Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Let's Talk Calories

Even though I am not following any particular diet, I do watch my caloric intake – at least most of the time. Since most of you are also trying to lose weight, I thought it might be a good idea to share with all of you how you can figure out how many calories you need to have daily in order to lose weight. So let’s start with the very basic idea that the amount of calories that you spend has to be greater than the amount of calories that go into your body when losing weight. If you have extra weight, it is because we had too many calories that did not get spent so our body stored this excess of calories as fat. In order to lose the weight, we need to empty this storage of calories (a.k.a. fat). A way to do is by eating fewer calories so that our body will be forced to take some calories from our own storage so that we have enough energy for all body functions. Another way is by working out to burn some calories. The key idea here is to spend those stored calories.

Now, the question here is: how many calories should I be eating so that I lose weight? To answer this question you first need to know how much weight you want to be losing per week. As I mentioned before, I’m trying to lose about 1-1.5% of my body weight every week. Let’s say 1% to keep it simple. This means that I want to lose about 1.92 lbs per week since I weigh 192lbs. Now, a key piece of information here is that you need to spend 3500 calories to burn one pound of body fat. Thus, I would need to be spending 6720 calories (1.92 × 3500) from my body storage per week to lose that much weight.

We now know how many calories we should be spending, but how many are we allow to eat then? To answer this question, let’s first calculate how many calories need to come from our fat storage every day to achieve our weekly weight loss goal. If I need to spend 6720 calories weekly, then that would equate to a 960-calorie daily deficit. Now, let’s look at the estimated energy requirements (EER) tables:

Using the tables, find your age and match it to your level of activity to find out how many calories you should be having per day. Once you have this number, subtract the calories that you need to spend on a daily basis. In my case, I would need 1900 calories per day according to the table so that means that I should be having 940 (1900 - 960 = 940) calories per day in order to achieve my weekly weight loss goal. However, adults and teens should never have less than 1200 calories per day. Thus, I need to make a bit of an adjustment to my daily caloric intake. I will have my 1200 calories per day but I need to burn the rest by working out. In other words, I need to burn 260 (1200 - 940 = 260) calories at the gym every day. This way, I would use up from my storage all the 960 calories needed to lose 1.92 lbs per week, in my case. The point here is that you need to get rid of all the daily calories you calculated above either through diet or by working out. A combination of both is usually the best idea.

If you subtracted the number of calories that you need to spend daily from your estimated energy requirement and it was greater than 1200 or 1200 on the dot, stick to that. However, make sure that you re-visit your calculations for your caloric daily intake on a regular basis because all these numbers will keep changing as your weight changes.

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