It can be so difficult to navigate the world of food today – with so much convenience food readily available at the supermarket and an increasing number of us eating out or buying take away, it can be hard to know what exactly you’re putting into your body when you eat.
When it comes to weight loss, one commonly debated topic is whether or not you actually need to control the number of calories you eat each day in order to lose weight. In fact, should you be watching the number of calories you eat every day, even if you’re not trying to shed a few pounds? This article outlines what calories are, and when calorie counting may be a good approach for you.
If you need any further advice on what the best food intake is for you or would like suggestions on how to maintain your current body weight or get a good energy balance in your life, then you can also turn to a nutrition tutor at Superprof for some additional hints and tips.
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How Many Calories Do I Need Each Day?
Before discussing calorie counting and how it works, it’s worthwhile knowing the basics when it comes to calories and how many you should consume.
Put simply, a calorie is a way to measure energy and it is one way that we can measure how much energy there is in a particular piece of food or a drink.
On average, it is recommended that men eat around 2,500 calories per day, and women around 2,000 calories in order to maintain a healthy weight. However, in practice, the number of calories that we need on a daily basis will depend on a number of different factors, including:
- Your age;
- Your activity rate and metabolism; and
- Whether you’re looking to gain or lose weight.
For instance, if you’re relatively inactive and spend most of your time behind a desk, with only an hour or so spare for exercise a week, your body won’t need as many calories compared to an individual who spends ten hours in the gym every week and works outside.
As such, daily guidelines for calorie intake should be taken as a guideline only, although if you’re looking for more detailed calorie intake information specific to your circumstances, you can sometimes find personalised calorie estimates online, or if in any doubt you could also speak to your dietician about plans.
Try A Calorie Tracker To Keep On Top Of Your Intake
Once you know how many calories you should be eating on a daily basis to maintain your current weight, you could then use a calorie tracker to help you achieve any weight-loss goals you have or to try and stop you from going over your own daily recommended intake.
When it comes to weight-loss, the key to success is fairly simple in theory – you just need to ensure that you are consuming fewer calories than your body needs. When this happens, you should start to lose weight. Conversely, if you consume more calories than needed on a regular basis, then this excess will be stored as fat, causing you to gain weight.
As a result, calorie trackers can be really helpful when you’re trying to lose weight, as they keep on top of what you’ve eaten during the day and let you know when you’re close to, at, or over your limit. This means that you should be able to make informed food choices throughout the day.
If you’d also prefer to digitise your weight-loss efforts, there are also a number of calorie tracker apps you can use to help you keep on top of your food consumption, and a quick google can let you know the most highly rated ones around, including My Fitness Pal. Alternatively, if you prefer to keep track of your calories yourself, you could also use tools such as the NHS’ online calorie checker.
The important thing to bear in mind when it comes to calorie reduction is that you don’t want to overdo it – ideally reducing calories is a balancing act between giving your body enough nutrition and sustenance so you remain healthy, but also in a slightly reduced quantity so that you lose weight.
Counting calories with a calculator can be a great way to achieve this balance, particularly if you're concerned with how many calories you consume at present.
It’s inadvisable to go for any extreme dieting or excessive calorie-restrictive diets, as they may do more damage to your body in the long run, and the chances of you sticking to such a tough diet are lower compared to a more measured approach to weight loss.
If you’re ever in doubt about how to safely lose weight, make sure you speak to your healthcare provider for their input.
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What If You Need Some Extra Help Besides Calorie Counting?
Ultimately, calorie counting is just one part of a wider picture when it comes to our health.
Although some diets make a lot out of the benefits of calorie counting, it’s also worth bearing in mind that there are other things you should be mindful of as well when it comes to maintaining or losing weight, such as:
- How much exercise you’re doing; and
- What you’re eating on a daily basis.
Taking each in turn, the amount that you do, or don’t exercise, can also have a huge impact on how much weight you lose, and can also positively impact your health more widely. Often, regular exercise combined with calorie counting can lead to successful, and prolonged, weight loss.
The NHS recommends that on average, adults aged between 19 and 64 should look to be active daily, for example, 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week coupled with strength exercises at least twice a week. However, you may wish to do more than this if your aim is to lose weight.
Before beginning any exercise program, it would be wise to speak to your healthcare professional to ensure that you are fit enough to exercise for the length and intensity that you would like to, particularly if you’re very overweight or have done very little exercise in the past, and are looking at burning a large number of calories as part of your exercise regime.
When it comes to how much you’re eating on a day to day basis, it’s also important to note that calorie counting does not take into account the kind of food that you eat.
While you could, for example, eat three chocolate bars and a meal at McDonald's in a day to meet the requirements of your calorie tracker, you’d naturally be much better off staying away from unhealthy foods and meeting your calorie quota through fresh, nutritious meals that keep you fuller for longer.
Having a balanced diet is key to any weight loss or weight maintenance regime. Keeping a food journal can be a great way to keep track of what you're eating on a daily basis, and you can try and spot patterns in the kind of foods that you eat, and which nutrients you may be missing out on.
Learning how to read a food or nutrition label on packaging can also be a great step towards a healthy food regime and avoiding weight issues such as obesity, and can help ensure you make positive food choices that give you more energy, even if you are trying to cut calories.
If you’re looking for a bit of meal inspiration and would like ideas for weekly meals that are not only good for you but can help you reach a specific calorie goal each day for weight loss purposes, then you might like to turn to a nutrition tutor at Superprof.
A Superprof tutor can work with you to understand your calorie requirements, and can also give you further information about the principles of good nutrition, essential cooking skills, as well as offering personalised meal plan ideas that will appeal to you. Such meals will likely include a balance of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins such as lean meats to ensure you remain full and satisfied.
A tutor can be a really great resource to have, whether you want to keep on top of tracking your calories, you're looking at losing fat, or want to get into a healthy body mass index. Even if you want tips on how to maintain or increase your level of physical activity, a Superprof nutrition tutor can be there to assist to ensure you have a good balance of diet and exercise in your life.
Read about how to maintain a healthy pregnancy diet.
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