Are you having trouble losing weight, even though you eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis? The reason the scale isn’t moving might be more simple than you think: the number of calories you eat daily. No matter how healthy you are, if you’re consuming a surplus of calories, you’re going to gain weight or find it incredibly difficult to lose. This is why it’s so beneficial to track calories, but how many should you be eating on a daily basis? The guide below will help you make sense of this, as it includes all you need to know for determining your the recommended number based on your body and lifestyle.
Step 1: Determine BMR
Your BMR, otherwise known as basal metabolic rate, is the amount of calories your body needs to simply function while resting. It’s the rock bottom number you need to survive and have all of your internal functions working properly. This number is determine based on your age, weight, height, and gender, so it differs for each and every person. There are many BMR calculators you can use online, which are recommended for their ease of use. They also eliminate the chance of incorrect math, so you’ll have a more accurate number.
It’s important to keep in mind that your BMR is not the number of calories you should be eating, as it’s the bare minimum required to simply function. If you go any lower than this, your metabolism could end up slowing down and that could make it difficult to lose weight in the future.
Example: A 5’4″ woman who weighs 180 pounds at age 28 would have a BMR of 1,608 calories.
Step 2: Determine AMR
Once you know your basal metabolic rate it will be time to determine your active metabolic rate (AMR). This number considers the amount of time you spend actually moving (including exercise) on a daily basis. There are also online calculators for this, which are highly recommended because they tend to be more accurate. In this calculator you’ll give your BMR and the number of minutes you spend doing light, moderate, heavy, and very heavy activity throughout the day. With that information the calculator will determine the number of calories you need to sustain these daily activities.
Example: Let’s say the woman in the example above did 60 minutes of light walking and 20 minutes of swimming per day. Using a calculator, this puts her daily energy requirement at 1,937.
Step 3: Know Your Calories
If you were interesting in maintaining your weight, then you’d simply need to eat the calories you found calculating your AMR. However, if you want to lose weight, you’ll need to create a deficit of calories. 1 pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, and most nutritionist recommend that you create a deficit of 300-500 per day for steady loss throughout the week. Just make sure you never eat below your BMR, as this could result in slowing your metabolism and experiencing issues like exhaustion, fatigue, and trouble thinking.
Example: Let’s say the woman above wants to lose 1 pound per week. In order to do this, she’d need to create a deficit of 500 calories per day. She could do this by cutting her calories to 1,700 (which gives her 167 calories) and burning 350 through a daily Zumba class. Together those two cuts add up to over 500 calories, which will eventually mean a pound loss if she is consistent throughout the week.
What’s really convenient about counting calories is that you’re not contracted to either exercising or losing weight. This means you could eat a surplus of calories one day and make up for that the next day by eating less and exercising for much longer than normal. As long as you balance out by the end of the week, you’re likely going to see the number on the scale go down.
Step 4: Tracking Calories
How can you keep track of how many calories you’re eating on a daily basis? These tips will help make it easy:
- Download a Fitness App
While you can search online or read a label to determine calories in a food, it’s not always that simple or convenient to write these down. This is where a fitness app will come in handy, as all you have to do is type in what you ate and it’ll search to find the calories in the food for you. After selecting what your portion size was, the app will tell you how many calories you have left in the day, which will be based on the information you enter when you first download it.
- Read Labels
How often do you pay attention to serving sizes on foods you eat? If you don’t, you might be surprised to learn that a serving of cookies is only 2 cookies rather than 6, or that an entire box of pasta is really 8 servings instead of 2. If you pay more attention to labels, you’ll find it much easier to control portions and track calories.
- Track Exercise
In order to determine how many calories you burn while exercising, it’s worth investing in a heart rate monitor. However, if you don’t have one, you may be able to use online calculators to get a rough idea of how many were burned. Make sure to track the number that you burn, because this will contribute to a larger deficit in the end.
Understanding Weight Loss
Eating less without starvation and exercising on a daily basis can prove to be a winning combination for weight loss. Unlike with typical diets, you’ll be in control of how much you lose based on how much you want to exercise or eat on a daily basis. This can give you motivation to choose healthier foods and get off the couch knowing you’re making a bigger deficit in your day.
Also, as with any journey to losing weight, remember to give yourself time to work towards your goal. If you’re not seeing the number on the scale go down, then take measurements on your waist, thighs, and even arms. This can help you get a better idea of your total fat loss, as the scale can sometimes be inaccurate with muscle gain and water retention. If you do all of this, it can be well worth it in the end with a healthier body and less weight!