When you are trying to reach a fitness goal, it’s important to know how many calories you should consume.
There are different calorie needs for each person depending on their body types, goals, and lifestyles.
Food labels give us the impression that we all need to eat roughly the same quantities of foods to be healthy.
This is simply untrue.
In this blog post, we will give guidelines on creating a diet plan and how much food you should be eating for the following goals:
- weight loss
- gaining weight
Let’s dive right in.
What Are Calories?
Calories are units of energy that are needed to fuel our bodies.
The amount you need depends on your age, size, height, lifestyle, and more.
Calories come from carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
To lose weight, calories in conjunction with macronutrients should be your main focus.
To gain weight, we need to eat more energy than we expend.
While it may seem simple using “calories in, calories out” math, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Other factors such as medical diagnoses, hormonal changes, genetics, age, and other factors can also impact caloric needs.
Developing a healthy diet plan and solid workout routine requires more than figuring out caloric needs.
Should I Count Calories?
Plenty of people can build solid physiques without counting their calories, but tracking their macros instead.
Others may see faster results by making a conscious effort to control their caloric intake.
While it’s been proven that counting calories can be effective for weight loss, that’s not the whole picture.
Counting calories can be tricky as it is based on many factors such as your body type, lifestyle, age, sex, and more!
Counting calories of the foods you consume has several advantages:
- You can compare different meals and foods to see which ones are right for your goals
- Gives you an idea of the measurement of portions and how much food you should be eating
- Can help to identify which foods lead to the greatest amount of fat gain or loss, helping you make better selections when snacking on junk food.
However, there are disadvantages to using a calorie-focused diet:
- It can be time-consuming to track every single thing you eat, the time can be reduced using calorie trackers
- Calorie counting doesn’t factor in the quality of your food, so someone can consume an appropriate number of calories but wind up with a completely unhealthy meal diet
- Food labels aren’t always accurate, so it’s hard to rely on them when you’re trying to keep track of calories
- It can be too tempting to cut or add too many calories at an unhealthy rate in an attempt to reach your fitness goal faster and cause dizziness, fatigue, hunger, headaches, and nausea
- Cutting too many calories out can slow your metabolism making it tougher to maintain weight loss long term
How Do I Calculate the Calories In My Food?
You can calculate the calories of foods by using a food scale to measure the weight of your foods using the food label as a basis.
Then, search for this information online or using any of the calorie counting apps available.
You can also estimate calories by looking at pictures of the same foods next to each other and noticing differences in size.
Weighing food may seem time-consuming and monotonous, but once you get the hang of it, this process will become second nature.
You’ll eventually be able to just eyeball the portions after just a few weeks of practice!
You can calculate calories needed to maintain weight as a starting point before deciding if you want to gain or lose weight.
Calculating maintenance calories can be estimated by taking your current body weight in pounds and multiplying it by 15.
If you’re on the skinnier side, you can take your current body weight and multiply by 20 to find a good starting point.
Keep in mind this isn’t an exact science and should only be used as a starting point if you choose to use a calorie-focused diet.
Serving Size Vs Portion Size
Counting calories is never really 100% accurate, but it can be pretty close.
You will need one important piece of information for it to work: the serving size.
If you know how many servings of a certain food item your body needs to function, it’s relatively simple to figure out the calorie count.
Look at the nutrition label and find the serving size to use as your base.
A serving size is an estimate of what the average person consumes of the food.
Sometimes, the serving size may be the entire box of food or only a small portion.
You may not know that the number of calories in a serving size and portion size can vary greatly.
A gram is a unit equal to the weight or mass of an item.
When you’re weighing foods at home for personal use, it becomes important to understand what one serving looks like.
You don’t want to accidentally add too many or too few calories to your diet!
In contrast, a portion is the amount of food you choose to eat from a larger group that contains multiple servings – for example, an entire box of cereal or a bag of chips.
Knowing the difference between serving size and portion size is important to a calorie-based diet.
If you’re not interested in doing the math, you can always use pre-portioned meals such as tuna fish cans, protein bars, or packaged, healthy snacks.
You can also try calorie calculators for recipes!
