Whatever your history is with calories, counting them, avoiding them and whatnot, we have gathered some important insights for you guys to be able to have an understanding on them and how to use them as part of your everyday life!
Whereas you are looking to lose weight, gain weight or maintain weight, you need to know a few basics to get started.
Firstly, let’s quickly define what a calorie is: It is a unit of ENERGY. In the nutrition world, calories refer to the energy people get from the food and drink they consume, and the energy they use in physical activity. But you should also know that you burn calories CONSTANTLY and that is what’s keeping you A L I V E. You burn calories when you sleep, when you breath, when you stand, when you walk and basically as you live. Those units of energy are what’s keeping you alive and going.
We gathered 4 basic rules for you to understand calories:
1.How to count your calories
The basic question that I get ALL the time. How to count calories?
Counting calories depends on a number of different factors including your age, your gender, your physical activity and your height. The first step you have to do is go into: this calorie calculator and enter all your information. You will then be shown the number of calories you should eat to MAINTAIN your weight, LOSE weight or Gain weight.
Now that we got that out of the way, you need to understand how to COUNT the calories in your foods. Google is your friend as you can enter any ingredient and they have its nutritional value. You could also check the packaging of your foods as they tend to have the nutritional value. Once you have calculated your calories you should make sure they align with your desired goal.
You can also log the calories you consume in the app MyFitnessPal. But only use this app to TRACK your calories, do not believe the 1200 calories it’s giving you, it’s such a generic number and you should follow the number given on the previous website. Moreover, this app tends to increase the number of calories required when you log in any physical activity which is NOT accurate. You should stick to your one and only number on CONSUMED calories. Doing exercise is really good and it does make you burn calories, but your aim here is NOT to consume all those calories back (unless you are in a caloric surplus).
2.All calories are equal BUT
At the end of the day, it always depends on calories IN vs calories OUT, meaning that you need to consume a specific amount of calories to reach your goal. And yes as calories are numbers, they are EQUAL. However, this does not mean they are equal in NUTRITIONAL values.
Let me put that into perspective: You can eat a 500 calories big mac from McDonalds and feel hungry 2 hours later because the burger is EMPTY in terms of nutrition, however you can eat a 500 calories nutrient dense salad for example containing avocados, chickpeas, vegetables and nuts and you will feel full and satisfied for a strong 4-5 hours. That salad provided you with nutrients that your body needs whereas that McDonald’s burger only increased your willingness to binge on sugary items later in the day.
Note that they are both 500 calories. Now, if the total of your calorie intake for you to lose weight is 1400 kcal a day and you included either the burger or the salad for your lunch you WILL lose weight.
The point here is to show you that there aren’t “evil” foods or “foods that will make you fat” or yet again “foods that will make you skinny”. It depends on the QUANTITY you consume – therefore there is no reason for you to restrict yourself while trying to achieve a goal (unless it is a professional one).
Eat well, eat in moderation, prioritize nutrient dense foods and allow yourself the food you love.
3.Everything contains calories
Everything. Literally everything! That “one piece” of chocolate that you think won’t make a difference or that “healthy” orange juice, well everything has calories and you can’t neglect them, this is why you should make sure you log in everything and you count everything in order to be aware of what you’re consuming. You will get used to it and eventually after some time, you will know what you’re consuming without having to log in every little thing you eat.
This will help you get a better perspective on how much calories you actually eat and will educate you on the kind of quantity you need to eat in order to reach your goal. However, please read our next point as it is really important.
4.Calories are not the enemy
Read this once again: CALORIES ARE NOT THE ENEMY.
Calories are simply a unit of measure that will help you reach your goal. You are in control and you should not let calories control you. Don’t enter into the “good vs bad” calories debate. Instead, just use this as a mean of tracking and understanding what you’re consuming. Don’t restrict yourself and don’t think that eating the less amount of calories will help you reach your goal faster. Because there are consequences to starving yourself and there are consequences to obsession over calories. Trust the process, be kind to yourself and learn.
Food is not the enemy, food is fuel, food is art, food is love.
The key words to always remember are: moderation and balance.
Disclaimer: Photos used on this post are not mine. All credit goes to The Fitness Chef.
I hope this blog post helped you get a better understanding on what calories are.