First let’s start with the fundamentals.
What is a calorie (kcal)?
A calorie is a unit of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1°C.
Our bodies need calories for energy in order to perform basic living functions, such as breathing, thinking, walking etc.
Eating too many calories — and not burning enough of them off through activity — can lead to weight gain.
Eating too little calories, such as being on an extreme calorie restricted diet, can lead to weakness, low blood pressure, low heart rate, anemia, weak immunity and, in extreme cases, anorexia.
Every food has caloric (energy) value, although there are some zero calorie foods.
The recommended daily intake of calories varies by age, sex, height, weight, levels of physical activity, metabolism etc. However, there are some general guidelines that we can follow.
How much calories do we need on a daily basis?
Like I said, the recommended daily intake varies from person to person.
On average, in order to maintain the desired weight, within a healthy, balanced diet, women needs about 2,000 calories per day, and men about 2,500 calories.
Keep in mind that this is just a rough average estimate for people with little physical activity. For active bodybuilders and athletes calorie requirements are much higher.
Logically, in order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat.
3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat.
Simply put, in order to lose 1 pound of fat, you’ll have to create caloric deficit of 3,500.
So, in general, if you cut 500 calories from your typical diet each day, you’d lose about 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories).
This goes the other way as well. Caloric surplus of 500 calories (kcal) per day will gain you 1 pound of fat each week.
Can calorie counting help with weight loss?
By counting calories people become more continuous about their food choices. Caloric surplus caused by unhealthy food and drink choices, and low physical activity, leads to excess energy in the body, which turns into fatty tissue.
How can I calculate how much calories I need to eat in order to lose weight?
There is no way to calculate it with 100% accuracy. Because your daily caloric requirements depend on a variety of factors, including height, weight, body and muscle tissue, age, sex, physical activity, current weight, metabolism, illness, lifestyle etc.
There are various methods for determining daily calorie needs. One of the most precise methods is Harris-Benedict equation that includes the calculation of height, weight, age and gender.
Don’t worry, I’ll share much simpler calculator below.
Women calories need can be relatively precisely calculated with two caloric components: basal metabolic rate (BMR) and physical activity.
How to calculate calorie requirements for women:
To maintain basal metabolism, you need approximately 1 calories per kilogram per hour.
Multiply your weight in kilograms with 24 hours. This is the amount of calories you need on a daily basis to maintain basic life functions such as breathing, heartbeat, and so on.
Now it’s time to count the factor of activity. Multiply your daily calorie need with the following numbers based on your usual daily activity:
- Low daily activity (no exercise, sitting for majority of the day) = BMR x 1.2
- Light daily activity (exercise 2 times a week) = BMR x 1.375
- Moderate activity (exercise 4 times a week) = BMR x 1.5
- More active and sporting activities 6 times a week and more = BMR x 1.7
- Strong activity (professional athletes, construction workers …) up to 2 x BMR
Let’s say you have 64 kg
64 x 24 = 1536 (this is your BMR)
Let’s say you’re dealing with light activity: 1536 x 1,375 = 2112 is your recommended daily calorie intake
There you go!
Now you know how much energy you need in order to maintain your current weight.
If your target weight is 54 kg then you will need to lose 10 kg, which is equivalent to 77,770 calories.
By cutting your calorie intake by 500 calories per day, you are going to achieve your ideal weight in about 155 days (~5 months).
Off course this can be done much faster if you increase physical activity.
Now it’s time to set your caloric deficit goals, decide on a workout routine and meal plans.
Balance is everything!
Too little calories leads to side effects such as anorexia, and too much calories leads to obesity.
If your goal is to lose weight, then it’s important to have balanced meals that will help you achieve caloric deficit while providing you with enough energy and fibers in order to avoid starvation.
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