You will probably know the golden rule: if you want to lose weight, you should not be eating more calories than you burn during the day. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you eat about the same number of calories than you burn, you will stay on the same weight. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
But how do you know how many calories you should eat in a day to lose weight?
In this article I will explain the importance of a healthy diet, what a calorie is, how many calories per day you need, how you can calculate your Rest Metabolic Rate and how you can calculate the calories you should eat to lose weight.
Topics in this article:
- The importance of a healthy diet
- What is a calorie?
- Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
- How to calculate your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
- Now how about losing weight?
The Importance Of A Healthy Diet
Nutrition and healthy eating play an important role in our lives. Healthy eating starts with a routine of three meals a day. To make sure we make healthy choices, we need to divide the 5 food groups over these three meals in a balanced way.
The 5 food groups are:
- Whole grain foods (cereal, bread, rice and alternatives)
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Dairy products
- Fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, tofu, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
Every one of these groups offers a variety of nutrients which are important for a healthy diet.
What Is A Calorie?
A calorie is a measure for a quantity of energy. More precisely: a calorie is the amount of energy that is needed to warm 1 gram of water with 1 degree Celsius. The energy that comes from nutrients is usually indicated with kilo calorie (kcal).
The name calorie comes from the Latin word Calor, which means warmth.
The difference between a calorie and a kilo calorie is a factor. 1 kilo calorie is 1000 calories.
Our nutrition contains different mounts of kilo calories, for example:
- 1 gram of fat contains 9 kcal
- 1 gram of alcohol contains 7 kcal
- 1 gram of carbs contains 4 kcal
- 1 gram of proteins contain 4 kcal
- 1 gram of fibers contains 2 kcal
Your Resting Metabolic Rate
In order to find out how many calories you need to lose weight, you first need to know how many calories you need to stay on your weight. To find this out, you need to calculate your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This figure shows how many calories your body burns when performing the most basic functions like breathing, heart beating, brain and vital organ functions. This so called state of rest counts approximately 70% of the total calories burned per day.
The calculation is made on your weight, age, length and height, but there are more elements that affect your level of RMR:
Weight: The more you weigh, the more energy your body needs to keep functioning.
Age: Your age is important as well, because when we get older, our muscle mass decreases and so do our needs for calories.
Gender: It is also known that women have a lower RMR the men
Genetics: It can be genetically determined that your RMR is high/low
Muscles: the more muscles, the higher the RMR
Meals: small meals on regular times can increase your RMR
Climate: People living in colder climates, tend to burn more calories, so this increases their RMR.
Pregnancy: can increase the RMR
Crash diets: will decrease your RMR as your body goes in saving mode. Thus, the yo yo affect.
Besides this, it is also important to determine your level of physical activity. The more active you are, the more calories you burn.
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) vs. Basic metabolic Rate (BMR)
The difference between RMR and BMR is that the BMR does not take into account the food digestion. The BMR might therefore be slightly more accurate, but the calculation and the results are very similar. In practice, they are often used to mean the same thing.
How To Calculate Your RMR/BMR?
For women: 655 + (9.6 × weight in kg) + (1.8 × height in ) ) – (4.7 × age in years)
For men: 66 + (13.7 × weight in kg) + (5 × height in )) – (6.8 × age in years)
Now this will tell you how many calories your body needs when it is not doing anything at all. In order to know how many calories you need, it it important to know how active you are. The more active you are, the more calories you need.
We can all put ourselves to one of the categories below. Depending on the category you are in, you have to multiply your RMR with the number next to it.
- Sedentary: I practice little or no exercise at all: RMR x 1,2
- Mild activity level: I practice little exercise, 1 to 3 times a week: RMR x 1,375
- Moderate activity level: I practice moderate exercise, 3 to 5 times a week: RMX x 1,55
- Heavy activity level: I do lots of hard exercise, 6 to 7 times a week: RMR x 1,725
- Extreme level: I practice lots of hard exercise and I have a very physical job: RMR x 1,9
Emma is a 29 years old female. She weighs 71 Kilos and is 1,65 m tall.
Her RMR is 655 + (9.6 x 71) + (1.8 x 165) – (4.7 x 29) = 1497,3
In order to calculate her total calorie needs, we need to multiply her RMR with her activity factor.
Emma swims 2 times per week. Her activity factor is 1,375.
Her total daily calorie needs are 1497,3 x 1,375 = 2058,79 (2059)
Now How About Losing Weight?
This is all very interesting, but it still does not tell how many calories we need to lose weight. One thing is sure: never put yourself on a crash diet where you only take in 1200 0r fewer calories.
This is the worst thing you can do to your body. Even though you might lose some weight in the beginning, you can be sure that you will gain everything back as soon as you start eating normally again, probably with some extra weight on top!
If you want to lose weight in a healthy and a durable way, it is better to take it slow and change your habits. I can only speak for myself, but maybe you recognize this too: when I don’t enjoy it, I won’t hang on to it. And this counts for everything in life!
So, if you want to lose weight and you have counted your total daily calorie needs, you will have to take of 15 to 20% of this total amount. For Emma for example, this would mean that she would have to eat a maximum of 1647 calories per day.
These numbers are of course averages and every person is different. I have mentioned the elements that can affect the metabolic rate. It should not be all about counting calories either. I think one of the most important thins is a right balance between the 5 food groups, because there is a difference in where your calories come from!
A candy bar can have 300 calories, but so does a plate of pasta with vegetables. Make healthy food choices, be active at least twice a week, drinks enough water and love yourself!
Do you have any experience in counting calories for losing weight? I would love it if you could share it by leaving a comment below!
See you soon, à bientôt!