The U.S. Government recommends an average of 2,000 calories per day for men and 1,800 per day for women. But is that too much? Is that enough? Are you getting the right amount of calories in your diet, or are you over- or under-eating? How many calories do you really need? It’s a tough question, one that has a different answer for each person. Below, we’ll take a closer look at your body and its caloric needs to help you know just how many calories are right for you.
Calories are a unit of measurement for the energy produced from your food. It has nothing to do with the weight of the food—instead, it determines how much energy your body will be able to produce from a certain food you eat. Obviously, foods with starch, carbohydrates, sugar, and fats will be higher in calories. The foods that contain more water and fiber—like veggies, for example—will have fewer calories, ergo less energy produced from eating them.
How Many Calories Do you Really Need?
The U.S. Government-recommended 2,000 calories per day is a rough guideline, but it’s not something you should cling to stubbornly. In order to know how many calories you need per day, it’s important to look at your lifestyle, activity habits, and body fat. Your current weight and fat can have a huge effect on your calorie expenditure. The more body fat, the less calories you burn naturally. The more muscle mass, the more calories you burn.
Food is Fuel
Though we have become a nation of eating for enjoyment, the truth is that food is really just your body’s fuel source. You should stop thinking about it as another pleasurable activity and start looking at it as a basic necessity, like using the bathroom or drinking water. You need to give your body the right number of calories according to its energy supply and demands. Those with more body fat have plenty of supply but not a lot of demand. Those with lower body fat tend to have found the right balance between supply and demand. You should only consume the amount of fuel your body needs in order to function. That means you need enough energy to power your brain, heart, organs, internal functions, and muscles, and NO MORE!
How Can You Know?
When trying to determine how many calories are enough for you, it’s important that you take a look at your day. First, ask yourself if you feel hungry throughout the day because you don’t eat enough. If the answer is no, think about your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. For those with high blood lipid and glucose levels, it’s usually pretty clear that they’re over-consuming calories. Next, think about your energy levels. If you have enough energy to get through the day, you’re usually doing good. Finally, examine your body weight and fat percentages. If you’re within healthy ranges, you’re on the right track. If your body weight or fat is too high, it means you’re overeating—ergo, it’s time to cut back on the calories!
How to Lose Weight
The secret to weight loss isn’t drastically cutting back on your calorie intake. Of anything, that’s going to backfire and cause you to end up gaining weight. Instead, the secret is to cut back on your food intake a little bit, causing a small calorie deficit (more calories burned than consumed). On top of that, add an exercise or workout regimen to start increasing your caloric expenditure and boost your metabolism. THAT is how you do weight loss the healthy, effective way!