Scientifically, there is no specific number of calories that each human can eat each day to guarantee weight loss. Most people can lose weight at around 1,500 calories per day but you don’t want to assume this. It may be too much for you or far too little (leading to your body ‘starving’ and meaning any treats you have get stored as fat fast). The good news is you can work out your own caloric requirements with a bit of research and we’ll come to that in the next post. In this post I want to look at calories more broadly.
Calories can be confusing. Some people swear by them, some swear you should ignore them. A calorie is the amount of energy or heat required to increase the temperature of a liter of water by 1 degree. In other words a calorie is primarily a physical unit of measurement not specific to fat, carbohydrate or protein (diet). A calorie measures the energy in food and drinks we take in. Everything movement we make and countless other activities automated by our bodies, rely on this energy.
This scientific view means food is fuel – no more complex than that. A calorie from a can of coke is the same as a calorie from a stick of celery.
To get a better idea of what is good and bad for us we need to apply nutritional qualities to calories. Coke is full of “empty calories” (without nutritional value) for example, but the energy (and if you’re not careful, fat) is still very real.
Basically if you take in too much fuel, you begin to store fat but the type of fuel you take in can have other knock on effects. For instance if you ate 2,500 calories of fruit and veg and lean meat per day you may (depending on size) maintain or put on weight but be in great shape otherwise. If you drank 2,500 calories of coke per day you would maintain weight but your body would begin to fall apart through malnutrition.
You need to understand these things to begin losing weight. Simply calorie counting isn’t enough. Focusing on eating the right things (in any quantity you feel suits) isn’t enough.
Regardless of what diet you’re on, if you take in more calories than you need, you gain weight. By the same token, no matter how many calories you cut out, you can still be very unhealthy.
Calories, because they’re a measure of energy, can also tell you how much you burn off while exercising. And you can account for that. It’s not a simple matter of believing you can eat anything in as much quantity as you want and then burning it off later. Depending on your calorie requirements, intake and amount of exercise time, it just can’t be done.
For example, a McDonald’s double cheeseburger contains 460 calories. Even the most intense types of cardio would take about an hour to burn that off and that’s one burger – not even a full meal and it won’t fill you for that long.