Should You Count Calories? A Guide to Weight Loss
Have you been exercising and working out but are still not noticing much difference in your weight?
While working out is a great way to lose weight, an equally important aspect is keeping track of how many calories you consume in a day. If the number of calories you consume is equal to or more than the amount that your body uses for fuel, you will not notice a difference in weight. To get a better idea of how this works, let’s take a closer look at calories and how they work.
What Exactly Are Calories?
Calories are essentially used to measure energy. A calorie can be defined as ‘the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius’. Calories are needed so that our body can carry out its regular bodily functions and so that we have energy for daily activities. Whether you’re sitting, standing or running, you need energy, and this comes from calories.
An intake of too many extra calories will make us gain weight. This is because excess calories are stored as fat in the body. If you are not losing weight or are gaining more weight, it means that you are burning fewer calories than you consume. Your body needs a bit of stored fat to remain healthy, but too much fat could lead to health issues.
Calories can be obtained from different food sources, and sometimes there is confusion with calorie intake because of the type of calorie consumed. For instance, there is a difference between calories that come from fibrous foods containing vitamins and minerals and ‘empty calories’ that are obtained from added sugar, candy, fast food, or soda.
Do You Need to Count Calories to Lose Weight?
You have probably heard that calories don’t really matter, and it’s just a waste of time to keep track of your daily calorie intake.
But if you want to lose weight, counting calories is imperative. Research has proved that when people eat more and burn fewer calories, they do gain weight. So limiting your calorie intake by daily counting can prevent further weight gain and help you lose weight.
How to Count Calories in Food
In order to know how many calories you are consuming and how much you should cut from your diet, here are a few simple ways to do so:
- Add up the calories – For most packaged food items that you buy, manufacturers are required to provide nutritional information for the product. This is represented as a chart, and you can easily find it at the back or side of a package.
If you want to know how many calories you’re eating, take a look at the chart. It will give you the breakdown of the total number of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and so on. Keep in mind that the calories are listed as the total amount per serving. So if you consume two or three servings, you will be consuming twice or thrice that amount of calories.
- Measure macronutrients- One gram of protein or carbohydrates contains about four calories, and one gram of fat contains nine calories. So, for instance, if you consume about 20 grams of protein and 30 grams of fat, calculate the calories by multiplying 20 x 4 and 20 x 9, respectively.
That adds up to 100 plus 180, which is equal to 280 calories for the item that you just ate. Though that does not seem like a lot of calories, if you want to cut fat from your diet, in the above example, you will notice that for the same 20 grams of fat, you are actually consuming a higher number of calories compared to protein or carbohydrates.
- Compare different nutrients according to daily values- Maintaining a balanced diet and eating the correct food is important when trying to keep your calories in check. Trainers and dieticians recommend that a person who consumes an average of 2000 calories per day, should consume a total of the following in their daily diet:
- 45–65 per cent carbohydrates
- 20–25 per cent fats
- 10–35 per cent protein
If you take a look at the recommended daily value chart on a product, you can calculate how many nutrients you are getting from each item that you eat.
How Many Calories to Burn to Lose Weight?
On average, you need to cut at least 500 to 1000 calories from your diet to lose 0.5 kg in a week.
However, the number of calories you need to burn will depend on factors like your age, gender, activity level and current weight. For example, if you are a 30-year-old gym-goer who trains several days of the week, you will definitely need much more calories than a 75-year-old who gets little or no exercise.
If you want to burn more calories, you will need to create a calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories. So by consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity, you will lose excess weight.
But it’s not as simple as it sounds. This is because when you start losing weight, you will lose fat, as well as water and lean tissue. You will begin to notice changes happening in your body, and you may need to decrease your intake of calories further.
To know exactly how much to cut from your diet and how much you should exercise in a day, it’s always better to speak to a trained professional. A professional coach can tell you exactly how to adjust your calorie intake according to your body type and exercise level.
How to Lose Weight
By now, it is clear that when it comes to losing weight, it all boils down to how many calories you consume. Though this may sound challenging, it is easy if you take little steps in your daily life. Some of the best tips that you can keep in mind are:
- Cut out the high-calorie but low-nutrition foods - If you want to cut down on calories, cut out those foods that you don’t really need and that are high in calories. In other words, take care of the empty calories. This could be a soda, chocolate chip cookies or the ice cream that you would normally consume as dessert.
If you can’t give it up so easily, substitute it with a low-calorie item to satisfy your craving. For example, you can consume sparkling water instead of soda. A can of 355 ml soda contains 140 cal, but sparkling water contains 0 cal.
- Consider low-calorie substitutes- Get into the habit of substituting unhealthy foods for healthier options with lower calories. For a good weight loss diet, once you get an idea of what is adding on all those extra calories in a day, you can substitute it with different foods that will keep you full but have lower calories.
So instead of eating French fries, substitute with baked sweet potato. Instead of flavoured yoghurt, choose non-fat yoghurt and add your own fruits or nuts. Try to eat foods that are low in saturated fats, like replacing fish for beef or skim milk for whole milk.
- Reduce portion size- Not eating more than necessary and controlling your portion size will go a long way in consuming fewer calories. Eating two slices of pizza will add up to double the calories than eating one slice. Or a seven inch, 75-gram waffle contains 218 calories, but if you consume half the waffle, you will be consuming only 109 cal. If you are still hungry, substitute with a fruit.
A good tip to keep in mind is to eat from a plate and not directly from a food package because this doesn’t allow you to keep track of how much you’re eating. When eating out at a restaurant, it is difficult to estimate how much you are actually consuming.
- Always check food labels- Calorie information on a food label will tell you how many calories you are consuming, but only in one serving. So if a serving of whole-wheat bread contains 110 cal, look at the serving size. This will tell you whether the 110 calories are for one slice or more. So, if you eat two slices of bread, you will consume 220 calories.
Do Supplements Help Weight Loss?
You must have heard that dietary supplements can aid in weight loss by burning fat, boosting energy and improving nutrition. They are found in different forms like Protein Bars, Protein Powders, or fat burners.
Dietary supplements are easily available and contain vitamins, fibres, minerals and other ingredients that help burn fat and boost metabolism. Many ingredients such as African mango extract or raspberry ketones help block the absorption of fat and carbohydrates, speeding up metabolism and curbing appetite.
There is significant scientific research to support the claim that supplements help in weight loss, studies prove that supplements can aid in weight loss.
Before you opt for weight loss supplements, it is always advisable to speak to a trainer or a healthcare professional, especially if you have health issues like diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure or other issues, on certain prescription medication, or are breastfeeding or pregnant.
Each person’s weight loss journey is different. If you want to learn more about weight loss, calories, exercise and nutrition, contact us today for further information, and we will be happy to help you.