Ever wondered what a calorie is? The definition of a calorie is “the amount of energy, or heat it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water to1 degree Celsius.”
A calorie is a unit of energy that is associated with food and drink and is a measure of the energy, or heat, that food produces as your body uses it as fuel.
The first step in counting calories for your personal weight loss is to calculate how many calories you burn in a day (your total daily energy expenditure), this is the total number of calories that your body expends in 24 hours, including all activities.
This is known as your maintenance level and will be the reference point (number of calories) from which to start your dieting.
The average calorie maintenance level for women in the United States is approx 2000 per day and the average for men is approx 2500 per day. These are only basic averages and are usually much higher for athletes or active individuals.
A quick and easy method to find out how many calories you require per day for weight loss and maintenance is to calculate a calorie value with a multiplier as set out below.
Fat loss = multiply your bodyweight in pounds with 12 calories (12 x lb).
Maintenance = multiply your bodyweight in pounds with 15 calories (15 x lb).
This is a very easy method to estimate your daily caloric requirements, but it has its drawbacks as it doesn’t take into account your particular activity levels or body fat levels. Despite this it will give you a good estimated figure that you can work with.
The maintenance figure that you get is the amount of calories that you need to consume to stay at your current weight. To lose weight your calorie intake must be lower than the calories you burn.
In order to lose one pound of fat per week, you must reduce your weekly calorie intake by 3,500 calories, which works out at five hundred calories per day. This can be done by reducing your calories by 500 or combining a diet with physical activity.
The bottom line is to balance your caloric intake with the amount of calories that you are burning, that’s the secret to successful dieting and weight maintenance.
Becoming more conscious of counting calories in your everyday eating regime is imperative if you are trying to lose weight. Studies have shown that men and women “underestimate” their daily calorie consumption by 500 to almost 1000 calories.
You can get a truer picture by keeping a seven-day eating plan of what you typically eat and drink during the day.
At the end of each days eating, add up the total amount of calories consumed and write them down on to the eating plan. At the end of the seven days, add the total calories for the whole week and then divide by seven, you now have your daily calorie intake.
Using a calorie calculator can make counting calories easier – you can total how many calories you will need for your daily activities to give you more control over how many calories you should include in your daily diet.
Another technique for low calorie eating is to watch your fat intake as this has the most calories.
Moderation is always important when you are counting calories, severely restricting calories, causes the body to lower its metabolic rate, which reduces its ability to burn fat.
At the same time, hunger signals increase and you quickly start to crave high-energy foods loaded with fats and sugar, the same foods you are trying to do without.
This is because when you return to normal eating habits, the drop in metabolic rate caused by the restriction in calories means that your old eating habits actually represent excess in calories.
Not only do you regain the fat stores just lost, but also you may even gain a bit extra.
“Dieting by counting calories means that all foods are allowed, nothing is forbidden as long as the calories consumed don’t go over your daily calorie allowance”
Counting calories can also be flexible enough to accommodate most busy lifestyles.
Some food for thought isn’t it; health professionals agree that healthy eating which includes counting calories and a low fat diet are essential for long-term healthy weight loss.
The way to lose body fat and maintain muscle is to have a food program for life. Quality food and more energy output are the basics you’ll need to go for.
Gary Matthews is the author of the popular fitness eBooks Maximum Weight Loss and Maximum Weight Gain. Please visit http://www.maximumfitness.com right now for your ‘free’ weight loss e-course.