You just plug in the ingredients and portions into the calculator and it’ll add tell you the total calories for the meal.
How To Reduce Calorie Intake
Decreasing calories consumed can be effective for weight loss, but without considering the food quality, it is not a sustainable strategy.
Choosing nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, fruits, and veggies is more beneficial than refined sugars.
It’s highly recommended to make changes to your diet and lifestyle to help maintain a calorie deficit for the long run.
Here are some strategies that can help you lose weight:
Use a calorie calculator.
You can use one of the many calorie calculators on the internet to help you on your fitness journey.
You can use a calories intake calculator to track how many calories you will be consuming in your diet plan.
Calculators aren’t perfect as they may not take into effect the changing basal metabolic rate of your body as you lose or gain weight.
Regardless, they are still very useful for helping you find a starting point!
Eat more protein.
Protein is very important for weight loss.
Studies show that protein intake can help keep you feeling full and curb your appetite.
Protein helps fight cravings and can help enhance feelings of fullness while decreasing hunger.
In addition, protein can help prevent regaining weight while protecting lean muscle mass.
Eat more fiber.
Dietary fiber is essential for weight loss because it helps you feel full longer due to a slower digestion process in the body.
Having an increased intake of fiber can also help with weight management because it helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Limit sugary drinks.
Another easy change is to limit the intake of sugars found in beverages such as soda and fruit juice.
Our brains don’t register these drinks as full, so we keep drinking them even though our bodies are not getting any nutrients.
Studies have found that consuming sugary drinks increases the risk of obesity.
By replacing sugary beverages with water or unsweetened tea, you’ll find that your energy levels don’t drop and cravings decrease.
It’s also important to note that some foods contain hidden sugars in the form of fructose corn syrup.
This type of sugar can be detrimental to weight loss because it causes insulin resistance and may lead to inflammation in the body.
It can also cause health issues such as heart disease and liver problems.
Drink more water.
Proper hydration is essential for weight loss.
When you are dehydrated, your body cannot function properly and it will hold onto any water that is available to the cells because of the increased need for fluids.
By drinking more water each day, you can reduce cravings by feeling fuller faster.
Hydration helps improve brain health and reduces kidney stones.
Eating fewer calories and increasing physical activity can be a great combination for weight loss.
However, it’s important to remember that exercise is not an excuse to eat more!
Exercise will help you burn calories and increase your metabolism for the rest of the day.
Eating fewer calories results in your body compensating by burning fewer calories.
Lifting weights has been shown to prevent muscle loss and prevent your metabolism from slowing down when decreasing calorie intake.
Even if you can’t get to a gym, you can still do bodyweight exercises at home or outside.
Exercise is also beneficial to increase longevity, increase energy levels, improve mental health, and decrease the risk of disease.
Reduce refined carbohydrates.
Refined carbohydrates are found in foods such as bread, pasta, white rice, and pastries.
These carbs are digested quickly by the body and can lead to insulin resistance if consumed in excess amounts.
Refined carbohydrates have been shown to increase belly fat over time.
They cause an increase of triglycerides which leads to a greater risk for heart disease.
They generally lack fiber which supports weight loss by decreasing appetite and increasing fullness.
Eating less refined carbs may also help weight loss goals by altering levels of hormones such as peptides that regulate appetite.
Chew every bite.
Eating slowly will help digestion and make you feel fuller faster.
This will result in consuming less food.
Get a good night’s sleep.
Poor sleep is a risk factor for weight gain.
When you are sleep-deprived, your body releases cortisol which increases the risk of weight gain around the stomach.
Stress hormones increase appetite and cravings for sugary foods.
Sleeping more allows your brain to produce serotonin which will help reduce stress levels while increasing energy levels throughout the day.
Having a steady supply of serotonin also helps regulate appetite and decrease cravings.
Track what you eat.
If you don’t track what you’re eating, you’ll never know what your consumption needs are.
You won’t know if you’re getting the proper number of calories or nutrients to reach your fitness goals!
You can use one of the many different tracking apps or even a journal.
Keep healthy snacks on hand.
When hunger strikes, you may be more likely to consume unhealthy foods if nothing is already prepared.
