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How Many Calories To Eat

how many calories to eat

How many calories do I eat?

As a trainer for the past 25 years, I get the question about how many calories to eat. A lot.  In the past few weeks as the summer weather is in full swing and people are trying to lose last minute pounds I’ve been hearing the figure of 1200 calories a day pop up a lot lately.  I am not exactly sure how it is that we have gotten so hung up on the number of 1200 calories a day for women but let’s talk about why this is not going to work for most people.

Click the image to listen to the audio version of this post… But how about you go for a walk while you listen? 🙂

A few more things to know about calories

How many calories to lose a pound?

One pound of body fat is a total of 3500 calories.  In order to lose one pound of body fat you must ingest 3500 fewer calories or burn 3500 more calories through activity.  This of course shouldn’t all take place in one day but more safely over the course of a week or 2.  If you burn 500 calories more or eat 500 calories more each day (or a combination of the two) you will have a caloric deficit of 3500 and lose one pound in one week.How many calories?

How many pounds can I lose in a week?

When determining how many calories to eat a safe range to shoot for is a loss of 1-2 pounds of body fat per week.  This is a range that feels comfortable and safe to the body, will supply you with enough calories to give you the energy you need and is sustainable for a reasonable amount of time

How many calories do I need?

This is a great question and I’m glad you asked!  The amount of calories you take in each day will depend on  a few different factors:

  • How much you currently weigh
  • How much activity you get on that day
  • Your Goals …Lose, maintain or increase body fat

The best rule of thumb for determining calorie intake simply is this:

How many calories

Fat loss:  10-12 calories per day per pound of current body weight x:

For example: 150# x 10 = 1500 cal/day,       150# x 12 cal = 1800 cal/day

A 150# person could eat a range of 1500-1800 calories per day for fat loss.  Now, your activity level plays a factor here.  On a less active day you would shoot for the 1500 calorie target and on a more active day you would shoot for the 1800 calorie target.  You must learn to think in terms of fueling your activity, rather than eating for fun a

nd then working it off later (See the article “You Can’t Out Train A Bad Diet” HERE)

Weight maintenance:

Aim for 13-14 calories per current pound of body weight

 

Muscle gain:

Aim for 15 calories per pound of body weight…Of course this must be accompanied by a quality strength training program or those excess calories will be stored as fat.

Now, while this math equation for figuring out how many calories to eat keeps things really simple, there are a few things to keep in mind to keep you on track:

  • Make sure you are recalculating as your weight changes – As you become a lighter person, you require fewer calories to be you
  • Metabolic issues may cause stubborn fat loss so keep an eye on the scale each week to make sure things are moving in the right direction.  You may have make adjustments to these figures if you are stalling
  • Make calorie adjustments slowly.  Do not reduce calories more than 20% at a time.  This will cause the body to make comfortable shifts
  • Older people (over 60) tend to need fewer calories so make necessary adjustments
  • Be realistic about how much activity you are getting.  It is very common to overestimate your daily activity and calorie burn.  If weight loss is your goal I would recommend to underestimate you output

Calorie King is  great site with a tool to help you determine how many calories are in a given food.

Do calories matter?  Or is there more?

Is 1500 calories of donuts the same as 1500 calories of chicken? … Nope. Calories count but so do calories in foodhormones… There are hormonal responses that come with each food we eat. Sugar and starches- even fruit- cause us to produce insulin. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. Lots of insulin at one time = lots of fat storage for a longer period of time. Glucagon is a hormone produced when we eat protein. It slows the amount of insulin that is produced. Fiber and fat also slow the rate at which starches and sugars turn to sugar which means you will produce less insulin which means you will not be in a fat storage state for as long as if you were to eat straight donuts. Also , fats and sugars or starches eaten together ( such as ice cream) cause a double whammy, you have caused a big surge of insulin with the starches/sugars which shut down fat burning for a while and then you also ate fat with it… giving that fat no way to be burned because you already shut the fat burning doors. There is also an inflammatory response in the body when you eat packaged/processed and fast foods. The body is more concerned about dampening the inflammation that it is about speeding up the metabolism. Therefore you will have a stalled metabolism while the body deals with the inflammation …. much like you wouldn’t run out and now your long grass if your house was on fire … the urgent things first. The body could care less if you are fat if your house is on fire… The moral of the story is that while calories DO matter in weight loss we should also be asking ourselves questions like… “Do I want to lose body weight (like muscle?) or do I want to lose fat?” and ” Is this food going to give my body the best nutrients I can possible put into it?” and “Will this meal encourage fat burning or fat storage?” Because, what good is being thin if we have no energy, or we have no muscle for strength or our hair is falling out? Good nutrition, hormone balance and a healthy calorie deficit will give us ALL of that .

Do you need a simple meal plan to get started on your fat loss journey? I’ve got you.  In my 7 Day Fat Loss Guide you’ll get done for you meal plans, delicious, simple recipes and a daily routine to help you get on track with your healthy lifestyle.  Remember, these meal plans are a template to help you get started, you will of course have to use all of the awesome info you learned in this blog post to make necessary adjustments for YOUR body.  Enjoy!

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