What are calories?
The amount of energy required to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1° Celsius is called calorie. Regular intake of energy above the required amount leads to weight gain. Similarly, if we take in too little energy, we will lose weight, fat, and eventually muscle mass. The quality and quantity of food we eat determine the amount of calorie intake.
The body uses energy in many ways throughout the day. A person’s body’s energy use will depend on how active the person is and how efficiently the body uses the energy. It is important to start by determining how many calories a person should consume each day.
To do so, we need to know how many calories a person needs to maintain the current weight. First, we need to multiply the current weight by 15 and that gives us roughly the number of calories per pound of body weight needed to maintain the current weight if the person is moderately active. Moderately active means exercising at least 30 minutes a day. Once we have an understanding of how many calories we require to maintain the present body weight, we can alter the amount of calories intake to either gain weight or lose weight.
Facts on calorie intake
- Factors such as age, height, sex, size, lifestyle, and overall general health determine the recommended calorie intake.
- Recommended daily calorie intakes are around 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 for women.
- Weight reduction and weight maintenance can be achieved by eating a big breakfast.
- Around 20 percent of the total energy is solely used by the brain.
- A high-calorie meal which includes fruits and vegetables has more health benefits as compared to a high-calorie snack of pop.
Recommended calorie intake
- The recommended calorie intake that ranges from 1,000 calories a day for an infant of 2 years to 3,200 for an active male aged 16 to 18 years. For adult women, it ranges between 1,600 calories to 2,400 calories per day whereas for adult men it ranges between 2,000 calories to 3,000 calories per day.
- As people get older, their metabolic rate slows down and this reduces their need for energy. From age 19 to 25 years, the recommended intake for women is 2,000 calories a day, but after 51 years, this falls to 1,600.
A human requires energy to function properly and around 20 percent of the energy we intake is used for brain metabolism. In an environment which is generally cold, a person will need more amount of energy to have a constant body temperature since the metabolism of the person would increase to produce more heat whereas, in a warm environment, the same person will need less energy.
Mechanical energy is essential for our skeletal muscles and helps in functions such as maintaining posture and moving around. Cellular respiration is called the metabolic process where the cells receive energy. How adequately energy is converted into physical or mechanical power depends on the quantity and quality of food a person eats, and the type of physical energy he or she exerts. Calories are essential for the functioning of bodily functions including to maintain posture, breathing, thinking, and to ambulate. These are the many aspects in which the calories are burnt.
How to speed up your calorie burning?
The following points give us some tips for burning energy and losing weight more effectively.
- Eat breakfast: A protein and healthy fat breakfast can keep a person full for longer and help prevent snacking during the day.
- Eat regular meals: Eating regular meals can help a person burn calories more effectively and helps prevent mindless snacking.
- Follow five-a-day protocol: Fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and fiber and low in calories and fat.
- Consume slow-burning calories: Legumes and avocado consume more time to release energy, which can help a person not get hungry quickly.
- Exercise: Exercise can help burn off extra calories, and it can make a person feel good. A brisk daily walk is the easiest and the most efficient exercise. A person can make use of a pedometer to challenge himself or herself. There are exercises that can boost heart health and strength for people using wheelchairs.
- Drink water: Drinking water is very healthy and can fill you up. Alcohol and sodas are known to provide a high amount of calories and should be avoided.
- Eat more fiber: Fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help a person feel full and encourage healthy digestion.
- Check the label: It is always advisable to check the label before consuming it since they may have hidden fats or sugars. A product with “ten percent less fat” might not actually mean very much less fat, and it does not necessarily mean that a person can eat more. When a person is counting calories, the label will definitely help to track them.
- Use smaller plates: Using a smaller plate encourages smaller portions. Studies have indicated that portion sizes have increased over the last 3 decades, which may contribute to obesity.
- Slow down: Eat and chew the food for a sufficient amount of time and rest between the next bite to provide ample time for the body to realize the amount of food consumed.
- Make a shopping list: Plan shopping for healthy meals and snacks and list the groceries before starting off and always stick to it.
- A little of what you fancy: Banning foods completely can lead to cravings and binge eating. Allow yourself occasionally with a favorite treat but in smaller amounts.
- Get adequate sleep: Sleep deprival can alter metabolism and is known to cause weight gain.
- Avoid eating just before sleeping: Eating food within 2 hours of going to sleep can hinder the sleep quality and in turn promote weight gain.
