Understanding Calorie

For anyone wanting to lose weight counting calories is more important than breathing. Everyone knows that the rule for losing weight is that you have to burn more calories than what you consume. However there has been a major dietary war over which type of diet increases body fat the most.

The low carb diet followers believe that it is carbohydrates that wreaks the most havoc, while there are others who believe that the path towards leanness lies in rejecting all types of fats. Gradually calorie counting didn’t seem that important anymore as certain diets advocated eating an unlimited amount of food.

The simple truth still holds: to lose weight you must go on a low calorie diet. Losing weight the slow way is safer than any of the new diets around. One-half to one pound per week slow weight loss promotes long-term loss of body fat.

If you reduce your calorie intake by 300 calories a day and increase your activity to burn 200 extra calories per day, you can expect a steady weight loss of approximately one pound per week. The heavier a person is, the more calories they will burn.

With all this talk about calories, it’s amazing how little we actually do know about calories. We say that excess calories will be stored as fat but this isn’t even the whole truth. You don’t eat calories, you eat carbohydrates, fats and proteins. To clear any confusion here are the explanations of what a food calorie is, the calories in foods, nutrition and diet, calorie needs and calories burned in exercises.

What is a Calorie?

A kilocalorie is what we conveniently call a calorie. It is a measure of heat energy. It’s the energy necessary to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1° Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

How many calories in fats, carbohydrates and proteins?

There are 9 calories in each gram of fat. Fat contains more than twice the number of calories in carbs or protein. There are under 4 calories in each gram of carbohydrates (3.75 calories), the same calories as per gram of protein. This compares with over 9 calories per gram of fat. There are just under 4 calories in each gram of protein.

Although protein is essential for good health, it is better to lower your intake of animal protein (e.g. from cheese and meat) and increase your intake of vegetable protein (e.g. from beans, soybeans, lentils, nuts.)

How do you calculate your Daily Calorie Requirement?

Our calorie needs – meaning the number of daily calories we require to maintain our weight – depend on a number of factors. Our age, gender, weight, height and exercise routine are the main variables in assessing calorie-needs. But body composition is important, too.

Because lean muscle is more metabolically active than fat, the higher our body fat percentage, the fewer calories we require. To calculate your daily calorie requirement you need to know your body fat and lean body mass percentage.

How many calories should I reduce to lose weight?

You can lose one pound of body weight by reducing calorie intake by 3500 calories below your energy requirements. One pound of body fat equates to about 3,500 calories. So, if you create a 3500-calorie deficit through diet and/or exercise, you will lose one pound of body weight.

Calorie Intake per Day

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the lowest recommended calorie level (except under doctor supervision) is 1200 calories a day, although 1400-1500 calories is preferable.

As a rough guide don’t allow your calorie level to fall below your basal metabolic rate (BMR) – the number of calories your body expends by doing nothing. An average basal metabolic rate for many women is about 1500 calories a day.

Calorie Intake and Age

Slow weight gain is perfectly normal as we age. The principle reason for this age related weight gain is a decline in lean muscle mass due to inactivity and the aging process.

This loss of lean muscle causes a slow down in our metabolic rate – the rate at which we burn calories. Between the ages of 30 and 70 muscles mass typically decreases by an average of about 30 per cent in most people.

Calorie Reduction by Exercise

Another way to achieve a healthy calorie balance is to burn extra calories in physical exercise. For example, 2 mile walk burns about 200 calories which adds up to a weekly calorie reduction of 1400 calories.