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The scientific definition: 1 calorie (the kind we measure in food, aka a large calorie) is the amount of energy it would take to raise the temperature of 1kg of water by 1°C.
Almost everything you consume has a calorie count, or the amount of energy stored in its chemical bonds. That energy is released in digestion and stored as other molecules like glucose or fat, so your body can grab it for fuel when needed.
Pay more attention to the type of calories than the amount. “Feeding your body real food can help boost your metabolism,” explains Marjorie Cohn, M.S., R.D.N., owner of MNC Nutrition. Nutrient-dense foods will yield a much bigger payoff for your body.
Those midnight munchies can take a toll. Researchers found subjects who snacked later in the day had a greater tendency to put on weight, and burned less fat than when they stopped eating by 7 p.m.
You and your BFF might both order the same serving of ice cream, but due to differences in genetics, enzyme levels, gut bacteria, and even intestinal length, you might take in more calories.
Want to know how many calories you’re burning in a workout? Pay attention to your breathing: “The same way we need oxygen to burn, your body needs oxygen to burn calories. Generally speaking, the harder you’re breathing during exercise, the more calories you’re burning,” explains Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., a sports dietitian near Boston. The most efficient activities are those that engage the most muscles. Consider the following top calorie-burners*:
*Based on a 130-lb woman for 30 minutes.
2,000: The number of calories the average woman requires each day
2,400: The approximate number of calories for an active woman