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What is energy balance?

Energy balance is the state at which your energy intake and your energy expenditure, both measured in calories, are equal. When you consume more calories than you expend, you are in positive energy balance. Routinely eating more calories than you expend will cause the storage of fat. When your calorie intake falls short of your needs, you are in negative energy balance. Imbalances that occur over a long period of time, such as weeks and months, are what change body weight.

You can determine whether you are in positive or negative energy balance by comparing the number of calories you take in to the number of calories you expend on a given day. Figuring out how many calories you take in is fairly straightforward. You can use the food label or a diet analysis program to find out how many calories are in the foods and beverages you eat and drink.

Energy is just another word for calories. Whenever you eat or drink, ENERGY (in the form of calories) is coming IN. At the same time, your body is constantly working, so ENERGY (in the form of calories) is going OUT. Your body burns a certain number of calories just to carry out basic functions like breathing and digesting. Children also need extra calories to help them grow and develop. A big person burns more calories every day than a small person. You also burn a certain number of calories through your daily activities. For example, children burn calories being students. Adults burn calories being office workers, kindergarten teachers, construction workers, stay-at-home parents, and everything in between. People with active lifestyles burn more calories than those with not-so-active lifestyles. Vigorous physical activity (such as running) burns more calories than moderate or low-intensity physical activity (such as walking).

Energy balance means that your ENERGY IN (all the calories from the foods and drinks you consume every day) equals your ENERGY OUT (all the calories you burn to keep your body going and carry out your activities).

Your energy IN and OUT don't have to balance exactly every day. It's the balance over time that determines whether you can maintain a healthy weight in the long run. And, because children need energy to grow properly, energy balance in children happens when the amount of energy IN and energy OUT supports natural growth without promoting excess weight gain.

This answer is based on source information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.