Calories are, per explanation, a bit of a paradox. What we mean by that is simple: the language used to explain them can be extremely complicated; yet understanding how to use calories to your benefit in order to lose weight is very simple.
For example: a calorie is a measurement of a food’s energy. One calorie is the amount of energy that is needed in order to raise one gram of water in temperature by one degree centigrade. Yeah; don’t you wish you paid more attention in chemistry class now!?
That’s the complicated end. The easy end: burning more calories than you put into your body will equal weight loss.
But now here comes the rub. Just how many calories will you have to lose in order to lose weight?
Understanding Calories in People
First off, you have to understand just how different most people are. Before we had cushy and convenient lives, our ancestors, the first wave of Homo sapiens, needed in excess of 3,500 calories just to get through the day. They needed that much energy.
Today, the average person can get by on around 2,000, with a few exceptions to the rule, of course. If you’re an athlete, you probably need more; breastfeeding mothers need more; someone like a soldier needs more; people with really labor-intensive jobs or really active lifestyles need more.
Calorie intake—need—is also dependent upon other factors, such as size, gender, age and even where a person lives. Men typically need around 5% more calories than women. People in warmer climates generally have lower calorie requirements than people in cooler climates (body temperature regulation). Younger people typically need more calories than older people. And larger people (think Shaq, not a really fat person) need more calories than smaller people.
The average minimum is around 1,200 – even smaller, older, weaker individuals need a minimum of 1,200 calories per day in order to perform all the necessary functions (per balance; those energy reserves are still there – remember that for later).
Some people may need more – but the “need” is set per the balance in one’s body. In order to lose weight, we’re looking to affect that balance. More on that later.