We cover all things ‘energy’ here at SEC, so it should come as no surprise when we write about the energy in food!
Have you ever wondered how much energy you consume every day by eating? Perhaps you’ve wondered how much energy it takes for basic bodily functions or to fuel a big workout?
Are you ever curious if you are overestimating the energy you burn on the treadmill (or Peloton)? If so, you’re not alone.
It turns out it’s much easier to consume energy than it is to burn it. Part of this is the way we are wired – and while we don’t profess to be experts in metabolism or biology, we have observed some interesting phenomena over the last several years of study.
First, it’s worth establishing a few energy fundamentals…
Most food energy is measured in “calories”, which are actually a shortened name for kilocalories (“kcal”), or 1000 actual Calories. One Calorie contains 4.184 Joules, a universal measure of energy in the SI unit system.
If you’re more familiar with a power bill, you could think about this in terms of you electricity usage: 1 Joule / second = 1 Watt (the same kind of Watts that power your home). 1 kilowatt*hour (‘kWh”) = 3,600,000 Joules (“J”) = 860.4 kcal, roughly 1/2 of the energy contained in the juicy burger shown above.
The average U.S. household uses ~28 times that much energy in their home every day, which may come as a surprise given the heft of the burger in the picture.
But while the food you feed your body for fuel is small in comparison to what it take to run an A/C unit, it’s still quite meaningful in determining how much weight a person will gain or lose over a period of weeks or months.
We have found that it takes only a +/- 150-250 kcalorie variance above or below baseline metabolic rate (depending on gender) over a sustained timeframe to gain or lose weight, and that the body adjusts to burn more energy as you gain weight. For comparison, that ~200 kcals equates to 0.23 kWh, or the equivalent of running the average 3.5 kW air conditioner for 4 minutes.
It turns out the body is very sensitive to excesses and deficits in the food balance.
So how should we determine our body’s energy balance and the best way to efficiently provide fuel for the day?
One effective way to understand more about your energy burn rate (pr power consumption) is to conduct a test known as a Resting or Basal Metabolic Rate exam (“RMR” or “BMR”) which measures CO2 exhlation over a 10-12 minute period and can deduce from that your metabolism, or how fast you are burning energy at rest.
An example RMR result might look like the below:
Add onto this figure some rules of thumb for activity and any extra working out, and you have a good idea of how much food is required for a given day.
Our friends over at Compostion ID (https://www.compositionid.com/) are a good resource for this type of exam and others that investigate Body Composition and help steer you in the direction of better health and wellness.
We also encourage you to visit our friend Dr. Richard Harris, M.D., Pharm.D., MBA (https://www.linkedin.com/in/drharrismd/) over at Great Health & Wellness (https://www.theghwellness.com/) who deliver excellent podcasts pertinent to nutrition and managing your body and diet in the most optimal way.
In future posts, we will discuss:
+What are some signs that you’re consistently overeating?
+How many calories are you actually burning on the Peloton?
+What foods control hunger the best while losing weight?
Andrew Schaper is a professional engineer and principal of Schaper Energy Consulting. His practice focuses on advisory in oil and gas, sustainable energy and carbon strategies.
Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals and do not offer medical advice on this site. Please seek professional assistance for diet- and nutrition-related needs.