To get the most out of you fitness and nutrition program you need to have a basic understanding of what calories or kilojoules are, and how many of them you need to eat in order to lose weight. Learn how to measure calories for weight loss and move towards your ideal weight.
To put it simply a calorie (which is really a kilo calorie, but shortened to calorie) is a unit of measurement used for energy. Kilojoules is the newer way to denote energy intake and is a decimal term.
Depending on what country you are in the nutritional information on the packaging of food can either be listed as a calorie or a kilojoule.
For the purpose of this article I will refer to calories as the unit of measurement.
For those that prefer to use kilojoules as the unit of measurement the conversion rate is: 1 calorie = 4.2 kilojoules.
Calories are found in the foods and drinks you consume. The number of calories you eat, drink and use through daily activities is closely associated with your weight.
What Role do Calories Play in Losing Weight?
In order to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit can be created either through eating less food, performing more exercise or a combination of eating less and exercising more.
For example, if your body requires 1,800 calories to maintain it’s current weight and you eat 1,300 calories on a daily basis, then you will create a daily 500 calorie deficit. Repeating this process everyday for a week, you will have burned off 3,500 calories, which is equal to one pound or half a kilogram of fat.
Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? The biggest challenge is knowing when your body is in a calorie deficit.
The problem most people face is they don’t know how many calories their body requires on a day to day basis, so it becomes a bit of a guessing game. If you guess wrong and end the day with a calorie surplus your body will store the excess calories as fat.
More often than not people get it wrong because they under estimate the amount of calories in the food they eat and over estimate the calories they are burning exercising.
How to Measure Calories for Weight Loss
In order for the human body to function it needs fuel. Everyday you are alive, your body uses a certain amount of energy to perform vital functions such as breathing, maintaining your core body temperature and pumping blood through your veins.
These functions are active even if you don’t get out of bed for the whole day. The calories that your body burns when you are resting is your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR for short.
Several factors, such as body temperature, body weight and gender all play a part in your BMR.
How do you determine your BMR? Don’t stress, you don’t need to perform any complex mathematical equations. Some helpful smartie has already done that and created an easy to use calculator. Simply click here to calculate your BMR.
Once you have your BMR you will need to calculate your daily calorie requirements. Your daily calorie requirements will be your BMR x 1.2. This figure represents the amount of calories your body needs to survive and perform normal day to day functions like getting out of bed, walking around, going to work, normal everyday things we do in life.
To use myself as an example, my BMR is 1769.70. Multiplying that by 1.2 my daily calorie needs are 2126.64.
This figure represents the amount of calories I need to consume on a daily basis to MAINTAIN my current weight.
Once you have determined your daily calorie requirements you can move onto structuring your training and nutrition plan.
Determining Calories Eaten
On face value this seems fairly easy, simply add up the amount of calories that you eat and drink during the day, but it can get a little tricky.
To start with this is going to be a fairly time consuming task as you will need to educate yourself as to the calorie value of the foods that you eat.
Here are some simple things you can do to help you determine your calorie intake:
- Read the nutritional values on the back of food packaging.
- Get yourself a set of kitchen scales and start to weigh and measure your food.
- Start keeping a food diary.
- Download a calorie counting app for your smart phone.
- Make sure you count the calories that you drink.
- If you can’t determine a meals exact calorie value, err on the side of caution and slightly over estimate the number of calories.
As I said this is a fairly time consuming task to start with but after a few weeks you will find it starts to get easier as you eat a lot of the same things every day.
Once you have worked out the calories that you are eating during the day, the next step is to determine how many calories you are burning during exercise.
Determining Calories Burnt During Exercise
I find this component a lot easier. There are a lot of websites, apps and books that can help you determine the calories you burn whilst exercise, but none of them are going to be 100% accurate.
The reason they cannot be 100% accurate is there are too many variables in the equation, everything from the genetics of the person doing the exercise, the climate you are exercising in and the intensity in which you complete the exercise. I actually find that most people over estimate the amount of calories actually burnt.
The most accurate way to calculate the calories you burn during exercise is get yourself a quality heart rate monitor. A heart rate monitor can be set up with individual information and tracks how hard you are actually working whilst exercising. At the end of the session you have an accurate reading of the calories you have burnt.
I find this to be the best option as I find it not only accurate, but you can easily keep track of your daily, weekly or yearly calories burnt whilst exercising.
Putting it all Together
You should now know how to measure calories for weight loss:
- Use the calculator to determine your BMR, then multiply it by 1.2 to find your daily caloric needs.
- Once you know you daily calorie needs consume less calories than you need, creating a deficit.
- Throw in some exercise to burn more calories, creating a bigger deficit.
- Aim to create a deficit of 500 calories per day through a combination of eating less and exercising more.
- Each week you have a deficit of 3,500 calories, which with all other things being equal, will result in a loss of one pound or half a kilo of weight.
The theory is simple, putting it into practice is the hard part. If it was easy everyone would have the body of their dreams.
If you want to learn more about successful weight loss, please see here.