At a basic level, calories are the measurement of energy that food or drinks provide to your body, and the higher the calories, the more energy that item holds. By this assumption then we know that to lose weight we just need to consume fewer calories and we will soon see the weight falling away. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complex than that.
How To Figure Out Your Daily Caloric Requirement
Have you ever wondered, ‘how many calories should I eat?’ and how many you need to remove from your intake to lose weight? There are basic guidelines to use as a starting point, which are currently set at 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 calories a day for men. This amount is for a normal healthy adult and is the set amount required as part of a well-balanced lifestyle.
If you want to lose weight then this amount of calories will only sustain your current weight and you will see little to no change. The basic amount of calories given does also not take into account your age, body size, and factors including physical health.
Without sufficient energy, or calories, we would not be able to function properly. Even if you lead a basic lifestyle without exercise you still require a basic amount of calories. However, if you have a more active lifestyle then you will require more calories and energy. Essentially, getting a balance is key and you need to monitor your calories to match them to your lifestyle.
But if you want to lose weight then how many calories should you consume? The short answer is there is not set amount, and the number of calories needed differs from person to person. To answer this fully we have set out the following pieces of information in order find out the number of calories you need to be eating and drinking to lose weight efficiently.
What is your activity level?
Getting to understand your activity levels is a key factor in deciding how many calories you need to be taking on. People that feel they are not eating enough to be putting on weight are often forgetful of how important exercise is, and their lack of exercise is usually why they are seeing such little change.
Honesty is also important here and don’t be thinking that your short walk to the chip shop constitutes as exercise. To decide which activity level you are at we have included the 4 commonly referred to groups. The 4 main groups of activity levels are as follows:
1. Very Sedentary – This level includes people who aren’t very active and spend large parts of the day sitting or lying down. This level of inactivity might be due to ill health or a disability.
2. Moderately Sedentary – This level is for people who work in offices or roles that are very inactive. They may also stay at home and only partake in a small amount of basic activity.
3. Moderately Active – This group is for people who are doing a job that requires a small amount of activity, and might be on their feet, such as working in a shop. Their activities will not be highly physical though.
4. Very Active – This level describes people who are doing heavy physical work like builders. They are people who are on their feet for most of the day and do lots of strenuous work.
Find your Body Mass Index (BMI)
Now you have your activity level decided you can look at your Body Mass Index or BMI. The body mass index is a great way to firstly monitor you current weight, and secondly, to calculate how many calories you should be consuming. The figure is produced by using a calculation derived from taking your age, sex, height, weight, and levels of physical activity. You can check your BMI via the NHS website by adding this information. This will then give you a figure of how many calories you should be consuming.
Checking Your Calories
When you purchase your food it’s good practice to check the amount of calories maintained within the item. This is certainly easier with pre-prepared products though and it will be much more difficult to do when you are making your own meals from fresh produce.
One way to best keep track of your calories is to use a ‘calorie calculator’. You can find these online or can also find many different apps, which will be even easier to use. When you start using a calorie counter it’s a great way to see how much food and calories you are consuming, and is even more telling than a food diary.
With all this considered and monitored you now have a great starting point to start controlling the amount of calories you are taking on, and subsequently, be able to use this information to lose weight.
Start burning your calories
The basic equation for burning calories to lose weight is to be taking on fewer calories compared to the amount of calories you are working off. However, when consuming less calories our bodies do compensate for this over time and reduce our metabolism. This can then also lead to loss of muscle mass too. To counter the loss of muscle you need to be lifting weights and working those muscles hard. Hitting the weights and exerting your muscles will prevent the loss of muscle and your metabolism will also be prevented from slowing down.
Up your protein intake significantly
Protein is essential to you when reducing your calorie intake. Upping your protein intake is a great way to lose weight and a more efficient way to burn calories. Protein is great at increasing your metabolism and is equally good at staving away your hunger. By introducing more protein into your diet you will consume less calories and stay fuller for longer.
Decrease carbohydrates in your diet
Carbs are high in calories and cutting them is a good way to lose weight – as we mentioned in our recent article on low-carb diets. You can still have some carbs in your diet so go for the low-carb options and foods that are high in fiber, such as peas, black beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, artichokes and many more options.
Sugar is your enemy!
Unfortunately, sugar has once again made our list of foods to avoid. Full of calories and particularly good at not filling you up, sugar is not good for low calorie diets. For example, by eating a chocolate after your dinner or lunch, you are adding 300 calories (or more) a day to your diet. One of the biggest sugar fiends is that of fizzy drinks and fruit juices. These items are full of sugar and calories that you do not need to be consuming. Stick to natural fruit when you need a sugar hit and keep them nearby during your weaker moments.
Water is always good
Like sugar, water has once again made our list but for much different reasons. Drinking more water is another good way of fighting hunger and reducing your calorie intake. We suggest aiming to drink 1-2 liters to get the best possible benefits. If you get bored of the clear stuff then make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, which are also good for helping boost your metabolism.
Hopefully we’ve helped you answer the question, ‘How many calories should I eat to lose weight?’, and you should now be much more knowledgeable on how to make more informed decisions moving forward. We’ve highlighted the importance of calories and how they affect our bodies – in both a positive and negative way. You can now use this information to spread the word on calories, and you’ll soon be advising your nearest and dearest on the in’s and out’s of the calorie world. Keep us up to date with your dieting progress and we look forward to seeing the results soon!