One of the most common questions that you guys ask when you want to lose weight or to put on weight or even to maintain your weight is: “How much calories should I consume or burn in a day? How to count calories?”
In this article, I want to get down to the details for you to understand how to count calories and how much calories you need to consume and why. Before we start I want you to be as truthful as you can in regards to your measurements, in order for us to see results and for this process to work.
There is no secret to losing weight. If you want to lose weight, the calories you burn need to be greater than the calories you consume. And if you want to put on weight is vice versa. Calories come from your fats, carbs, protein, and alcohol.
How To Count Calories?
Grab a pen, a calculator and a piece of paper because we’ll be doing some mathematics to count calories. I’ve broken the process down into 5 steps which is also what I call 5 As. The first A is:
1. Attainable Goals
What you need to do before you start losing weight is to set yourself an attainable goal. So ask yourself 2 questions:
- “How much do you want to lose?”
- “By when?”
Make sure they are realistic. Just so you know, in order to lose one pound of fat you need to burn 3500 calories. So if your goal is to lose 5 pounds of fat, that’s 17,500 calories.
The safe and recommended way to lose weight is to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week. That is safe and sustainable. If you were to lose weight quick, the chances are you will put on weight quickly as well.
Be aware and understand your basic metabolic rate (BMR). By understanding your BMR you will know how much calories do you need to consume a day in order to keep your progress moving. Your BMR is how much calories your body burns in a day without you doing anything.
So get your calculator ready as you’ll be finding out what your BMR is. There are 2 formulas to this. The first is called the English BMR Formula where we use pounds and inches. The second is called the Metric BMR Formula and it uses centimeters and kilograms.
There are 4 factors in calculating BMR:
Here is the English BMR Formula:
- Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
- Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in year)
Here is the Metric BMR Formula:
- Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kilos) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)
- Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kilos) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)
After all this calculation, my BMR is 1316.8 calories. Remember that this is just an estimation. What is telling me is that my body burns about 1300 calories without me doing anything. And therefore if I would consume this amount of calories without doing anything, I would not put on weight. If I would consume less I would lose weight and if I would consume more, I would put on weight.
3. Activity Level
This is very important to know how much calories you need to consume because obviously we don’t just lie in bed and do nothing. So what you need to do is to take your BMR and multiply it with your activity level.
- If you’re the kind of person that has very little exercise or no exercise at all, your activity level is 1.2.
- If you’re lightly active and you workout 1-3 times per week, your activity level is 1.375.
- If you’re moderately active and you workout 3-5 times per week, your activity level is 1.55.
- If you’re very active and you workout 6-7 times per week, your activity level is 1.725.
- And if you’re extra active, you’re activity level is 1.9. And if you’re extra active there is no way you’re putting on weight so you won’t need this.
The calories needed to maintain your current weight are equal with your BMR x Activity Level. So my calories are:
- 1316.8 x 1.55 = 2041 calories.
So if I would workout 3-5 times per week, I could consume about 2000 calories in a day and I would maintain my weight.
This is the time for us to apply everything in order for you to achieve your goal. The first application is to calculate how much calories should you eat if you want to lose weight. Remember, this is just an estimation, there are many other factors to consider. I’m gonna take a case study to give you an example of how to calculate and apply this. So let’s consider these factors:
- 28 years old;
- 165 centimeters;
- 75 kilograms;
- goal: lose 5 kg in 8 weeks;
- lightly active (1.375).
Let’s start by calculating her BMR and you can do this by calculating your own BMR as well:
- BMR = 655 + (9.6 x 75) + (1.8 x 165) – (4.7 x 28) = 1540.4 calories.
Remember that the heavier you are the more your body burns, and the lighter you are, the less your body burns.
Let’s calculate her daily calories she can consume to maintain her weight:
- 1540.4 x 1.375 = 2118.05 calories.
But that’s not her goal. Her goal is to lose weight, not to maintain it. She wants to lose 5 kg, which is 11 lbs. Let’s calculate how many calories means this:
- 11 x 3500 = 38,500 calories.
So she needs to burn 38,500 calories and this is not possible to do in a day or in a week. But this is very possible to burn in 8 weeks. So let’s calculate how much calories she needs to burn in a day:
- 38,500 / 8 = 4812.5 calories per week;
- 4812.5 / 7 = 687.5 calories per day.
There are 2 ways to burn your calories:
- 1. Consume less than you currently are.
- 2. Exercise more than you currently are.
I would recommend doing both. When you combine both, that’s when you see quicker results and that’s when you will be able to maintain your weight.
The key to remember is that the more muscles your body put on, the higher your metabolism become. And muscles can only be gain through working out, not through dieting or your eating habits.
So back to our study case. The maximum calories for the woman to consume in a day to lose weight would be:
- 2118.05 – 687.5 = 1430.55 calories per day.
So how can she do this?
First is to watch her diet, and not consuming more than that.
The second option is to work out. So if she were to work out for 3 days, in her non-workout days she would need to LIMIT her calories to 1430. But in her workout days, she can ad 300 calories (if she burns 300 calories when working out) to her calories intake in that day. When you’re working out your body uses much more energy and you need food to get that energy to build muscles.
But do not over-consume! Avoid eating more than your body needs. When people start working out, they start eating more too.
Another thing to remember is not to consume less than 1200 calories per day.
If you want to lose weight, you got to make a start. Start taking action and change your mindset. Remember that the weight loss process takes time, so don’t give up! Make your journey a fun one and have a positive attitude. Don’t just workout for the sake of working out.
Always keep your goal in mind! People that see results are the people that never give up. Help your friends to get in the right direction and learn to count calories. Share this post with them and stay fit!
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