Providing the right amount of energy

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Our bodies need energy to function and move. They have their own energy reserve, but it is limited. The diet has a significant role in covering for the needs. The foods consumed provide energy through their nutrients.

What is energy expenditure?

Every day, we use a certain quantity of energy that includes the basal metabolism, the energy expenditure related to our activities, and the energy expenditure related to food digestion.

Basal metabolism (BM)

It corresponds to the minimal energy expenditure required for body function and maintenance (heart function, breathing, etc). In standard conditions (on an empty stomach, at rest and at neutral temperature), basal metabolism accounts for 50 to 70% of the daily energy expenditure. There are many differences between individuals in terms of basal metabolism, leading to different weight gains with similar food intake.

The basal metabolism depends on the age, gender, body mass and height. It may also change over a lifetime depending on our health status or physiologic status (repeated diets, thyroid disorders, etc).

Energy expenditure related to activities

This type of expenditure is related to daily life activities and physical exercise, whether athletic or not. This expenditure accounts for 15 to 30% of the total energy expenditure. The expenditure related to physical activity can vary with individuals. It may be increased based on the duration, intensity or type of physical activity.

During walking activities, it is considered that the average energy expenditure is:

  • 250kcal per hour of regular walking
  • 370kcal per hour of fast walking
  • 420kcal per hour of Nordic walking

Energy expenditure related to food digestion

This expenditure accounts for 8 to 10% of the daily total energy expenditure.

Therefore, the daily energy expenditure is the addition of these 3 types. Other expenditures may add up to ensure the healing and repair of injuries, or when facing inflammation or infection.

What is energy intake

The energy intake corresponds to everything we eat to cover for the body needs. The energy intake should be equal to the energy expenditure.

In our bodies, the food we eat is broken down into nutrients: proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, and micronutrients: vitamins, minerals and trace elements. They are used by the body to ensure its proper function. Only the proteins, lipids and carbohydrates provide energy:

  • 1 g of protein = 4 kcal
  • 1 g of lipid = 9 kcal
  • 1 g of carbohydrate = 4 kcal

Weight stability therefore depends on the balance between your energy intake and your energy expenditures. Any excess intake that is not compensated by an increase in expenditures will lead to the storage of excess energy as fats, and therefore weight gain.

To give you some guidance, the French agency for food safety (Anses) set the following recommendations for daily energy intakes:

  • 2400 to 2600 kcal per day for an adult men,
  • 1800 to 2200 kcal per day for adult women.

These values need to be adjusted since they do not take into account sport activities.

Energy intake and balanced diet

A balanced diet combined with an appropriate calorie intake ensures good health.

From an athletic point of view, a balanced diet has a direct impact on training and performances. It provides many benefits:

  • Optimised training,
  • Improved recovery,
  • Stable weight maintenance,
  • Reduced risks of injury,
  • Helps enhance performances.

A balanced diet is built over several meals: breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner with the aim of providing all of the nutrients required for the body to function healthily.

  • Protein: 11 to 15% of the daily energy intake,
  • carbohydrates: 50 to 55% of the daily energy intake,
  • Fats: 25 to 30% of the daily energy intake,

In practice:

 

Marie Fauchille
Dietician | Nutritionist
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