Calories. They seem to be everywhere, don't they? From food labels to Google searches, Reels, TikTok, and countless other sources. Let's embark on a journey to uncover what calories truly are, why they matter (or if they do), and how they relate to our lives as dancers. In the coming week, we'll peel back the layers of common misconceptions about calories.
At its core, a calorie is a unit of measurement. Much like inches quantify length, gallons measure volume, or miles per hour gauge your car's speed, a calorie measures the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. In the realm of nutrition, calories serve as a standardized way to estimate the energy that food imparts to our bodies. Often, we think of calories in terms of how much effort it takes to "burn off" or metabolize a particular food.
However, if we take a look at macronutrients, it becomes evident that not calories aren’t truly a standard unit of measurement. While it's tempting to categorize foods based on their macronutrient composition — such as carbohydrates, protein, and fat — reality is far more complex. Foods are typically a medley of macronutrients, right?
The Diversity of Foods
Consider this: can you name a food composed of just one macronutrient? Perhaps white rice comes to mind as a carbohydrate-centric option, but even then, there's more to the story. Take, for example, a steak that contains both protein and marbleized fat or brown rice with its mix of simple carbohydrates and fiber. Can we distinguish between the simple carbohydrates and the fiber within those grains? Do we possess an exact measure of the marbleized fat intertwined with the protein in your steak? The reality is, not really. These nuances make it challenging to pinpoint the exact calorie content of foods, leading to the reliance on research, calorimeters, and food science for accurate estimates.
What's the Bottom Line?
Just as we discussed in my previous post regarding body composition and BMI, it's clear that evaluating foods cannot hinge solely on their calorie count. In much the same way that a person's well-being can't be distilled down to a number on a scale, the nutritional value of foods can't be judged by calories alone. Our exploration of nutrition continues, as we peel away the layers of misconceptions surrounding calories — for dancers and anyone striving to nourish their bodies wisely.
Stay tuned for next week's post.