Nutrition Jargon Made Simple

Nutrition Jargon Made Simple

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It can be easy to get bogged down with technical terms used in the various circles of the nutrition industry. Below are some of the most common ones explained so that you have a basic understanding of what they mean when you hear people say them.


Calories are used to describe how much energy is yielded from the food we eat. You will see these on the back of food labels or if you do a quick search for any food on doctor Google. 

Calorie Dense:

When we say certain foods are calorie dense, we mean they carry a lot of calories. Even foods that look proportionally small and healthy can be calorie dense. You have likely come across a food or overheard someone saying “oh but they look so small” when they’ve realized that a few chocolate biscuits were the same number of calories as a big lunch. 

Calorie Maintenance:

This is the amount of calories/energy you would need to consume to maintain your current body weight.

Calorie Deficit:

A calorie deficit is a deficit in calorie/energy needs that is typically induced by consuming less calories than your maintenance, thereby creating a deficit or sometime referred as a negative energy balance. You can also do this by exercising more or a combination of both. You have likely heard the phrase “eat less exercise more” which would be an oversimplified phrase used to describe this process. Weight loss occurs when a calorie deficit is created.

Calorie Surplus:

The opposite of a deficit, a calorie surplus is when you consume more than you expend and subsequently eat above what you would do to maintain your current weight. Typically overtime this leads to an increase in total body weight.


This refers to the three “big” nutrients being carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are given the term “Macro” as they are needed in much larger amounts for the body while providing a chunk of energy. You will typically hear different ratios that represent the “split” of the total calories. For example, 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% (40:30:30) fat on a 2000 calorie would be a 40:30:30 split whereby 800 calories would come from carbohydrates and 600 calories from protein and fat. 


Micro-nutrients (micro = small) on the other hand are just as important but needed in much smaller amounts, hence the name “micro”. While they do not provide us with energy, they do help us unlock the energy we store from macro-nutrients in providing us with adequate vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B and C, sodium, and potassium.


The metabolism is basically the many processes by which your body converts all the food and water into energy immediately or to use later. Generally, its job is to do the groundwork in building up and breaking down lots of areas. For example, when you eat carbohydrates foods, these are broken down (catabolic) into sugar and therefore your metabolism is the driving force is allowing this to happen. Similarly, this sugar can also be used to provide energy later (anabolic).  

Metabolic Adaptation:

Your body is very clever at working out what is going on, when there are less calories being consumed it is pretty quick in kicking into self-defence mode and “adapting” by turning over energy at a slower rate. Think of it like when one of those times you realized you were on your last gallon of fuel and you are not sure whether you’ll make it home. What do you do? You adapt and slow down the speed to compensate for there being less fuel available and preserve hoping you can survive. Similarly, this is what your metabolism does when it realizes you are giving it less fuel than its use to and therefore survival mode kicks in.

Meal Timing/Frequency:

Straight forward enough, meal timing is simply the time you choose to eat while frequency represents how often you choose to do it.


These are products taken orally that contains one or more ingredients (such as vitamins or protein powders) that are intended to supplement someone’s diets or when they have a deficiency. The idea behind their creation is that they would be there to support someone if they could not support their nutrition needs.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

BMR refers to the amount of energy we typically need to consume to keep the body ticking over. Even when we rest need energy to sustain the stuff, we do not naturally think about such as breathing, blood circulation and even keeping your eyes open. All this stuff requires a basic energy supply to sustain it.