How Many Calories Should I Eat?

I’m not very good at counting calories and never have been.  I just eat what I eat, when I want, and hope to fuel my exercise and life.  I tend to rely on the exercise I do to burn off any excess calories and my weight is generally maintained.  I know I burn roughly 5,000 calories through exercise alone, but have no idea how many calories I eat.  :-S  I just know that what I eat and how much I eat works for me and my lifestyle.  

I know that if I eat less and exercise the same, my weight will probably go down.  And if I eat the same as normal (the same as when I’m exercising) and don’t exercise, my weight will probably increase.  So when I’m not training I tend to reduce what I eat, and when I train lots I tend to eat a lot to fuel my training and make sure I don’t lose weight (unless I want to lose weight that is!)

But have you ever wondered how many calories you should eat?
There are calorie calculators all over the internet. Sure, they’ll spit out a number for you, but is this number really correct? Should every 35 year old female that weighs 150 pounds eat the same amount of calories? No.

Your metabolism is as unique as your personality. Everyone metabolises fat, carbohydrates, and protein in different ways. These calorie calculators are nice for getting a general idea for what your caloric intake should be, but they shouldn’t be the last word on the subject.

In order to calculate how many calories you should eat, you need a little bit of information first. What you don’t need is your height, weight, or age. What you do need is an understanding of how many calories you burn, and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Are you trying to lose weight?
How much do you want to lose? Maybe you’d like to gain weight. Set yourself a goal first, but make sure it is realistic, sustainable and acheivable.

Take it slow.  It took a while to go on, it will take a while to come off.

Unless you are really overweight, a swing of two pounds per week in either direction is the maximum you should aiming for. 

When I lost my stone to get me to my ideal weight, I lost around about a lb every 2 weeks.  It took around 6 months to lose the stone.  I changed my lifestyle, increasing the amount of regular exercise I got, and I changed things in my diet.  I didn’t do it all at once, but changed it bit by bit so that now I hopefully have a really good diet.  See the next post about ‘Choosing to eat well’ for some of the changes in food choices I’ve made.

You have a higher chance of maintaining your weight loss or gain if you take it slow.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that everyone wants what they want, and they want it now. However, losing a pound a week for a year equates to 52 pounds or almost 4 stone!  That’s a hell of a lot of weight, but remember any additional weight you carry has probably taken a lifetime to go on.  You can get rid of it.  It only takes a bit of knowledge, the right choices, goal setting and some discipline and YOU can do it.

How Many Calories Do I Burn?
You might be wondering how many calories you burn during a particular exercise. Instead, you should be trying to figure out how many calories you burn the rest of the day. Exercise only burns a small amount of calories compared to the number of calories your body burns the rest of the day.

A typical person may burn 100 calories for every mile they run. Run 3 miles, and you’ve burned 300 calories. This is great, but the rest of the day, even while you are relaxing or sleeping, you are burning thousands of calories.

Your muscle is extremely metabolically active. It takes a lot of calories to maintain. This is why it is so important for you to build muscle to burn fat. Your workouts are great to get a few hundred extra calories burned, but the real magic happens when you build muscle. Extra muscle is going to be your biggest game changer.

How Many Calories to Lose Weight?
OK, OK, you understand that now, but you still need to know how many calories you should eat to lose weight.

The best way to determine how many calories you need is to follow these steps:

■ Set a goal of how much weight loss/gain you desire each week.  Look at how much weight you want to lose and how long you want to take to lose it.  One stone in 8 weeks equals around 2lbs a week.  Take weight loss one step at a time.  Don’t say you want to lose 4 stone.  Say you want to lose 1 stone in weeks, then once you’ve done that, set another goal.  Another stone in 8 weeks, or change the timescales based on how you did.
■ Plan your exercise.  Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes a week. Five days a week is ideal, even if it’s just a half an hour walk. Make sure you have a combination of resistance training and cardio.  If you’d like help with setting up a training plan, email me and I’ll see if I can help.
■ Get yourself a food journal so you can write down every single thing you eat. If thinking about calories in works for you, write down the calories for everything.
■ Scratch what you ate before.  Choose good foods and eat 2,000 calories per day. Plan your diet out in advance so that you know you are eating this much every single day.
■ Watch the scale. Is your weight going up or down? (Remember there are 3,500 calories in a lb).
■ If it’s going down, add 500 calories to your diet. Your goal is try and find how many calories you need to eat before you start to put on weight. Once you find this calorie amount, congratulations, you’ve just found that magic number that everyone is seeking – the calorie number that all future weight loss/gain formulas are based off of.
■ If after adding 500 calories your weight is still going down, add another 500 calories per day until your weight increases on a week to week basis. Do NOT be afraid of adding a pound or two in the beginning. Everyone wants to see the scale go in one direction only. This isn’t going to happen. The important thing is you find the calorie amount that is going to enable you to eat as many calories as possible and still lose weight. This will keep your fat loss progress going, and ensure that the weight you lose is fat instead of muscle.
■ Once you find the calorie intake that causes you to add weight, start to subtract 500 calories per day for every pound you want to lose per week. If you want to lose 1 pound per week, then subtract 500 calories per day. If you want to lose 2 pounds, then subtract 1000 calories per day.
■ If when you started off eating 2,000 calories you immediately started gaining weight on a week to week basis (for at least 2 straight weeks), then you can go ahead and start cutting calories.

Take a look here for more information on Health and Nutrition: BBC Health: Nutrition

One of the top reasons diets fail is because people eat too few calories. When you do this, you force your body to slow down its metabolism. This causes all kinds of hormonal changes that work against you and your fat loss goals. Hormones such as testosterone, thyroid, and growth hormone are all negatively affected.

Make sure that when you diet you are keeping your metabolism burning, and you will be well on your way towards success, instead of deciding what diet you’re going to try next.  What you eat isn’t about what diet you should go on, but about choosing the right foods to fuel your life.  It’s about choosing the right food to help you become the healthiest and happiest you’ve ever been.

How many calories do you eat a day? Do you even know? Do you care or do you just know what’s the right amount for you?  Do you keep a food journal?

And finally, look out tomorrow for my post called: 
You last a lifetime: Choose to eat well! : About eating habits and what, when and how much you should be eating to be healthy and happy. :-)

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3 Responses to How Many Calories Should I Eat?

  1. Vinny Grette says:

    I gain weight on 1500 cals a day – sigh. It’s because i was a yo-yo dieter when young. I’ve reset my basal met rate to VERY low. Even my body temp is 2 degrees lower than normal. Lesson: learn about food when you’re young and don’t play around with your body.

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