By Lauren Denos: 5/12/2015 (Nutrition)

Ah, the big question everyone wants to know. How many calories does your body need?

This is a tricky topic because it varies from person to person. It depends on your resting metabolic rate, how much activity you do, whether your body is fighting off an infection and what your goals are.

First off, you need to know what your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This is the base amount you need without calculating up your activity levels. Use the calculation below to find yours.

Male: (9.99 x weight) + (6.25 x height) – (4.92 x age) + 5

Female: (9.99 x weight) + (6.25 x height) – (4.92 x age) – 161

Once you know what your resting metabolic rate is you will want to calculate your other activities to see how many calories you are burning per day. To get a truly accurate account of how many calories you burn in any activity you would need to calculate your oxygen consumption, but since many people do not have access to the equipment needed to calculating their Vo2, you may just want to use the common GPS systems if you are running to see how far you are traveling, or one of the calorie expenditure guides online. You can also use a fitness watch that keeps track of the calories you burn. They tend to not be 100% accurate, but it gives you a good ball park figure.

For example:

If you sit at a desk all day then you are probably not going to have a very high caloric need above your resting metabolic rate. However, if you go on a 6 mile run after work, then you may be giving yourself a 500 or 600 calorie deficit depending on your weight and speed, or double that if you are running hills

If you are someone who has a very active job, like construction, you will probably have to guesstimating your calorie expenditure. Since it is usually hard to find any guides on calories burned during construction, so you may want to use the guide for something like gardening in its place. If you cannot find any information on how many calories on average are burned in your specific type of activity, then guesstimating what would be the closest thing to what you do. When you are guesstimating how many calories you burn, if you do not see a loss of inches after a bit, you may be over estimating how many calories you are actually burning. Just make some adjustments for that and lower the amount of calories you are taking in.

You get the point here, right? Your RMR is what your body needs when you are not doing much to maintain your life. All the activity you do above sitting and laying down, You should calculate your activities so you can see how many calories above your RMR you should be taking in per day to maintain a healthy body.

Weight Loss

The exact calculation of calories in a pound is argued by some, but it is easier to just go with the generality – 3500 calories in one pound. Therefore, to lose one pound per week, you will need a deficit of 3500 calories per week or 500 calories per day.

For instance, if your RMR is at 1,550 calories and you run for 6 miles after work and you move around a little bit at work, maybe you calculate the amount of movement at work to be 200 calories expended. Then the running burned about 600 calories. This would mean that the amount you would need to eat to simply maintain would be 2,350 calories. If your goal is to lose one pound per week, then you would cut out 500 calories from that amount to give you a total of 1,850 calories to consume in a day to achieve your weight loss.

Although we are talking in pounds above because it is an easy way to showcase how this works, remember to not go solely off your scale. When you are working out, your body can be losing inches and yet become heavier with muscle and therefore heavier on the scale. Being heavy with muscle does not mean you are gaining size, this is because muscle is much more dense than fat. Use a measuring tape or body fat analyzing method for your measurements of progress, they will mean more.

One thing to remember is to not go overboard on the amount you are taking out of your daily calories. I have seen people near starve themselves to lose the weight they want. Instead use calculators and food journals and be careful not to be tempted to go too far under the amount of calories you need in a day. I had a friend who really wanted to lose weight, so he started eating a ridiculously minimal amount of calories. He noticed he was losing a lot of weight, but that his energy was dropping significantly. He talked to me about how little he was eating and realized that he would start burning through muscle and/or holding onto fat if he kept it up. When we eat too little, our bodies go into starvation mode. It holds onto the body fat for rationing so that our body will not starve. If we are eating the right amount for our body, it knows that it will be getting regular fuel and it then works like a well-oiled machine. He started using a food diary to see how much he was taking in and burning and increased the amount he was eating. Not only did his body keep leaning down, but he had the energy to do his workouts. Be nice to yourself and eat enough to fuel your body and give it the energy to enjoy life!

Another thing to remember is that it is not just about the amount of calories you are eating, but also about the quality. Make sure you are giving yourself the protein, vegetables, carbs and fat it needs so it gets the nutrients needed to keep rebuilding a strong and healthy body. Also, getting in plenty of vegetables in each meal helps fill you up so you are less tempted to each garbage and heavy empty calorie foods.

Remember:

If you decide to use this knowledge for weight loss to be nice to yourself. You did not put the weight on overnight, so it does not need to all come off over night. Just make better quality food decisions and know it will all come off. Besides, if you approach this in a lifestyle manner verses a quick weight loss solution, you will wind up keeping it off and will be doing it the right way.

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-Lauren