Last updated: October 17, 2018 at 11:05 am
If you struggle with being overweight and constantly look for ways to shed those extra pounds then you ask yourself a lot of times how to count calories to lose weight?
If you do, you are certainly familiar with the approach called “Calories in, calories out”.
Basically, this approach means that you will maintain your ideal weight if you burn all the calories you intake per day.
Furthermore, that means that you will gain weight if you intake more calories than you burn and vice versa, which is the most important thing for our story today –that you will lose weight if you create calorie deficit – intake fewer calories that your body requires for your daily activities and BMR (basal metabolic rate) and burn some calories to create deficit. (1)
To find out what BMR is and how to calculate your daily calories requirements continue reading this text.
I will try to give answers to all your questions.
This counting calories guide will help you to understand better this common weight loss method.
You will find many people against this kind of losing weight who will tell you that simple maths is not enough to lose weight and live a healthier life.
But, they are not right.
Many studies show that counting calories can play a significant role in the weight loss process.
Nevertheless, you can’t rely only on this principle.
Weight loss is a complex process and counting calories without changing your lifestyle, exercising and eating balanced and varied food will lead you nowhere.
But, it is a very good start and it will help you in your weight loss battle which you will win, for sure.
So, grab your calculator and let’s get started with some adding and subtracting.
What are calories?
Calories are tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night
Although this is a big true, the official calorie definition is a little bit different:
A calorie is a unit of energy and it represents the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. It’s also known as a small calorie.
Food calorie definition
Kilogram calorie is defined in terms of the kilogram rather than the gram. It represents the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. It is equal to 1000 small calories, 1 kilocalorie (kcal). Also, is known as a food calorie or a large calorie.
Actually, calories are an amount of energy in the food. Informing yourself how many calories your meal has can help you balance your nutrition and stop weight gaining.
Why do you gain weight?
Basically, if you gain weight it’s because you intake more calories than your body can burn because of lack of physical activity or overeating.
With food and drinks, you intake energy (calorie) in our body. Your body then uses that energy for metabolic processes and physical activities. That means that you burn more calories if you do more physical activities (sport, jogging, walking, cycling etc).
So, to lose weight you should start burning those extra calories you intake through daily food and drinks.
And the best way to do that is to increase your daily physical activities. It doesn’t matter if that’s jogging or weight lifting, running, swimming, or cycling.
Sport is very important for burning calories.
Of course, you should be careful what kind of food you eat. Professional athletes usually say that the 2 most important things to stay in good shape are to exercise (train) and have a good and appropriate nutrition.
Recommended daily calorie intake
Recommended daily calorie intake varies across the world.
According to the United Nation, the average person’s minimum calorie requirement per day globally is 1,800 kilocalories.
The US authorities assert that the average male adult needs approximately 2,700 calories per day to keep his weight constant, whilst the average female adult needs 2,200.
UK authorities recommend 2,500 calories per day for men and 2,000 for women.
But, what are your daily calorie requirements?
The number of calories needed on daily basis depends on several factors, including your age, size, height, sex, lifestyle, and overall general health. For example, a young professional athlete can’t have same requirements as a 70-year-old woman.
So, it is individual. It depends on age, gender, height, weight, and lifestyle, of course.
You don’t burn the same amount of calories each day, so nutrition has to be adjusted to your daily activities.
How to calculate your daily calorie requirements?
For me, the best way to calculate your approximate amount of calorie is with the Harris-Benedict equation.
The Harris–Benedict equation (also called the Harris–Benedict principle) is a method used to estimate an individual’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) and daily kilocalorie requirements. The estimated BMR value is multiplied by a number that corresponds to the individual’s activity level.
If you remember at the beginning of this story I mentioned BMR.
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) represents a number of calories which your body burns while you are resting.
So, while we are sleeping our body burns energy for the heartbeat, brain functioning, and other internal organs. BMR considers age, height, weight, and level of your daily activities.
The Harris – Benedict equation has two steps.
In the first step, you have to calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate)
In the second step, you have to multiply your BMR results with the level of your activities.
But, we have to go step by step.
1. BMR calculation:
BMR= 665+ ( 9.6 x body mass in kilograms)+(1.7 x body height in cm)-(4.7 x ages)
655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
Example: If your height is 167 centimeters, your weight is 55 kilograms and your age is 29, then,
BMR= 665+ ( 9.6 x 55)+(1.7 x 167)-(4.7 x 29) which means that the required calorie intake for BMR is 1341 kcal.
