How many Calories should I eat to Lose Weight?
Weight loss is a difficult topic to approach since it covers a wide variety of factors that need to be taken into account in order for it to work. It is well-known that counting the calories you ingest is a good way of measuring how well you are doing in terms of weight loss, however it is not as simple as reducing your caloric intake. Reckless reduction of caloric intake can lead to very serious side effects and any weight-loss program should be supervised by a medical specialist. However, these are some basic notions of what calories are, how they work, and how many should you eat to lose weight.
What are calories?
A calorie is a unit of energy, it is commonly used when referring to consumption and release of energy in humans; however, anything that contains energy in a potential state has calories, not just food. The measurement was established by calculating the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of a certain amount of water by one degree Celsius. Because of this, there are two types of calories: Small calories and large calories.
One small calorie is the amount needed to increase the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius; a large calorie is the amount needed to heat up one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. A large calorie is equivalent to 1,000 small calories.
What allows a human being to perform all the functions necessary to its survival and many other activities, is the burning of calories, the more you consume the more you will have to burn off in order to lose or maintain your weight as calories in food is how much potential energy they have. This means how much energy you would be able to produce when burning them off.
What are calories for?
As stated above, burning calories allows us to perform all sorts of activities. These go from digestion and keeping your heart beating, to running and other strenuous physical activity. Burning calories create energy needed for all of the body processes, which is why keeping a balanced diet is very important: it allows your body to perform all the functions necessary to your survival in a correct manner.
It is possible to balance our caloric intake in order to consume exactly the number of calories that our bodies need and it is not necessarily hazardous to our health to consume a little more; however, if our caloric intake is too high or too low it won’t be long before you start experiencing health issues.
All food contains calories and these depend on how much potential energy the food contains, which is measured in joules. For example: one gram of carbohydrates contains four calories, this means that you will be able to produce 16.73 joules when burning off those calories, which is enough to heat up just 3.9 grams of water by one degree Celsius, which is not a lot! This means that you should eat many calories in order for your body to work correctly.
How do we burn calories?
Calories are burnt through natural body processes, if your caloric intake adjusts to the minimum required then you will not need to exercise in order to maintain your weight. The number of calories burnt just by being alive is called the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), it is the minimal amount of energy needed to keep you alive and it can be measured by a professional, though there are calculators online that may help you get an estimate that takes into account your age, weight and gender.
Most of the calories our bodies burn are the result of these natural body processes which include cell regeneration and even just thinking can burn off many more calories than running. BMR accounts for 60% of the calories burnt during the day, which means that you can lie in bed all day and still 60% of the calories you consume would be burnt off. This, of course, means that your caloric intake must be quite high anyway and reducing it can lead to health concerns as your body will not have the energetic resources to perform as needed.
Sometimes, however, just living is not enough to help lose weight which is why the most recommended way to burn more calories is simply to move more. This can range from just walking to doing more strenuous activity in a gym. Physical activity accounts for 30% of the calories burnt during a day, the more activity the more calories burnt. Without a doubt the best way to burn calories is through cardiovascular workouts, this is because the number of calories needed to keep your heart beating is quite high and increasing the heart rate means that more energy will be needed to keep it going. This does not take into account the number of calories needed to keep the rest of your muscles functioning appropriately, every single body process needs energy so if you increase the amount of processes happening at the same time, more energy will be needed and more calories will have to be burnt.
Different types of Calories
Not all foods contain the same type of calorie and some foods even require more calories to be digested than it contains. What you eat can make an enormous difference in how many calories you burn. There are some foods that increase the number of calories your body burns off simply by consuming them.
Chewy foods, or foods that take a while to chew such as vegetables or fruit burn more calories, the same is true for foods that are harder to digest such as meat and whole grains. This happens because your body is expending more energy in the absorption that it receives from the food, which means that it needs far more energy. Drinking coffee or tea also increase the number of calories you burn because caffeine increases your metabolic rate, it makes your body work a little faster which takes more energy and therefore takes more calories. This is why many diet pills contain caffeine; however, remember that it is not recommended to consume diet pills without first consulting a doctor or nutritionist.
Your caloric intake is not the only thing that matters though; scientists have proven that the type of calories you ingest make a difference. It is not the same to consume 800 calories in fruits and vegetables than consuming the same number of calories in fast food. Of course, they both provide the same amount of potential energy but fast food calories will make you fatter either way. The latter type of calorie is called an empty calorie because it contains little to no nutrients and you need much more activity to burn it off.
On top of that, 21% of our caloric intake comes from drinks. This means that regulating what you drink and how much of it you drink can have a significant effect on the number of calories you drink. Soft drinks and drinks sweetened with sugar can increase your caloric intake greatly, the best things to drink therefore are unsweetened drinks such as water or coffee. Natural juices are also a great choice; however, they also contain sugar which means that if taken to excess even fruit juice can put you over your calorie intake for a day.
How many calories do I need?
Taking into account all of the above it is important to know how many calories you need to keep your body working perfectly even if you are not planning on doing any strenuous physical activity. The number of calories you need depends on the BMR of each person which is then multiplied depending on how physically active the person is. According to the U.S Department of Health, the average male adult needs around 2,700 calories every day to maintain his weight, while an average female adult needs about 2,200 calories each day with the same result.
In order to know how many calories, you need to lose weight first you need to establish your BMR and know the amount of physical activity you perform every day. You should never eat less than the calories needed to keep you alive, this means that if you are a male adult you should never lower your caloric intake below 2,700 calories per day. If you do this, you will risk serious health issues. If you increase your physical activity then you should also increase your caloric intake, this is why consulting a professional is very useful, they will be able to tell you exactly how much you need.
Once you establish your BMR then you can multiply it by a specific number that is indicative of your physical activity. If you are not particularly active your caloric intake will be your BMR multiplied by 1.2, if you are somewhat active then you will need to multiply it by 1.375, if you do some exercise during the week then you will have to multiply it by 1.55, and if you are very physically active then you will need to multiply it by 1.95.
If what you want to do is lose weight, then you can manage that by eating the number of calories recommended for your BMR and becoming a little more active. You can also reduce the number of empty calories you consume every day. To lose weight then the point is to make sure that more calories leave your body than the amount you are consuming, this does not mean that you have to starve yourself, you simply must balance the number of calories you take.
In short, it is quite easy to lose weight by reducing your caloric intake and there are certain foods that waste more energy than they provide. The best way to ensure that your calorie count is not in vain is to be sure that you are eating proper calories and not just empty foodstuffs. Increasing your protein intake will give you the number of calories you need, increase your metabolic rate and reduce cravings, which is a very effective way to lose weight. Cutting processed sugar from your diet is also very helpful and if your intention is to effectively lose weight by counting calories then exercising is an excellent way to ensure that you lead a healthy lifestyle.