If you're considering a calorie-restricted diet, it is best to learn the recommended daily calorie intake for your body, age and gender. When trying to lose weight, even 100 calories a day too much can drastically change the outcome of your hard work.
How Many Calories Do You Eat?
Dieters often resist counting calories because it takes work. However, it also makes you aware of how much you are really eating. Keeping a food journal can also help you identify patterns in your eating, both good and bad. It's not something you have to do forever. Consider it a training exercise.
Start by writing down what you're currently eating and how many calories you take in each day. If you need to lose weight, that number needs to be cut, and if you need to gain weight, that number needs to be boosted. For the diligent ones who have reached their ideal weight and want to maintain it, their recommended daily calorie intake will remain the same as what they are currently eating.
Recommended Daily Calorie Intake
The problem for many people is that they are so sick and tired of being overweight that when they finally decide to cut calories they want to do something extreme like an 800 calorie a day diet in hopes they will lose all their weight fast. Most experts recommend a minimum of 1000-1200 calories a day for women and 1200 - 1500 minimum a day for men. That's if you want to lose weight. Otherwise, your daily caloric intake should be more. Eating as little as 800 calories a day for any length of time can actually sabotage your weight loss efforts by slowing your metabolism.
Calories and Your Metabolism
Our bodies burn calories for energy. This includes energy expended for our basic bodily functions or what is known as our resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR includes calories burned as:
- You breathe
- Your heart beats
- Cells metabolize
- Your kidneys function
- You eat and digest your food
- You sit, talk, watch TV, work at your computer, etc.
If you're trying to lose weight, you'll need to eat less calories than you burn. There's one of two ways to do that. Either you need to eat less or burn more through becoming more active. The healthy answer usually rests in a combination of both.
Determining Calories Right for You
Each of us is unique, and our caloric needs mirror that uniqueness. For you to find the recommended daily calorie intake right for you, you can try one of the many online Calorie calculators designed to tell you how many calories you should eat depending on:
- Activity level
These calculators are a good tool to get you in the ballpark with your caloric intake. Once you calculate how many calories you should have, it is still a good idea to keep a food journal for a month or so in case you want to adjust calorie amounts up or down. Plus, tracking your calories in one place makes a great resource for calorie content of your favorite foods.
Exercise Is Important
The number of calories recommended by most online calculators are for your resting RMR. That's right, your resting metabolic rate. If you want to lose weight, adding activity to your life will help you to burn calories faster. This works to your advantage in a number of ways.
- First exercise will help you lose weight faster
- It allows you to eat more calories without gaining weight
- Develops more lean muscle which increases your RMR. This means you burn more calories throughout the day even while resting.
The bottom line is that the number of calories you should eat needs to meet your bodies metabolic needs. If you eat too many, your body stashes them away as stored fat to be used another day. When you eat too few, your body will turn to your lean muscle for energy. Less lean muscle means fewer calories burned while resting, and as a result your metabolism burns slower.The best way to know if you're eating to much or to little is to watch the scale. Don't become a scale addict, but weight yourself once a week or once a month. Expect fluctuations of 2-5 pounds, but not a steadily climbing 2-5 pounds. If you're weight is stable, you're eating the calories needed to maintain your current weight. If you want that to change, you'll either have to boost or decrease your intake for the desired result.