the second part of the equation : energy expenditure.


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