Everyone is always talking about calories. Counting calories, empty calories, how many calories they should eat a day.
We know calories have a huge impact on our diets and our goals. But do you truly understand why calories are so important and how they impact you?
I want to break down calories and answer all the burning questions you have, so you can take control of your calories. Whether it be so lose weight or just be healthier, you are going to be able to put this information into practice!
To really get a handle on calories, you need to understand what a calorie is. If you look up a definition of calories, you will see that it is a measurement for a unit of energy.
Calories are what our bodies use for energy and we get those calories from the foods and drinks we consume. So, the amount of calories in a food or drink, relates to the amount of energy it could give you.
It is important to keep in mind that if your body doesn’t need all of that energy from the calories you consumed, it will store it as fat.
And foods high in fat, or highly processed can actually cause a release of serotonin (a hormone) that can cause you to feel tired. That means, the quality of your calories matters as well.
You are going to feel better for sure and likely more energized after eating a nice salad topped with chicken and hard boiled eggs than you would having a greasy cheeseburger from a fast food joint.
So, just remember, because it has more calories doesn’t make it better for your body.
I want to take a moment to explain empty calories because it is something that a lot of people refer to, but you might not really understand what it means.
Empty calories refers to the calories that come from foods and drinks with not nutritional value, like a soda or donuts.
Obviously, the end goal should be to keep your empty calories very low, but we are human. You are going to have empty calories and that is just fine. They still provide your body with some energy.
In my opinion, never let someone scold you for your empty calories. We are all a work in progress and even baby steps are step in the right direction.
How Many Calories Should I Eat In A Day
Before we really dive deep into how many calories you should eat in a day, I want you to keep something in mind. There is no set amount of calories you need to have exact every single day.
It is going to vary and we will get more into that in a moment.
On average, an adult woman should consume between 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day. While an adult male should get around 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day.
These are an average.
If you are a sedentary person, meaning you don’t move around a lot and you work at a desk all day, you are going to want to stay on the lower end of the calories you should consume.
If you are a highly active person, you will need more calories. This is because you will be burning a lot more energy in a day.
With that being said, these should be used as a guideline not a firm rule. You might eat more or less calories in a day depending on what you’re doing that day.
For example, just the other day I did a little bit of weightlifting and ran 5 miles on my treadmill. Then I did a bunch of cleaning around the house, followed by an evening walking around outside. I was hungrier and needs a bit more food that day compared to a lazy Sunday where my activity level was pretty low.
I want to point this out because you might have some days where you eat more calories in a day than you might otherwise and that is okay. Don’t feel guilty. Just make sure you are fueling your body with mostly the right foods.
How many calories you should eat in a day is also going to depend on your age, gender, weight, and what your goal is. That is, do you want to gain weight, maintain your current weight, or lose weight.
An easy way to figure out about how many calories you should have each day, is to use a calorie calculator such as calculator.net or the Precision Nutrition Calculator. I prefer the Precision Nutrition calculator because they have more targeted goals and show you your easy portion sizes for each meal.
How Many Calories Do I Burn In A Day
When it comes to how many calories you burn in a day, things can get scientific. When this is evaluated, it is referred to as your total energy expenditure (TEE) or total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
This is a combination of your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is 60-75% of the total number of calories your body burns each day while it is maintaining your normal bodily functions.
Then there is your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which is the amount of energy you use for activities that are not exercise, such as vacuuming or walking to the bathroom. This will vary depending on how active you are.
Next we move to thermic effect of food (TEF), which is how many calories you burn when you chew, digest, and store food. This accounts for only about 10% of your TEE.
The final piece that makes up your TEE are the calories you burn during exercise. Depending on the exercise, duration, and intensity, this can greats between workouts. NEAT and exercise burned during exercise will make up about 15-30% of your TEE.
It sounds kind of complicated, I know. But now that you have an idea of what factors go into determining the calories you burn each day, it is easy to see how it will fluctuate.
Break It Down
Let me break it down into simple terms that in easier to understand.
Basically, they take the calories you burn during different stages to estimate the amount of calories you burn a day.
How many calories you burn in a day is going to depend on your activity for that day. Your body doesn’t burn a certain amount every single day no matter what. It will always be different.
For example, if you spend your day off laying on the couch all day you are going to burn way less calories than on a workday if you have an active job such as working in construction.
Now, you can get fancy and have some testing done, but that can be expensive, so I’m going to stick with the other options.
I like the calculator on verywellfit.com for how many calories you burn every day. This will give you an average of what you burn in a typical day. It is only an estimate, which is based on your age, height, weight, gender, and activity level.
Another way to find out how many calories you burn in a day is to get a fitness tracker. I love my Fitbit and like to check out all my stats. It tells me how many calories I burn and it even shows me a graph so I can see what times of the day I burned more calories. Under the exercise area of my Fitbit, it will tell me how many calories I burned during a certain exercise, even if it is just a walk.
