Q:

Why do fats contain more energy than carbohydrates?

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Quick Answer

Fats contain more energy than carbohydrates because they need more oxygen for each carbon atom, which in turn produces more energy. This arises because there are more electrons surrounding each carbon atom in fat. While fat has a negative reputation, it is an important component of each person's diet, and intake should vary according to individual lifestyles.

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Full Answer

Carbon atoms in fatty acids have an oxidation state of -2 to -3, whereas carbohydrates have oxidation states of +1 to -1. Because of this, there are more electrons surrounding each one. The electrons in carbon have a low affinity, so when oxygen, which has a high affinity, is nearby, the electrons migrate to it and release energy in the process.

Although the body mainly uses carbohydrates for energy, fat is an important part of everyone's diet. When someone engages in a workout that lasts for more than an hour, the body relies on fat to fuel itself. In addition, it allows the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins like K, E, D and A, and it acts as an insulator when temperatures drop.

Most people should consume more than 35 percent of their calories from fat. However, athletes need 55 to 60 percent of calories. This is especially true for endurance athletes who engage in long workouts, as their bodies utilize fat more than those who workout in short bursts or not at all.

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