BMR= 66+(13.7 x body mass in kilograms)+(5 x body height in cm)-(6.8 x ages)
66 + (6.23 x your weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
Example: If your weight is 100 kilograms, your height is 190 centimeters and your age is 40, then,
BMR= 66+(13.7 x 100)+(5 x 190)-(6.8 x 40) which means that the required calorie intake for BMR is 2014 kcal.
And here comes the second part.
2. Now, you have to multiply these results with the level of activities.
You have to find where you are in this table, or basically find what’s adequate for your lifestyle.
1.0 – You are sitting, sleeping, with no physical activity at all
1.2 – Very light physical activity
1.4 – Light physical activity, walking at least once a day
1.6 – Exercising a few times during the week (most common)
1.8 – Hard work and exercising twice a day
2.0 – hard work and hard training regime every day
Now, you have to multiply the results from the BMR equation with the level of your activities.
For example, if your BMR result was 1341 kcal/per day and your level of activity is 1.6 the result will be:
1341 x 1.6 = 2145 kcal/per day
That means that your body, combined with your lifestyle requires 2145 kcal/per day (example).
NOTE: This is framework data and it serves for information purposes. The results of the equation can vary and they depend on many different factors. If you have any doubts consult your nutritionist.
How to count calories to lose weight?
When you calculate your daily calorie requirements then you can start with your calorie deficit plan.
First, you have to set up your goal – I want to lose X pounds in Y time.
It is important to know that 1 pound of fat has about 3500 calories.
So, if you want to lose 5 pounds of fat than you should create a 17500 calorie deficit. If you want to lose 5 pounds in one month than your calorie deficit should be 17500 calories in 30 days. That means that your daily calorie deficit has to be 583 calories.
The difference between the calories you intake and the calories you burn (BMR + exercising) has to be 583 calories. Or, you could eat 583 calories less than your daily requirements based on the equation mentioned above.
So, if you consume 2500 calories per day then in order to lose 5 pounds of fat in a month you need to consume only 1917 calories per day. Or, you may split those 583 calories – consume just 300 calories less and burn the remaining 283 through exercising. This is much better and you will get better long term results.
Here you can see what you have to do to burn 100 calories.
How to burn 100 calories?
Swimming: 8 mins
Running: 12 mins
Jogging: 14 mins
Walking: 26 mins
Maybe all the numbers seem complicated right now, but you should consider calorie counting as a game.
Compete with yourself.
Set up goals high and try to reach them.
How to count calories in food?
These days food labels are fulfilled with food information, so if you prepare your food you can easily calculate how many calories you eat per day by reading from the label.
If you eat outside then you should ask the waiter to give you a menu with the exact calorie data for each meal.
For example, McDonald’s has had an exact calorie data for each meal for years.
How to count calories to lose weight – 8 additional tips:
- Set up your goal – Setting up goals is a challenge and source of motivation which can help you with healthy weight loss. Of course, you shouldn’t have unreal expectations, like fitting into a super tight dress or pants only after a month. You should focus on positive sides that will give you a healthy, slim body.
- Eliminate all the junk food from your home and replace it with fresh snacks – apples, bananas, oranges.
- Read food labels – that way you will be able to count calories.
- The recommended weight loss per week is about 2 pounds. Don’t exaggerate with losing weight.
- Do not starve yourself. To create a calorie deficit it doesn’t mean you should starve. You should consider 50% less calorie consumption and 50% burning calories through exercising.
- Do not decrease your daily calorie intake by more than 600 kcal per day, it will be hard to follow this in the long run.
- Consumption less than 1200 calories a day is out of the question.
- Consult your doctor or nutritionist if you have some doubts.
So, what is a bottom line?
Although some try to underestimate the counting calories method, when it comes to weight loss calories do count.
But, you need to know that not all calories are equal.
It’s not the same if you eat 100 calories of vegetable and 100 calories of french fries.
The calorie deficit approach doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want.
A balanced diet and regular exercising are still essential when it comes to weight loss.
The best thing to do is to include the least processed foods from plants or animals in your diet.
Keep in mind that calorie counting is not suitable for everyone, but many people find it really effective for losing weight and staying fit.