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Calorie Counting Guide

Tips to help guide you in counting calories.

Counting Calories to Shed Those Pounds

The Simple Guide to Weight Loss Math

Introduction – Why Count Calories

When you’re trying to lose weight and achieve optimal health there are many habits and weight loss paths to consider. Undoubtedly, it’s important to pay attention to what you eat.

The more you eat, the more calories you put into your body. If your body doesn’t burn those calories through the natural course of your day, it stores the energy as fat.

Not good.

The goal is to burn fat, to get rid of it and to never see it again. This is why some people turn to the process of calorie counting to lose weight – it works.

What is Calorie Counting?

Calorie counting is the practice of tracking the food you eat each and every day. You track not only the types of food, but also the amount of food, that you eat. For example, if you have some green beans it’s not enough to document “green beans.” You also need to measure the amount. Did you have a cup of green beans? A half-cup?

How you cook the item is important as well. For example, there are 31 calories in raw green beans, 44 in boiled, and 46 calories in microwaved green beans. With calorie counting, the details are important. If you’re 100 calories off each day that’s a pound at the end of the month, and when you’re trying to lose weight every pound matters.

As you track what you’ve eaten, and how much, you’ll also refer to your choice of calorie information tools. There are mobile applications, online tools, and books that you can use to help you track your daily calories.

Keep in mind that as you’re counting what you consume, you’ll also want to count what you burn. Again, there are tools for doing this. Using a variety of tools or devices that we’ll discuss in a bit, you can track how many calories you burn running errands, walking the dog, watching television and doing Zumba for an hour at the gym. This way you can look at your numbers at the end of the day and make sure that you’re burning more than you’re consuming.

So why go to such detail and why count calories?

We Overestimate How Much We Burn and Underestimate How Much We Eat

Counting calories will be a reality check. Most of us drastically underestimate the number of calories we consume. Much of that is due to portion size discrepancies. A half a cup of French fries is much smaller than you think, and a cup of green beans is probably more than you imagine. We also tend to overestimate the calories we burn when exercising and going about daily life. You might think an hour on the elliptical will earn you a hot fudge sundae – it won’t.

When a 150-pound person spends a half hour on an elliptical at a moderate intensity – meaning they’re at 60-70% of their maximum heart rate – they’ll burn around 386 calories. A two-scoop hot fudge sundae has almost 600 calories. And those are primarily empty calories too, but we’ll get to that shortly.

The truth is that most people aren’t going to exercise at that intensity for the entire time they’re on the elliptical. Your intensity will fluctuate with your energy levels, for example. You may start off very enthusiastic and then you’ll pull back when your heart rate begins feeling a bit uncomfortable.

Calorie Counting Is An Education

When you begin counting calories you’ll begin to realize how much you’re actually eating and burning. You’ll become smarter about what you eat. For example, you may quickly realize that a cookie you want just isn’t worth it because it’ll mean you cannot have as much to eat at dinnertime. You’ll learn to set priorities and eat more nutrient rich foods, which are generally lower in calories.

Calorie Counting Gives You More Control

Knowledge is power, right? The more you know the better your decisions can be. This is most certainly true for counting calories and losing weight. With good calorie counting tools and processes you’ll be able to tell at a glance whether you’re on track for the day or whether you’re busting the calorie budget so to speak.

While it may sound difficult, calorie counting is actually one of the easiest ways to lose weight. You simply track input and output. Assuming your output, or the calories you burn, is more than the input, you’ll lose weight. A single pound of fat is 3,500 calories and cutting calories can add up quickly. Let’s get started at what a calorie is and why counting calories is so effective.

Cut Calories Safely

Learning how to cut calories safely.

If you are trying to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat. As a matter-of-fact, to lose one pound per week, you have to have a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories. But you first have to figure out how many calories you should be eating to maintain your current weight. The first step in finding out is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR.

Basal Metabolic Rate

Knowing your BMR will give you the number of calories you need each day to sustain normal bodily functions like breathing keeping your heart beating. To lose weight, you have to either burn off or avoid eating the extra calories your body does not need.

To calculate your BMR, you have to factor in your height, weight, age and sex. For women the formula is 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years); for men 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years).

For example, let’s calculate the BMR on a 30-year old female 5 ft. 5 in, tall and weighing 150 pounds. Plugging the numbers into the formula 655 + (4.3 x 150) + (4.7 x 65 inches) – (4.7 x 30), we find she should be eating about 1,464 calories per day to maintain her current weight.

Note the formulas are based on a normal adult body. If you are extremely muscular or very obese, then your resulting figures will be underestimated or overestimated, respectively.

Factoring In Your Activity Level

Because how much activity you do in a day affects how many calories you burn, you have to adjust the number of calories in your BMR. If you are basically inactive most of the day, then multiply your BMR by 20%. If you exercise most days, use a 40% figure. For those that are very active, multiply your BMR by 50%.

Taking our example from above and adding in the 40% additional calories needed to support her activity level, the total number of calories she needs to maintain her weight while exercising most days is now 2,049.

Cutting Calories for Weight Loss

Keeping in mind a one pound per week weight loss, our example would have to cut 3,500 calories per week from her current diet. Break that down per day, and she should be eating 1,549 calories.

If you find you are losing more than one pound per week, you may want to add back in a few calories. If you are not losing at least some weight per week, consult your doctor for further guidance.