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Calories are a confusing subject. Some people rely solely on counting them, while others ignore them completely and focus on simply eating healthy foods. Regardless of whether you count them or not, the calories you eat do matter.

People seem to get obsessed by the latest fad diets.

So and so guru trainer says to eat x, y an z, while your favorite pop star has switched to a special elimination diet and there’s always one superfood that we should supposedly all be eating if we want to lose weight and be healthier.

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Diets like this come and go, but one thing that will never change is calories.

Regardless of what type of plan you’re following, calories matter. All these fad diets rely on a special gimmick to make them seem appealing, but what they all have in common is that they restrict calorie intake to some degree, whether that’s by dictating portion sizes, removing certain food groups, or simply limiting your food intake, they ensure that you’re consuming fewer calories.

A calorie is a unit of energy. In scientific terms, one calorie (kcal) is the amount of energy needed to heat a cubic liter of water by one degrees Celsius. In layman’s terms, they’re your body’s source of energy. You need calories to burn for energy and to survive – without calories, you’d die. Simple.

To lose weight and burn fat, you must be in a calorie deficit. This means you need to consume fewer calories than you burn, but this is where it can get tricky. How do you know exactly how many calories you actually need to eat to make sure you’re burning fat?

You may think that the easiest way to do this would be to severely limit your calorie intake the whole time. There’s no doubt this will put you in a deficit, but it could also cause several complications.

Over time, your body will adjust to such a low intake and your metabolism speed will slow to a snail’s pace. That’s if you even get that far before you’re so overwhelmed with hunger, fatigue and lethargy that you don’t bin your diet and head straight for the cookie jar instead.

So balancing calories is vital. Few enough to lose weight, but not so few that you crash out.

Clearly, everyone needs a different number of calories, depending on age, weight goals, lifestyle, activity levels, and body composition, and while it’s impossible to gauge the amount of calories you need with 100 percent accuracy, you can get pretty close using certain guidelines.

One such guideline is the calorie recommendation chart published by the United States Department of Agriculture. It states that to maintain weight, you should consume the following number of calories each day.

Women

Aged 19-30

1800-2000 for a sedentary lifestyle, 2000-2200 for a moderately active lifestyle and 2400 for an active lifestyle.

Aged 31-50

1800 for a sedentary lifestyle, 2000 for a moderately active lifestyle and 2200 for an active lifestyle.

Aged 51+

1600 for a sedentary lifestyle, 1800 for a moderately active lifestyle and 2000-2200 for an active lifestyle.

Men

Aged 19-30

2400-2600 for a sedentary lifestyle, 2600-2800 for a moderately active lifestyle and 3000 for an active lifestyle.

Aged 31-50

2200-2400 for a sedentary lifestyle, 2400-2600 for a moderately active lifestyle and 2800-3000 for an active lifestyle.

Aged 51+

2000-2200 for a sedentary lifestyle, 2200-2400 for a moderately active lifestyle and 2400-2800 for an active lifestyle.

Continue reading after recommendations
  • “How Many Calories Do You Really Need?”, By Kathleen Zelman, Published on May 29, 2012, Accessed on March 12th, 2013, Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-holiday-eating-10/calories-chart

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