Firstly calorie intake varies from person to person depending on activity levels, lifestyle, age etc. But the recommended calorie intake for women is 2000 and 2500 for men. But, put simply if you want to lose weight you need to work out your calorie requirement before you start reducing your calories. The biggest mistake a lot of people make is they reduce their calories too much and in actual fact are not eating enough. Your body is a very complex system and is constantly working to balance hormones, insulin and various other things, it is very aware when things change and make its own adjustment in accordance. So by not eating enough calories your body will eventually work against you and instead of losing weight you will gain it. Have you been in the situation when you know you’re eating the right food and exercising but those last few pounds won’t drop! I have recently experienced this and I now know it’s because I have not been eating enough.

What happens when we don’t eat enough calories?

Survival: Your body needs energy to survive, if you starve your body of the required calories it will conserve fat which is more essential to its survival than muscle tissue. You may notice your body fat increases but you have lost weight, this is not good, it means you have lost muscle not fat and your body will continue to store fat until it receives enough calories. I have personally experienced this without realising what I was doing until I measured my body fat % which, had suddenly gone up. I had reduced my calories too low and this was the result…lesson learnt!

Muscle: The more muscle you have the more efficient your body is and the more fat you will burn…fact! Providing your calorie intake is correct. Muscle requires a lot to maintain both in calories and in the gym; if you want to burn away fat then muscle is what you need. The less muscle you have the slower your metabolism will become this is your body’s clever way of adjustment because it doesn’t need as much energy to sustain fat. Ladies don’t panic you won’t become bulky and hulky it is not possible unless other supplements are being taken to increase your muscle massively, if you’re consuming too much of the wrong calories then you will become fat and bulky…diet is essential, 90% diet 10% exercise. Think about one day in your life, 90% is spent doing normal daily activity like your job, sitting and moving around, walking, sleeping etc and 10% if you exercise! This is why diet is so important because only a small amount of exercise accounts for calories burned.

Thyroid: The thyroid is a complicated mechanism which can be affected quite significantly through dieting so it is important to NOT jump from fad diet to fad diet. Reduced calorie intake can result in the thyroid slowing down to maintain energy; it is responsible for fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Thyroid problems have been shown to be linked to poor diet and the consequences can take years for your body to put right. I have a friend who has experienced this first hand, yoyo dieting for years then suddenly he become quite ill and his thyroid was responsible…or his diet was responsible for the sudden thyroid problem!

Leptin: Is a hormone involved in regulating energy and it tells you if you’re hungry or not. When leptin increases it signals that you are full and low levels mean eat more. When calories are restricted leptin reduces,  having a negative effect on your metabolism.

Energy: Naturally if you’re not eating enough then your energy will drop, this is your body’s way of conserving energy. Brain activity reduces leading to low motivation and feeling generally low and moody. This is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and conserve energy.

People become so focussed on losing weight that they forget about the consequences to the body. There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight if you need to but care should be taken as to how it is done, it is still possible to change your body without having negative affects.

So how many calories should you be eating?

Ok this will surprise you but based on science and professional opinion this is the best method of working out your calorie requirement. Ignore the usual height to weight ratio and instead you need to work out how many calories you burn everyday through normal activity because this is where most of your calories are used not the one hour or so a day of exercise you do! As I have explained muscle needs more calories to maintain so the leaner you are the more calories you can consume. Decide what your goal is i.e. to reduce your fat %, lose a few pounds maintain your weight or maybe even gain weight. Start keeping a food diary every day, I find this helps as you can really see where your calories are coming from I use ‘my fitness pal’ APP for android mobile. It’s a brilliant app and has so many food items that you will often find the most common and uncommon foods and you can add your own recipe’s which calculates the average calories for say a homemade muffin. You can keep a log of your weight as well. Plan an exercise program if exercise is what you want to do as well as diet. I would be lost without exercise it builds muscle, shapes and defines the body, makes me feel healthy, fit and alive! Try to include more weight training and resistance rather than cardio, the harder you work your muscles the more fat you will burn. I currentlydo about 50/50 but I will be increasing this to at least 60/40 or 70/30 to build more muscle as i’m not quite seeing the changes I want to. I am a 5″1 female weigh 55.7kg and current body fat is 30%. I need to reduce my body fat to about 24/25% to be within a good healthy range with some movement either side.

Next, eat 2000 calories per day (men and women). What I hear you cry! Yes it is necessary to establish how many calories you need to eat per day…keep reading. Weigh yourself at the start and preferably do a body fat test. Eat 200 calories for at least a week preferably two then weigh yourself again and body fat % test. Now I say eat 2000 calories per day but that doesn’t mean eat what ever you want that means eat healthy balanced meals….and keep a diary. So after you weigh yourself at the end of the second week you will know if you have lost of gained weight. If you have lost weight then add 500 calories, this is necessary because if you add 500 calories and find that you put weight on then 2000 calories is the correct amount for you per day. If you add 500 calories and don’t gain then add another 500 and so on. Think about very fit or athletic people, they don’t reduce calories they add them to maintain their physical fitness and body shape. Yes I know most of you won’t be athletes but the principle is the same, the more efficient, fitter  and leaner your body the more calories you need to maintain it. Now this individual calorie amount could change in the future depending upon lifestyle change etc, but you will notice any changes and if in a few months or a year you notice you have put weight on and it is not due to poor diet or lack of exercise then you may need to drop 500 and see what happens.

So contrary to popular belief you might find that as a women you need 2500 calories or 1500 this is why the traditional method is not very reliable.

Ok so as soon as you find out the calorie intake that causes weight gain subtract 500 calories per day for every pound you want to lose per week – so to lose 1lb per week subtract 500 calories, 2lb subtract 1000. If you started at 2000 and started to gain weight week on week for at least two weeks then cut 500 calories. Then weigh yourself again after two weeks if you have lost 1lb per week then stick to 1500 calories until you reach your target weight. But be careful not to cut too many as your body will go into stress mode and gain fat. Make sure you drink as much water as you can, your body needs to be hydrated and water helps with weight loss.

I hope this makes sense and helps you.

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One response to “Calories

  1. Pingback: Calories « a bowl FULL of harmony

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