For the majority of us calories are the devil and to be avoided at all costs. A large proportion of us think of calories only in terms of weight gain, and fail to realize that actually calories are a necessary evil in the right quantities. All a calorie is is a measurement of energy in the same way that a watt is. In fact one calorie is equal to 4,184 joules – and this fact is what makes it possible to power a light bulb using a potato. Now of course you need energy in order to be able to move around and without it we would be unable to even run our bodies – to blink, breathe or move.
There are many reasons that someone might want to increase the calories in their diet. For instance they might want to increase their weight and add some fat, which is useful if someone is underweight, has a very high metabolism, wants to add some curves, or is thinking of swimming the channel. By eating a larger number of calories than the body can use, this causes the body to store the glucose as glycogen – subcutaneous fat stores around our body – so eating more calories can help us to accomplish this.
The other reason someone might want to increase their caloric intake could be for some form of endurance exercise. Someone about to run a marathon for instance might increase their intake of calories as this way they could provide their body with enough available energy so that they aren’t forced to move on to using their fat stores or even their muscle mass for energy.
How to Get Calories
Calories in our diet actually come from glucose, which can be converted into ATP – the ‘energy currency’ of all living things. As such the majority of our calories come from carbohydrates as these are the foods that contain the most sugar and this means bread, chips, chocolate, pasta, crisps and generally most of the things we enjoy eating.
For someone trying to lose weight, eating lots of cake is of course a bad idea because they’ve already got more calories than they need. However even if you are trying to gain weight, or at fuel for an endurance event, you still wouldn’t want to eat tonnes of cake because it’s very high in sugar.
But I thought sugar was what we needed? I hear you cry. Well yes, but not in its raw form. Basically things like cake and chocolate which taste sweet are ‘simple carbs’ meaning that they have sugar in them in its basic form. This means that it’s all too easy for the body to use that sugar and this then means that it causes damage to our teeth and causes damage to our organs.
More seriously, if we eat too much sugar in this form, our body will notice the high amount of sugar in our bloodstream and so trigger the release of lots of insulin. This insulin will then mean that our body uses up all of that blood sugar to give us energy, which will mean that the sugar was good for nothing. We’re then left with a complete lack of sugar causing us to feel tired and lethargic, and the constant yo-yoing of insulin can eventually lead to diabetes.
So you don’t want to eat sweat carbs, you want to eat complex carbs – which will provide you with a steady release of energy throughout the day ensuring you don’t cause a sugar spike in your blood. This means bread, it means pasta and it means rice. Of course you also want to avoid carbs that are high in saturated fat (so crisps fried in oil should be avoided), and if you can get some other positive health benefits out of this then that’s even better.
Healthy Complex Carbohydrates
Here then are some complex carbs that don’t have too much fat in them, and which might also help you to get more fiber or minerals in some cases:
- Brown bread
- Potatoes (boiled or mashed with milk)
- Weight gain shakes