Number of calories burnt during activities
Below are some examples of activities and the calories they can help a person burn in 30 minutes.
- Lifting weights – 90 calories.
- Aqua aerobics – 120 calories.
- Walking at 4.5 miles an hour – 150 calories.
- General swimming – 180 calories.
- Running at 6 miles an hour – 300 calories.
- Computer work – 41 calories.
- Sleeping – 19 calories.
Body mass index (BMI)
Knowing the body mass index (BMI) of a person is one way of working out what a person should weigh. If we know the height and weight, we can use this calculator to find out the BMI.
- Below 18.5 – Underweight.
- 18.5 to 24.9 – Normal weight.
- 25 to 29.9 – Overweight.
- 30 or above – Obesity.
However, muscle mass is not taken into consideration.
Only counting calories will not ensure a healthy diet since different foods have different effects on the body. Let us discuss some of the factors different food cause with calorie intake:
Consuming carbohydrates increases the insulin levels significantly more compared with eating fats or protein. Carbs will get into the blood in the form of glucose and can do so much faster than others. Slowly releasing carbs are ideal for managing the body weight as compared to the fast releasing carbs. A high-calorie meal is more healthy and will suppress the hunger for longer as compared to a high-calorie snack of popcorn with butter.
After calculating the Basal metabolic rate (BMR), multiply the result with an activity factor:
- Sedentary lifestyle: If a person does very little or no exercise at all, the daily calorie requirement is BMR x 1.2.
- Slightly active lifestyle: If a person does light exercise between one and three times a week, the daily calorie requirement is BMR x 1.375.
- Moderately active lifestyle: If a person does a moderate exercise three to five times a week, the daily calorie requirement is BMR x 1.55.
- Active lifestyle: If a person does intensive exercise six to seven times per week, the daily calorie requirement is BMR x 1.725.
- Very active lifestyle: If a person does very intensive exercise twice a day, with extra heavy workouts, the daily calorie requirement is BMR x 1.9.
This gives us a rough idea of the daily calorie intake we need to maintain the present body weight. This method of calculating cannot be considered to be perfect since the equation does not take into account the ratio of muscle to fat since a very muscular person needs more calories, even when resting.
A wide range of diets helps people to lose their body weight. Some of these diets are safe and effective and help people lose weight. Others are hard to adhere to and when the person stops following the diet they put weight back on quickly. More important than counting calories is to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet that can sustain long-term. It is equally important to be physically active and to balance the calories consumed with the energy used each day.
Below is the list of popular diets:
Paleo Diet: The paleo diet consists of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts and avoiding processed foods.
Vegan Diet: Veganism is the strictest form of vegetarianism. A vegan diet eliminates dairy, eggs, gelatin, whey, honey, albumin, casein and some forms of vitamin D3.
Low-carb Diet: Low-carb diets are based on eating unlimited amounts of protein and fat, while severely limiting your carb intake.
Dukan Diet: It’s a low-calorie diet and can be split into four phases — two weight loss phases and two maintenance phases.
Ultra Low-fat diet: An ultra low-fat diet contains 10% or fewer calories from fat and is generally plant-based with limited intake of animal food forms.
Atkins diet: The Atkins diet is split into four phases called as induction phase, which involves eating under 20 grams of carbs per day for two weeks and slowly reintroducing healthy carbs back into the diet when the goal weight is achieved.
HCG Diet: The HCG diet is a rigorous weight loss diet, which can cause very fast weight loss of up to 1 kg per day.
Zone Diet: The Zone diet consists of one-third protein, two-thirds fruits and vegetables, and monounsaturated oil such as olive oil or almonds.
Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting can lead to easy calorie restriction by avoiding any food intake.
Keep this in mind
If we consume excess energy which is larger than the required energy, we end up gaining weight. Similarly, if we take in too little energy, we will lose weight, fat, and eventually muscle mass. The quantity and quality of food we eat determine how many calories we utilize.
A person’s body’s energy use will depend on how active the person is and how efficiently the body uses the energy. It is important to start by determining how many calories a person should consume each day.
Once we have an understanding of how many calories we require to maintain the present body weight, we can alter the amount of calories intake to either gain weight or lose weight. It is always advised to have a consult from a medical professional to know how to deal with calorie counting for weight gain or weight loss.
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