Keep some healthy snacks like nuts or chopped veggies nearby to help satiate you.
Develop healthy habits.
One issue with a diet routine is that people often cut out all of their favorite foods all at once.
This approach is not sustainable and may lead to binge eating.
Instead, focus on adding healthy foods into your diet instead of completely cutting out the unhealthy ones that you enjoy.
You’ll be able to stick with a plan longer if it can fit into your lifestyle rather than an all-or-nothing mentality.
Make small changes that you can live with every day.
You’ll be more likely to develop healthy habits that will support your weight loss goals than trying to change everything overnight.
Remember, the changes should come from a place of love instead of punishment or self-deprivation.
Developing healthy habits is key for long-term success and may help prevent weight gain in the future.
Start making these changes today to start seeing results!
What is a good calorie deficit for weight loss?
There is the outdated belief that if you cut out 3,500 calories, you will lose a pound.
This strategy does not take into consideration changing BMR, body fat, and muscle tissue.
As you lose more weight, so does your body decrease the ability to burn calories.
A good calorie deficit to lose weight is starting at a deficit of 250-500 calories per day.
If you are significantly overweight, then it is best to start with a calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories each day for the first few weeks while continuing your cardio and strength training workouts.
It may be tempting to cut more calories, but don’t!
This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, heart, or digestive problems and can cause eating disorders.
How To Increase Calorie Intake
Keep track of your caloric intake for a few days to get an idea about how many calories you are currently eating daily.
Start by adding 500-1000 more calories per day if the average amount is below what it should be based on your age, weight, and level of physical activity.
If you have been losing weight consistently over a few weeks, add an extra 500 calories per day.
Make sure you are getting a variety of different foods in your diet to ensure adequate intake of nutrients and minerals.
It’s also important to get enough sleep on a nightly basis so that your body can rest and recover from the daily stressors it encounters.
Get more sleep!
Yes, getting more sleep is associated with increased weight loss.
But, it helps control appetite and lowers cortisol levels which can cause cravings for unhealthy foods, storing fat around the midsection, and decreased energy levels.
Aim to get at least seven hours of quality sleep each night.
Increase your calorie intake if you are not currently eating enough based on your activity levels.
Make sure you are getting in a variety of different foods each day to provide adequate nutrients and minerals for your body’s needs.
Calorie Consumption FAQ
How many calories should I be eating to lose weight?
If your goal is losing weight, the general rule of thumb is to start at consuming 500 calories less than needed to maintain your current weight. Do this consistently and track your progress.
How many calories a day do I burn?
The average person burns about 1800 calories per day doing absolutely nothing. You can use a basal metabolic rate calculator to find your BMR to see what your starting point is if you’re trying to lose, maintain, or gain weight.
How many calories do I need daily?
The recommended caloric intake varies from person to person. It depends on several factors such as fitness goals, age, body type, height, sex, lifestyle, and general health. The recommended caloric intake is 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 for women.
How many calories should I eat?
There is no perfect number of calories to eat and many factors such as fitness goals, age, body type, height, sex, lifestyle, and general health play can affect your caloric needs. It could be better to focus on macro and micronutrients consumed.
How many calories do I need to gain weight?
Many different factors can affect how many calories each person needs to gain weight. You should figure out your daily caloric expenditure and then add about 500 calories per day to start. If you’re looking to gain weight faster, add about 700 calories. Be consistent and track your progress.
How many calories do I need to maintain my weight?
There’s no specific number of calories you should be eating. There are many factors involved including fitness goals, age, body type, height, sex, lifestyle, and general health. You can start by taking your body weight and multiplying it by 15 to find your required calories. If you begin to gain or lose weight, adjust accordingly.
There are a lot of factors that go into finding your required caloric intake to reach your fitness goals.
Use this guide to get an idea of what your starting point should be.
Keep track of how many calories you’re currently consuming and adjust accordingly based on your weight loss or gain goals.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night so that your body can rest, recover, and perform at its highest capacity the next day.
Also, make sure to get in a variety of different foods each day that provide adequate nutrients and minerals for your body’s needs.
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