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Home Office Fact Sheet #5 Nutrition Basics

Home Office Fact Sheet #5: Nutrition Basics

Nutrition: Basics

Our diet provides the organism with building material, fuel, and substances active in signalling and regulating processes. Energy demand depends on size, age, muscle mass, gender, hormones, exercise, temperature and digestive activity. Energy uptake and energy consumption should be balanced, otherwise overweight or underweight would ensue.

The nutrients carbohydrates, fat and protein provide the body with the energy it needs to maintain its bodily functions, for physical and mental activities.

The body needs building materials for its structures.

Trace elements, vitamins and certain protein building blocks, that the body cannot manufacture itself, must also be taken in through food.

Finally, so-called secondary ingredients such as fibre, aromas, fragrances, colourants and other plant substances are important. Often it is them, that allow for the primary ingredients’ effects in the first place, as is the case with certain vitamins. Dietary fibre is also beneficial to the digestive system.

Nutrition: The energy content of the basic nutrients

1 g fat 9.3 kcal (39 kJ)

1 g carbohydrates 4.1 kcal (17 kJ)

1 g protein 4.1 kcal (17 kJ)

(For comparison, 1 g of alcohol gives 7.1 kcal / 30 kJ when burned.)

Nutrition: Basal Metabolic Rate

The good news: our body consumes energy even during sleep: a constant body temperature and the functioning of organs such as heart, lungs, liver, brain or kidneys must be maintained.

The basal metabolic rate is defined as the amount of energy that we use when lying completely still (12 hours after the last meal and at a constant ambient temperature of 20°C).

Basic metabolic rate according to DGE (German Nutrition Society)
Age (years)Male 172 cm, 70 kgFemale 165 cm, 60 kg
15–181900 kcal (7900 kJ)1500 kcal (6200 kJ)
19–351750 kcal (7300 kJ)1450 kcal (6000 kJ)
36–501600 kcal (6800 kJ)1350 kcal (5600 kJ)
51–651500 kcal (6200 kJ)1250 kcal (5200 kJ)
66–751400 kcal (5800 kJ)1200 kcal (5000 kJ)

The following formula has proven itself as an everyday guideline for estimating the basal metabolism:

Basal metabolism / day = 24 kcal (100 kJ) per kg standard body weight

Standard weight (height in cm – 100) is generally used as a basis for calculating the basal metabolic rate. If the actual weight deviates more than 15% from the normal weight, then the average of both weights is taken: (actual weight + normal weight) /2

Nutrition: Body weight

Body Mass Index has replaced the standard weight calculation, as it correlates better with the fat mass and ensuing health risks.

Body Mass Index (BMI) = body weight in kg / (height in m)2

A BMI of 19 to 25 in young to middle adulthood serves as a reference value. From the age of 35, the upper limit is shifted slightly. (There are setpoint tables for children.)

If the value is less than 19, you are underweight, values over 30 are considered overweight.

Age (years)desirable BMI

Nutrition: Energy turnover (energy consumption during activity)

Every activity beyond rest level consumes additional energy. This amount of energy is known as active metabolic rate. It is largely determined by muscle activity. Concentrated mental activity, the ambient temperature, but also the digestive activity consumes additional energy after eating.

Activity Examples of energy requirements per kg of body weight and hour
Activity LevelExamplesEnergy demand per kg body weight and hour
Light WorkOffice work, sitting conveyor belt work, teachers0,5–1 kcal/kg h (2–4 kJ)*
Moderate WorkHousewives with several children, farmers, painters1–2 kcal/kg h (4–8 kJ)
Heavy Workbuilders, competitive athletesup to 3 kcal/kg h (12 kJ)

* Depending on the intensity of the activities, the lower or higher value is used.

Based upon basal metabolic rate, active metabolic rate can also be estimated:

 for light to moderate work 1/3 of the basal metabolic rate

for moderate work 2/3 of the basal metabolic rate

for heavy work 3/3 of the basal metabolic rate

Nutrition: Total energy requirement

The total energy requirement is determined by the basal metabolic rate and the active metabolic rate (turnover for physical and mental activity):

Total energy requirement = basal metabolic rate + performance metabolic rate
Guideline values (according to DGE) for average total energy requirements for different groups of people with normal weight and with little physical activity
Height (cm)Weight (kg)kcal/daykJ/day
M    FM   FM        FM         F
15–18 Jahre174 16667 582.500 2.00010.500 8.400
19–24 Jahre176 16574 602.500 1.90010.500 8.000
25–50 Jahre176 16474 592.400 1.90010.000 8000
51–64 Jahre173 16172 572.200 1.8009.200 7.500

Beginning at an age of 35, the total energy requirement decreases by 0.8 to 1% per year (approx. 7% per decade). The daily energy uptake is often not sufficiently adjusted. This is why many people, with constant eating habits, gain weight noticeably over the age of 40.

Nutrition: Recommendations for nutrient intake

German Nutrition Society has published recommendations about basic nutrients. (These recommendations are currently being discussed with regard to the ratio of nutrients to one another. The currently valid recommendations are shown below.)

Fat approx. 30–35% of the total energy

Protein approx. 10–15% of the total energy

Carbohydrates approx. 50–60% of the total energy


A greatly simplified rule of thumb is: A healthy adult with light physical activity requires for every kg of body weight (normal weight according to Broca): 

0.8-1.0 g protein

0.8-1.0 g fat and

5 g carbohydrates

Nutrition: Calculation of the energy and basic nutrient content of foods and dishes

The energy and basic nutrient content of food can be calculated using a nutritional table. There are also countless apps and PC programs though.

Finally, recommendations for minerals, trace elements, vitamins, fibre, secondary plant substances and water have to be considered. These recommendations are provided by the above-mentioned diet apps.

The specialist knowledge of nutritionists and medical practitioners is required to create nutrition plans, especially under special conditions such as pregnancy, competitive sports or nutritional therapy.



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