The fitness industry is plagued with controversy about whether the calories in vs. calories burned approach to weight loss is an effective way to get healthy, lose weight, or reach other fitness goals. Some will argue that this type of meal planning can lead to the unhealthy restriction, an obsession with numbers, and even encourage disordered eating. Others believe counting calories is a necessary approach to weight loss.
What Are Calories?
Calories are a measure of energy that can be used to quantify the energy content of foods and beverages as well as the energy required to complete everything from daily movement and workouts to organ function. Your body needs calories to perform many bodily functions, but they may also be accumulated and stored as fat when you eat more than you use up. Eating fewer calories will lead to weight loss
How Many Calories Should You Eat for Your Goals?
If you are trying to lose weight, aim for slightly fewer calories than your body burns throughout the day. If you want to maintain your current weight, aim for right around the same, and if you’re looking to build muscle or gain some weight aim for slightly above your caloric requirements.
Before calculating your daily caloric needs, you'll need to know your baseline stats. A 20-year-old male football player will require more calories per day than a 70-year-old sedentary woman.
Calorie needs vary greatly based on factors like height and weight, so pinpointing your specific needs is incredibly valuable. You won't compare your caloric intake to others who may have different needs than you. I'll provide you with everything you need to calculate your exact needs below.
Calories Out: Counting the Calories You Burn
Calories you burn in one day are a combination of two factors: the calories you burn at rest and those you burn through exercise.
How to Calculate Calories Burned at Rest
Your BMR or resting metabolic rate is the calories you burn at rest to complete everyday functions like breathing, sleeping, thinking, talking, and eating. This number is influenced by your weight, age, gender, and more.
How to Calculate Calories Burned Through Exercise?
To track your calories during exercise, use your Fitbit to make it easy. There are many fitness apps and trackers, so use what you have.
The number of calories you burn through exercise is multiplied by your BMR to give you a solid estimate of your daily caloric needs. Use this number as a framework for how many calories to focus on adding to your diet.
Keeping track of what you eat and drink will be simple with the MyPlate Calorie Tracker app. Just keep a journal or note throughout the day of what you’re consuming and add it up as you go.
Calories In: Counting the Calories You Eat
Are you trying to lose weight? Although counting calories is straightforward, manually tracking them and consistently sticking with it can be very challenging. Here are some tips to help you succeed!
Read Food Labels
Don’t forget to add the calorie count of your food to your daily notes! The number is listed for portion size, so if you eat more than one portion, make sure you add that to your notes as well.
Be sure you're tracking everything that goes in your mouth, even if it's coffee, water, or something as seemingly harmless as a salad dressing. You'd be surprised how many calories that afternoon latte or side of salad dressing can add up.
If you’re not logging everything then what’s the point? You have no real way of knowing that you’re on track with your goals if you don’t count all your calories consistently. Be consistent, it will work. Once you get to a certain point and learn the portion sizes of your favorite foods you can be less meticulous.
Consider Food Quality
Calories aren't everything. The content of your calories matters. Healthy options, when possible, are best for your health too. Opt for them. Your body will thank you for it.
Fuel for Exercise
Most weight loss programs include a combination of diet and exercise because exercise helps your metabolism to work more effectively, which is an important part of weight loss. Make sure to eat enough so you have the energy needed to exercise.