Before we discuss how many calories one should eat in a day, we need to know what a calorie actually is. Apparently all foods have calories. You may have seen nutritional information on packaged foods which contain information like fats, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins etc. Don’t confuse them with the term calories. Calories are not
Before we discuss how many calories one should eat in a day, we need to know what a calorie actually is. Apparently all foods have calories. You may have seen nutritional information on packaged foods which contain information like fats, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins etc. Don’t confuse them with the term calories. Calories are not a substance i.e. not something you can see or touch or smell. Calories are simply the amount of energy a food releases inside the body once digested.
What are calories?
Calories are not a substance; these are simply a measure of energy. Your body needs energy to do every little thing and this energy comes from the food you eat. Big or small, every single task that your body does such as breathing, sleeping, digesting, walking, talking, running, chewing, thinking, lifting goods, climbing stairs, creating art or doing homework, needs calories.
How are calories determined?
Food is composed of nutrients like fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. When you eat something, it goes inside the body and gets digested i.e. it is broken into its nutrients and these nutrients are then processed by the body to release energy for doing all its work. The amount of energy a food releases is measured as its calorific value- or the number of calories it will release after digestion. As we can assess how many calories are released by each nutrient on digestion, we can calculate calorific values of different foods. Check packages of ready-to-eat foods available in markets, there is a content tally that lists all the ingredients, nutrients and calories present in it. Fats release 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates and proteins release 4 calories per gram. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and water are also integral parts of foods we eat but these have nil or nominal calories. However these nutrients are essential for health. So you see, calories are important but you cannot choose your food only by its calorific value. Nutrition is even more important.
How many calories should you eat in a day?
The amount of calories you should eat in a day depends on height, body weight, age and gender. In any case, you must take in enough calories to give you sufficient energy for all your activities throughout the day. The taller and more muscular you are, the more your body does physical work, the more energy it needs and the more calories it requires. The general rule is
- Men need around 2500 calories a day and
- Women need 2000 calories a day.
However different people have different rate of burning calories. So what happens if you your calorie consumption is more or less than what you need? So one person may eat 2500 calories without gaining any weight but another person if given the same calories might end up getting a bulge around the waist
If you eat more calories than what your body needs, your body converts extra calories into fat and you gain weight. To lose weight, you will have to reduce your calorie intake and increase exercise to burn away extra calories.
On the other hand, if you go on a diet eating lesser calories than what your body requires, your body will first burn fat stored in the body and you will lose weight, but feel weak, slow and irritated. If you do not go back to eating higher calories, your body will then break muscles for its energy requirements. That can lead to very serious illnesses, even death.
How many calories should you eat to lose weight
For healthy weight loss, calorie intake should be reasonably reduced and physical activity should be raised. 1 pound of fat equals 3500 calories so if you reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day and retain the same physical activity level, in 7 days’ time your weight should come down by 1 pound.
However it is best to get a nutritionist’s of dietitian’s advice when attempting to lose weight through calorie control. The general calorie intake recommendation for weight loss by experts is 1200 calories for women and 1800 calories for men. As we explained earlier, nutrition is far more important than calorie calculation. Your body needs the right amount of nutrition and also the right amount of calories. A sudden and drastic reduction in either calories or nutrition will have adverse impact on health. Follow 2 simple rules to maintain good health. Eat food that has a balance of nutrition and calories. Also stay physically active. Do you know how much calories you are taking when eating? Do you know of foods that really help weight loss? Please share your thoughts and comments.