Everybody wants to be in shape and have a healthy body. It takes effort, knowledge and persistence to keep in healthy shape. If you are equipped with the correct tools and information, it becomes much easier to obtain the body you’ve always dreamed of.
To figure out how many calories you need to eat, first you need to ask: What is my goal? Is it to maintain your current weight? Is it to lose weight? Is it to gain weight?
First thing to consider is the Recommended average daily caloric guidelines, I have provided a chart below to help understand. You probably have read somewhere on the web or heard from any other source about the term “recommended daily allowances” of different nutrients in our daily diet. We are not going to discuss the recommended values for each and every mineral or nutrient, instead we are going to focus on calories. Most guidelines recommend that an average male should eat around 2200 to 2600 calories each day, while the figure for an average female is around 1800 to 2200 calories per day. It goes without saying that these numbers are not absolute. Of course there are so many factors that affect that number. Weight, lifestyle, age, sex and activity level. If you want an example, consider two different individuals, one is an average male and the other is a professional athlete. It goes without saying that both of them – even if they are of the same age – would have different needs when it comes to calorie intake. In such case, the athlete will need to eat more calories than the other guy, simply because his body has higher demands due to the extra effort that he exerts.
“How many calories should I eat to maintain my weight?”
You’re happy with your weight and you want to maintain it. Simply, follow the recommended daily values by monitoring what you eat and calculating the nutritional data for your daily diet. Most women should stay between 1800 – 2200 calories a day and men should stick to 2200 – 2600 calories a day on average.
And if you would like to be more precise you might find it more convenient to calculate your BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate: which is the amount of calories that your body burns at rest – by using a simple equation, which can tell you exactly how many calories your body requires for its daily function and thus helping you answering the question of how many calories should I eat each day in case of maintaining your weight. That BMR accounts for nearly 60-70% of the calories that your body burns each day. And again, this BMR will vary from one person to another according to different factors which include age, sex, weight and activity level.
“How many calories should I eat to lose weight?”
First, it is very crucial to understand that decreasing your daily calories can’t be done infinitely or to no limits, meaning that you can’t just starve yourself in order to lose weight. In fact, when you go for long hours without eating, your body will enter what we call “starvation mode”. In that mode, the body prepares itself for a long period of starvation by burning muscle tissue – something that you don’t want to happen – while storing fat, which you want to burn in the first place.
Most experts agree that in order to lose weight safely and effectively, subtracting 500 calories daily from your diet is enough to lose about 1-2 pounds per week. One pound of fat = 3,500 calories. So if you deduct 500 calories a day x 7 days = 3,500 calories. Now don’t look at that number and say “only 1-2 pounds?” It might seem a little bit smaller than what you’d expect – especially if you are planning to lose a lot of weight – but it is agreed that it is the healthy rate for weight loss. Plus, studies have shown that people that lose weight at a healthy rate, keep the weight off, which is more important. To burn more calories, get to exercising! An hour of hiking can burn an additional 500 calories! So then you would have 1000 calorie deficit each day, and you may double your weight loss. Plus you’ll get your metabolism revving, and muscle burns more calories than fat.
Again, it is of utmost importance not to starve yourself or think that not eating will help you lose weight. Scientists have found that eating less than 800 calories will actually deplete your energy, leaving your body weak and not able to perform efficiently, while at the same time entering that starvation mode we discussed earlier. So, it is obvious that decreasing your daily caloric intake is something that you need to do carefully and according to the healthy and safe rate to avoid any risks to your health.
“How many calories should I eat, to gain weight?”
Yes, there are those people out there! For example, bodybuilders who want to increase their muscle mass usually need to adjust their diet to enable them to increase their muscles and their body weight. They have to calculate how many calories they burn while lifting weights and add it to their BMR. Then they would increase their calorie intake from there. Most athletes will supplement with high calorie protein drinks to increase their caloric intake. Healthy foods to increase your calories would be, olive oil, avocados, nuts, fatty fish like salmon, and Greek yogurt.
In the end, the answer to the question of how many calories should I eat will differ from one person to another according to their goal.
Tip 1: Check the website! Most restaurants will list their nutritional values of each menu item on their website. I recommend always checking it out first BEFORE going out to eat, so there aren’t any hidden surprises.
Tip 2: Look at the serving size! This is where most people get mixed up. That bag of potato chips you’re eating, probably has 3 servings. You have to account for that.
Tip 3: Keep a food journal! There are plenty of calorie counter apps for smart phones out there. Or you can use my favorite website Fitday, to keep track.
Tip 4: Don’t you dare starve yourself! Do not go below 800 – 1000 calories a day. Starvation mode sucks, your body will store fat and burn muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so you want to hold on to it!
Tip 5: Move your body!! An hour of good hiking burns over four to five hundred calories on average, head to the hills! The more you move the more you burn. Park far away from the store, take the stairs, walk and talk on your phone, every little bit helps!
WARNING: I got really chart happy!
Average Daily Caloric Guidelines:
How many calories do you burn exercising?
BMI Chart, this is just a guideline. A lot of athletes will weigh quite a bit more due to muscle mass, which wouldn’t make them overweight.
And THIS is another reason why I avoid fast food: