“What are calories? What is a caloric surplus? What is a caloric deficit? How many calories does an average person need per day?”
These are all questions that have been asked by people who want to lose weight. In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more!
What are Calories?
A calorie is a unit of energy.
Food contains calories which provide the body with energy and fuel for activity, growth, and even to maintain our weight.
When we eat more food than what's needed by the body, it causes a caloric surplus (surplus meaning there is an excess or overabundance).
Conversely, when we don't eat enough food, this is called a caloric deficit (deficit meaning there is a lack or shortage).
What is a Caloric Surplus?
A calorie surplus occurs when you take in more calories than your body needs.
This results in weight gain because the excess energy from these extra calories get stored as fat cells underneath our skin and around vital organs.
The bigger the caloric surplus, the more weight gained.
There are some exceptions, however. For example, when you are losing weight and the body needs more calories to function normally, a caloric surplus may occur temporarily as your body adjusts to the new weight loss.
What is a Caloric Deficit?
A calorie deficit occurs when you don't take in enough calories to meet your body's needs.
This results in weight loss because the shortfall of energy from these low-calorie meals gets stored as fat cells underneath our skin and around vital organs.
A caloric deficit is very desirable for losing weight.
However, an extreme caloric deficit can lead to losing muscle mass and eventually weight loss plateaus.
Weight loss plateaus happen when your body adjusts to losing weight and you have not lost anymore in a couple of weeks.
Weight loss plateaus are the body's way of telling you to change things up a little and take in fewer calories or increase exercise (a moderate amount of both is recommended).
Weight loss plateaus can be frustrating and discouraging for many people so it's important to understand what is happening.
How Many Calories Does an Average Person Need Per Day?
The number of calories an individual needs per day varies from person to person.
The more active that you are, the higher your caloric intake should be (though there is a point in which excess energy causes weight gain).
Sedentary individuals need about 2000-2500 calories while people who exercise for at least one hour each day and lead moderately active lifestyles should consume 3000-3500 calories.
Typically, men need more calories than women (though this varies) and teenagers need about 2500-3000.
Are All Calories the Same?
No, not all calories are the same. The quality of food that you eat makes a difference as well as the weight loss goal or purpose (weight loss, weight maintenance).
Weight losing foods should have higher quality with more nutritional value and lower calorie density.
Weight-gaining food is the opposite in that the food should be less nutritious and higher in calories.
The quality of food is important because it provides our body with micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that cannot be found in foods of lower quality.
Easy Foods to Stop Eating to Reduce Caloric Intake
Some easy ways that you can cut down on the amount of food that you eat is by skipping the appetizers, not ordering seconds, and avoiding buffets or all-you-can-eat restaurants as they are notorious for their high-fat content.
Cutting out carbs, like bread and pasta, is a great way to reduce your intake of calories.
It's ok to indulge once in a while, but don't make it a habit. Always try to have a balance of healthy food in your diet.
Protein and fat are very important. Protein and fat contain a lot of calories so if you enjoy those foods, just make sure to keep your portions in check.
How to Start Counting Calories
Counting calories can be overwhelming for many people and it's true that you won't succeed if you don't enjoy the process.
The first step is to know what your caloric intake goal for the day is. If you want to lose weight, subtract 500 calories from that number and create a plan to reduce those calories.
If you want to gain weight, add 500 more than your caloric intake goal for the day and create a plan on how to eat more.
Apps like MyFitnessPal are very helpful when it comes to tracking your caloric intake.
Drink Plenty of Water
It's important that you drink enough fluids throughout the day – at least eight cups for women and twelve cups for men – as this will help decrease bloating, constipation, headaches, mood swings, and fatigue.
Avoid drinking any beverages with added sugar and caffeine, like sodas or sports drinks. These drinks will add unnecessary calories and make losing weight more difficult.
Adjust water intake according to your level of activity: drink more if you are out in the sun all day or exercising often, for example.
Exercise to Burn Even More Calories
Now that you have a basic understanding of calories, it's time to start losing weight!
Find an activity or sport that sounds like fun – whether it be running or playing tennis – and try to do this as often as possible.
With the right caloric intake and exercise regime, losing weight will seem much easier.”
Great activities for losing weight include:
- playing tennis
- going on walks
- mountain climbing
- lifting weights at the gym
Basically, you want to do something that's enjoyable and can work off the excess calories from a caloric surplus.