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The Truth About Calories!

There are several reasons why bodybuilding is a very tedious sport. There's a rigorous training split to be followed each and every day, where you must strive to break, or at least meet the weight and reps from last day.

There are several reasons why bodybuilding is a very tedious sport. There's a rigorous training split to be followed each and every day, where you must strive to break, or at least meet, the weight and reps from the last day.

You have a demanding supplement program which must be followed very faithfully, and then there's a meal plan, which is designed to replenish all the lost nutrients by counting every gram of protein, fat, and carbohydrate that we ingest.

To the average beginner or intermediate bodybuilder this usually means hunting for more protein, less fat and certain types of carbohydrates, but this type of macro-nutrient management may be shifting the spotlight away from the fact that total calories are an essential part of bodybuilding. Depriving ourselves of calories is depriving ourselves of the energy we need to train and grow.

Energy Primer

Growth depends on the intake of calories and the macro-nutrient that the calories are from. Basically, food is measured in calories (kcals) because it is used as fuel for all of the body's functions by breaking down and releasing heat. A calorie is simply defined as the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

When considering the value of calories, there are several variables to keep in mind. For example, the quality of food will affect nutrient absorption and the efficiency of utilization and if there's an insufficient number of calories consumed, your body may end up actually cannibalizing its protein for fuel.

Calories contain and release energy, and each of the three macro-nutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) are designated a caloric value which represents how much energy they have to release.

Protein and carbs are both assigned 4 calories per gram, while fat is listed at a whopping 9 calories per gram! Oh yeah, and for all you drinkers, alcohol contains 7.1 calories per gram, so it doesn't make much sense to chug down a beer after an intense workout...

How Many Calories Do You Need?

There are several factors that regulate how many calories we need each day. Some of these considerations are your metabolic rate, physical activity level and thermic effect of food, sleep patterns, age, gender, body mass and body size.

To determine your caloric intake value for building mass, multiply your body weight by 24, while multiplying your body weight by 17 to determine your approximate maintenance level caloric intake.

Calorie Needs Calculator

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Calories Needed

Unlike the other macro-nutrients, proteins contain nitrogen which is important in the formation of new muscle tissue. The human body requires 22 different amino acids, which are found in protein, and can be classified as either essential or non-essential.

Essential amino acids can't be synthesized in the body, while non-essential amino acids can be. Under normal conditions, protein serves an important role in the maintenance, repair, and growth of body tissues.

Proteins make up about 15% of your total body mass and have several roles in the body. Proteins also regulate the acid/base quality of body fluids and are necessary for muscle contractions, hormone production, and the activation of metabolic processes.

In the human body, fat provides the largest store of potential energy, produces hormones, strengthens cell structures, transmits nerve impulses and provides insulation from cold environments. Fats actually contribute to about 50% of the energy required during light and moderate exercise, and this percentage rises as the work period is prolonged.

Thermic Effect Of Food

Approximately 10% of the calories you consume are used to process the foods that you eat. When your body processes food, it burns calories and releases heat. This is referred to as thermogenesis. If you consume 3,000 calories, 300 of them will be used for processing.

The thermic effect of food means that processing different types of food requires different amounts of energy or heat production. Proteins offer the greatest thermic effect, and fats the worst.

Thermogenesis Effect

Source Eaten Used Retained
Carbohydrate 100 4 96
Fat 100 3 97
Protein 100 7 93

Note: All numbers are in calories.

Therefore, it would be wise to have a diet high in protein, carbs based on your goal (mass or fat loss), and low in fat. Spicing up your food will increase thermogenesis and may make the difference between being ripped or not!