Bioenergetics: Thermodynamics for burning fat-calories and optimum body-weight

By Hakeem Alexander

(Exercising Your Mind) The following information is not standard for everyone and may even be out-dated or obsolete for some. However, it may work in a general way for most people. Many factors will effect how a certain amount of calories effects you as compared to others. These factors are things like how much sleep you get, if you breathe deeply and fully, if you drink adequate amounts of water, your levels of stress, environmental toxins and perhaps your genetics.

Thermodynamics includes four laws dealing with the interactions between heat and other forms of energy. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it may only change from one state of being to another. These conversions are either useful or not, relative to the context in which the transmutation is occurring. Thermodynamics is basically accounting and keeping track of how energy moves through a system, such as your body, as inflow and outflow, and what work it may or may not accomplish with this given energy. Work is the transfer of energy from one object to another, usually as movement.

The form of energy you put in is chemical energy in the form of food, which may be measured in Calories. Basically, the more movement or exercise you commit your body to engage in, the more of this food energy will leave your body system converted into heat and not remain in a storable composition in your body as triglycerides.

Gram Calorie:  Another word for “calorie”; a unit of food energy. In nutrition terms, the word calorie is used instead of the more precise scientific term kilocalorie which represents the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a liter of water one degree centigrade at sea level. The common usage of the word calorie of food energy is understood to refer to kilocalorie and actually represents, therefore, 1000 true calories of energy. A gram calorie is also known as a calorie, cal, or small calorie.” -Ron Kennedy, M.D.

This law of thermodynamics (heat-energy conversions) is a great and wonderfully simple guideline to manage and control your body weight. Simply stated; if more calories or energy goes into your body than is expended, you will add body weight. If more is burned than is taken in, you will remove body weight. Another piece of data to consider is that one-pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 Calories. This means that in order to lose one-pound of fat in one week, you must use up an excess of 500 Calories per day for 7-days consecutively, or a total of 3,500 in one week.

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Caloric availability:

  • Protein = 4 Calories per gram
  • Carbohydrate = 4 Calories per gram
  • Fat = 9 Calories per gram
  • Alcohol = 7 Calories per gram
  • Water = 0 Calories per gram

Knowing this allows us to track how many Calories we intake when preparing our own food or reading the labels of packaged items. We should be careful to observe that a box of cereal that contains 250 Calories in the ‘amount per serving’ area, this does not mean the entire box is 250 Cal.. Usually you will notice that 7 – 10 or more servings are in one box meaning that 1,750 – 2,500 calories are in that single box. If you had 40 grams of 75% lean meat, then we could calculate that 30 grams are protein, while 10 grams are fat. 30 x 4=120 + 10 x 9 =90= 210 Calories.

It has been said that one hour of training in boxing or kickboxing style aerobics classes can burn from 700 to 1200 Calories in one hour. Put in perspective, this significantly reduces the amount of time in days and hours required to accumulate enough burned Calories to shed that pound; however, this is too high impact or otherwise intolerable and undesirable for most people.

There are many other less intense exercise programs that may burn as much or more than combat style workouts, and others that are just as mild featuring fewer calories burned per hour. Walking is one of the simplest and most effective methods for moderate exercise.

Whatever fitness routines you subscribe to, the method for weight management calculations is simple. Count your food Calories on a note-pad, and count your exercise expenditure in the same pad. Subtract the total Calories burned during exercise from the food total Calories available and you’ll have the difference. If it is negative (less than zero) consistently then you are on your way to removing pounds. If equal consistently, you will maintain the same weight. And of couse if positive consistently, you will add weight. There are more meticulous calculations that may be done for much more precise and accurate weight management. However, this overview is sufficient enough to begin safely and effectively monitoring your healthy weight.

It is always suggested that you consult a licensed M.D. specializing in exercise and / or nutrition, and R.D.s (Registered Dietitian). Caring, experienced, and well practiced C.Pts, (Certified Personal Trainer) or Group Fitness Instructors with the same dedication to safely assisting others to enjoy the most healthy lives attainable, are also suggested resources. Any sufficiently motivated person may educate themselves and do this on their own. In any case, when you want something, one way I have found is simply to immerse yourself in the subject. For example, if you would like to be ‘more fit’, then surround yourself with more fit people, books about fitness, movies, t.v. shows, songs, poems, magazines and talking about fitness. However you can most easily and comfortably consume this information is recommended.

Remember, at all times to effectively achieve any goal, the focus must remain on being fit and healthy. I would now recommend unplugging from the computer for a while and going for a walk to think about burning more Calories and being more fit.

Copyright 2005 by Hakeem Alexander.


Understanding Thermodynamics, H.C. Van Ness-1969

Optimum Pefrormance Training for the Fitness Professional, National Academy of Sports Medicine-2003

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