When embarking on a weight loss journey,one of the first questions people ask is how many calories should I eat? or something like how many calories in a pound?.
Or if you are one step ahead and already know your overall calories count for your weight loss goal, you may be asking more specific questions like how many calories in a banana and how many calories in an avocado?
If you haven’t already noticed, the process of counting calories actually takes several steps and involve a bit of math, which may be a bit difficult to get a full grasp just from the video.
For those looking for a step-by-step guide on how to determine your calories and how to count calories, there is a practical guide later on in this section, so Keep reading.
Should I or Should I Not Count Calories?
Counting calories is a hot topic in weight loss with so much controversial. And it’s also one task every dieter loves to hate.
If you are confused whether you should or shouldn’t be counting calories, think about this:
Should you budget your finances?
Yes. Especially, if you are a reckless spender.
Yes, but maybe not as much if you are a cautious spender.
Calorie counting is at its very basic, it’s a food (energy) budgeter.
More you have problem keeping your portions in moderation, more counting calories takes importance and makes an impact in your weight loss. But if you can’t bear the idea of counting calories day in, day out, there is another way. And that is what calorie counting opponents suggest. Eat like a caveman – and follow a diet that primarily focus on fruits, veggies, lean protein and healthy fat.
Because all these foods tend to be lower in calories, calorie counting becomes less of an importance, and you don’t necessary need to know exactly “how many calories to lose weight”.
Despite a growing popularity in this type of diets such as Paleo, most of us don’t necessarily follow a particular diet that completely eliminates the need for counting calories.
So for the majority of us trying to lose weight, counting calories is still one of the most scientifically backed and effortless ways to go about losing weight.
So let’s take it from the beginning.
What Is a Calorie?
Calories are a way of keeping track of the body’s energy budget. A healthy balance between calories occurs when we put in just as much energy as we lose. If we consistently take in more energy into our bodies than we burn, the excess will gradually be stored as fat in our cells, and consequently, we’ll gain weight. But, on the other hand, we burn off more energy than we replenish, than we’ll lose weight.This is why we have to be able to measure the energy we consume and use, and we do that with a unit called the calorie.
One calorie, the kind we measure in food also called a large calorie is defined as the amount of energy it would take to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.Everything we eat has a calorie count, a measure of how much energy the item stores in its chemical bonds.
The average pizza slice has 272 calories, and there are bout 78 calories in a piece of bread. One apple has about 52 calories.
That energy is released during digestion and stored in other molecules. When the body needs it, it gets broken down to provide energy.
It’s used in three 3 ways:
10 % digestion
20 % physical activity
70 % basic functions for our organs and tissues
That third usage corresponds to our Basil Metabolic Rate ( calories needed for survival ), this is the number of calories you would need to survive, if you weren’t eating or moving around.
Adding some physical activity and digestion, and you arrive at the official guidelines for how many calories the average person requires each day: 2000 for women and 2500 for men. Those estimates are based on factors such as average weight, physical activity and muscle mass.
So, does that mean everyone should shoot for around 2000 calories?
No, not necessarily!
If you’re doing an energy guzzling activity, like cycling the Tour de France, your body could use up to 9,000 calories per day.
Pregnancy requires slightly more calories than usual, and elderly people typically have a slower metabolic rate, in which energy is burned more gradually, so less is needed.
Here’s something else you should know before you start counting calories:
The calories counts on nutrition labels measure how much energy the food contains, not how much energy you can actually get out of it.Fibrous foods like celery and whole grain take more energy to digest, so you’d actually wind up with less energy from a 100 calorie serving of celery than a 100 calorie serving of potato chips.Not to mention the fact that some foods offer nutrients like protein and vitamins, while others provide far less nutritional value. Eating too many of those foods could leave you overweight and malnourished. And even with the exact same food, exactly how many number of calories you’d get can be different from others.Variations in things like enzyme levels, gut bacteria, and even intestine length mean varying individual ability to extract energy from food.
So a calorie is a useful energy measure, but to work out exactly how many of them each of us requires we need to factor in things like exercise, food type, and our’s body’s ability to process energy.
In case you’re wondering, how the calories contained in foods are measured, here is the scoop.
They are measured with devices known as calorimeters.
There are quite a few different varieties of calorimeters, but they all operate on the laws of thermodynamics and involved measuring various heat-related properties of food.
How to Count Calories?
One of the first step in knowing “how many calories should i eat a day” is to first figuring out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). As I mentioned earlier, your BMR is the 24-hour measurement of the amount of energy your body uses to perform all basic functions to stay alive. This counts for about “70% of your body energy uses” excluding any and all physical activity.
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) can be calculated using the Mifflin-St Jeor equations.
Mifflin-St Jeor equations
These equations require the weight in kilograms, the height in centimeters, and the age in years.Your BMR has to be multiplied by an activity factor to estimate the daily calorie requirements. It means taking your activity level into consideration by multiplying your BMR by a number between 1.2 ( if you’re sedentary) or 1.8 ( if you’re really, really active).
Sedentary (1.200), don’t exercise at all.
Lightly active (1.375), exercise 1-3 days per week.
Moderately active (1.550), exercise hard at least half an hour per day.
Very active ( 1.725), means you engage in fairly strenuous exercise or sports 6-7 days a week.
Extra active ( 1.900), You have a physical job where you are very active throughout the day.
Women: BMR = 10 X weight + 6.25 x height – 5x age -161
Men: BMR = 10 X weight + 6.25 x height – 5 x age + 5
While it is difficult to estimate your metabolic rate with an estimation, research has shown that the Mifflin St. Jeor Equation consistently gets it within 10% of the actual BMR. While it is good to have an idea how your BMR is determined and works, you probably don’t want to plug numbers into that equation.
There are a number of free BMR calculators available online that you can use with great ease. My favorite BMR Calculator that I like to use to calculate BMR is the one fromMyFitnessPal. It is really easy to use.
This means that you know how many calories you need to eat per day to stay at the same weight. But BMR doesn’t tell us what happens in days when we’re active—like when we exercise, walk an extra mile.