Some people need more calories than others. The number of calories a person needs daily will depend on how old they are, and their metabolism. It also depends on how active they are.
Most people have no idea how many calories they should be consuming every day in order to maintain their weight or even lose weight. If you don’t know the number of calories a day your body needs, then it is difficult to make sure that you’re getting enough nutrients and staying at the right calorie level where fat loss occurs or to properly maintain weight or even gain weight if that’s the goal.
The best way to find out how many calories per day is perfect for your goals is by consulting with a professional nutritionist.
There are also various online calculators and charts that can help- just type “calorie calculator” into Google and see what pops up!
As an average guideline, a man needs 2550kcal (10495kJ) on a daily basis to maintain their weight.
For the average woman, 2,000kcal a day is an appropriate amount of calories.
There are a lot of factors that will affect the number of calories you need to eat each day. Factors such as age, lifestyle, size, and more can all have an impact.
The number of calories you need each day will also vary due to other factors. For example, some hormones and medicines can increase the number of calories your body burns or slow down your metabolism.
What is a calorie?
A calorie is a unit of measurement for how much energy there is in the food we eat and drink that comes from the fats or carbohydrates in our food.
A calorie is defined as the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by one degree Celsius.
The word “calorie” is used as an abbreviation for the word kilocalorie. This is written as kcal on food packets. 1,000 calories would appear as 1,000 kcals on food labeling.
Kilojoules (kJ) are the metric equivalent of kilocalories in the International System of Units, and you’ll see both kJ and kilocalories on food labels.
4.2kJ is the same as 1kcal.
Calories and energy
We need energy to keep our bodies alive and our organs working. When we eat and drink, our bodies get more energy. The body uses up that energy constantly, whatever we’re doing. That includes everything from digesting food, pumping blood around the body and breathing right through to vigorous exercise.
Maintaining, losing, and gaining weight
It’s useful to know the goal in order to know your required caloric intake.
If you’re at a healthy weight you’ll want to maintain that. To maintain weight, you have to balance the calories that you eat and drink with the number of calories that your body burns. To maintain a stable weight, the energy we take in must be equal to the total energy that we use – resting and active. We use up more energy when we do more physical activity.
If you eat too much one day don’t worry. Just try to consume fewer calories the next day.
If your goal is to lose weight, you’re aiming for a caloric deficit. In other words, you want to eat less than your body burns. To do this in a healthy way, aim for a deficit of 500 calories per day.
If you’re hoping to gain weight for health reasons, then the opposite is true- you’ll want a caloric surplus and will be eating more calories than your body needs.
And if your aim is to bulk up and increase muscle mass, then it isn’t just calories you need to keep track of – getting the right amount of protein will also be important.
Are calories created equal?
Many people think that eating 1,000 calories of broccoli will have the same impact on your weight as 1,000 calories of doughnuts. That’s simply not true.
Not all foods are created equal when it comes to overall nutrition.
Foods like broccoli and cauliflower are really low in calories and have lots of nutrients. On the other hand, unhealthy foods like doughnuts will give you more calories but not much else.
Knowing this, you’ll be able to make healthier choices about what to eat for the right number and balance of nutrients!
How many calories are in food?
Being aware of the number of calories in food and drink can help ensure you are not consuming too much. For many people, the “calorie count” is not a mystery. However, for the wider population who reviews food labels occasionally or not at all, it can seem easy to be confused about how many calories should be consumed each day.
Store-bought foods have calorie content printed on the packaging. The calorie content is given in kcals and also in kJ.
Food labels usually tell you how many calories are in 100 grams of the product (or 100ml of a drink). This standardisation makes it easier to compare different products to each other.
Most food labels will also state the number of calories in one serving size. But remember that the amount of food that the maker says is 1 portion might not be what you think it is. Ever buy a 500ml bottle of Coke? You’d think that’s one portion, but the Coca Cola says one serving is only 250ml.
Understand how many calories are in a specific food so you can determine the total number that fits into your daily diet.
There are lots of websites and apps that can help you count your daily calories. These are most likely best used as a guide and may not be completely accurate.
Many restaurants now have the nutritional information of their meals available on the menu – sometimes you have to ask. Again this is a guide and some variation is likely.
Burning those calories
As mentioned before, you burn the majority of calories through just staying alive and your body and organs just going about their day. Also, every time you move around or do physical activity, your body burns calories.
The more physical activity you do over the course of a day the more calories you burn and if you combine both exercise and a reduced intake of calories then weight loss will be quicker.
There are a range of things you can do to increase calories burned per day, any type of movement will help but some activities will benefit you more than others.
Cycling is one option that will burn a lot of calories. Jogging also burns calories and has been shown in some studies to reduce belly fat, which could lead to health benefits.
Walking is highly underrated, the pace at which you walk can have a big impact on calories burned per hour. If you want to start walking and avoid injury look for a local walking event where you will get helpful support and advice.
Taking up running may be daunting if you’ve never run before, but there are loads of Couch to 5k apps that help ease you in and get you started on the right foot.
Still not sure? The best thing to do is to consult a nutritionist, or even take one of the free weight management classes offered by most gyms.