Either option will help you get an idea of what you burn in a day.
How Many Calories Should I Burn In A Day
This is an interesting question that I know a lot of people ask. How many calories should I burn in a day.
Well, as you have learned, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this topic. But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to offer to try to answer this question.
To answer this question, there are two things you need to know.
First, as we talked about earlier, the amount of calories you burn really depends on your age, height, weight, and activity level.
Second, what is your goal?
These tie into each other because if your goal is to lose weight but you are a very sedentary person, you would want to up your activity level to burn more calories each day.
The best answer I can give you as it relates to how many calories you should burn each day, no matter what your goal, is calories in calories out.
Calories in are the calories you consume, while the calories out are the calories you burn.
So, if you want to maintain your current body weight, you want the calories in and out to be equal.
If you are trying to gain weight, you would have a little more coming in than going out.
And if you want to lose weight, your calories in should be less that your calories out. This brings us to the next section.
How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight
This is a great question and is really going to depend. I know it is not the answer you want because it is so much easier for someone to just tell you exactly what to do to get the results you want.
But, to determine how many calories you should eat a day to lose weight, you may need to experiment a little.
Earlier we talked about the calorie calculators. These are going to be a great tool and starting point for you.
So, to start you want to use one of the calculators to see on average what you should be consuming in a day to lose weight.
For the next two weeks, stick to that amount of calories each day. Make sure to track what you are having to ensure you are sticking to that amount.
At the end of those two weeks, if you aren’t losing any weight or seeing the results you want, you can re-evaluate. Try reducing your calories by 250 or cutting back on your carbs. Then, monitor that change for two weeks.
Continue to adjust until you find what works for you.
And don’t forget to keep your calories in and calories out in mind. Adding some exercise to your diet might be just the boost you need!
How To Watch Your Calories
Alright, the last area of calories we have to cover is how you can watch the amounts you are consuming. You have a goal and to make sure you are heading in the right direction you need to do some tracking.
There are several different ways you can track your calories. Try a combination of these to really gain great insight into what you are having and your eating habits.
To count calories, you would use a food scale and measuring cups/spoons to keep track of everything you consume. You would be referencing the nutrition label or looking the information up online on a food calorie calculator, such as MyFitnessPal or the food tracking on your Fitbit.
This does take a lot of effort on your part, but if you put in the work, it is an accurate way to see how many calories you are having a day.
This is similar to counting calories and also takes as much work. To do this kind of calorie counting, you will divide calories into three main macronutrients. They are protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Using this method, you track the grams you have of each, which also helps track the calories. You also want to be sure to keep track of the nutritional value of the items you consume, as that will play a huge part in your goal as well.
I want to mention a food journal because you might come across this and not realize that this is a type of calorie counting, but it can go more in depth.
In a typical food journal, you would write down the food and drink you have, then the portion size, calories, carbs, fats, sugars, and protein in each item. You might also track the time and your mood when you eat that food.
This information is used to not only count your calories but also to see what types of eating patterns or habit you have. These can be good or bad habits, which help you to learn what you can fix and what you can build upon.
Portion control is eating a healthy and appropriate amount of food. You can use tools, such a measuring cups or a scale to make sure you have correct portion sizes. That means you won’t be eating more than you need.
I like the approach developed by precision nutrition, where you use your hand as a guide. Your palm is for a serving of protein, your fist is vegetable portions, a cupped hand takes care of your carbs, and your thumb is for fats.
I think this is a genius approach because it is such a simple way to measure and really doesn’t take much time. Your hands are always with you, which makes it convenient. It is less accurate than calorie or macro counting, but not by much. It might also be a version of counting calories that you will stick with.
Mindful and Intuitive Eating
This is not calorie counting per se, but it can certainly help and improve your relationship with food. To engage in mindful and intuitive eating, you listen to your body on when you are actually hungry and full. You take your time to eat slowly, focus on your food, and take stock about how you feel when you eat the food.
As I stated, this is more used to have a better relationship with food, however, you can cut down on your calories because you won’t be eating when you aren’t hungry or overeating.
Calories are a unit of energy that our bodies get from the foods and drinks we consume.
As a general guideline, women should have between 1,600-2,400 calories a day and men should have between 2,000-3,000 calories.
The amount of calories you eat is each day is determined by your age, height, weight, and activity level. If you are more active some days than others, the amount you devour can differ.
You can always use an online calorie calculator to get a more specific guideline on how many calories you should have based on your specific factors. You can then use that information to experiment and find your sweet spot.
Keep in mind, calories in and calories out is an easy reference when working on your weight goals.
Start tracking your calories today with whatever tactic you choose, such as calorie counting, food journaling, or using portion control.
What is holding you back with your calories?