When we talk about how to control diabetes, your weight plays an important role to achieve it. Losing only 10 to 15% of your weight can significantly help you manage your diabetes effectively. And when you want to lose weight, understanding your “calories per day” requirement and following a diet & exercise plan based on it, is the best way to do it.
Generally people see calories as a factor in losing weight but know only this much to say, “Eat less calories than you need, to lose weight”.
But what that common advice doesn’t tell you is “How many calories per day do you actually need to be perfectly healthy and still lose the weight?”
How many calories per day you need depends on various factors such as age, height, weight, sex, size, activity level and health conditions such as pregnancy.
A 30 year old 6 foot male who have moderate level of physical activity requires more calories per day than a 5.5 foot, 60 year old lady who has a very little physical activity.
According to U.S. Department of Health, an average built adult male requires around 2700 calories per day to maintain his health and weight and on the other hand an average built adult female requires only 2200 calories per day.
How many calories per day we eat and burn is directly related to our health and weight.
Let’s explore more about calories in depth to understand it better.
What are Calories?
Calories are basically units of energy. And here we are specifically talking about food calories in nutrition context.
The energy we get from foods and burn doing regular body functions and physical activities. You can understand calories with a simple example as in “Battery Charge/Power” which you charge and when used it gets discharged.
So, it’s a continuous cycle of eating and burning the calories to continue our body functions and maintain our health.
To measure the calories, we use the “kcal” unit which is a short form of “Kilo calories”.
But as the word “calorie” is the very common, so to avoid the confusion, sometimes it is written as “Calorie” with a capital ‘C’ instead of kcal and known as large Calorie.
So, to simplify, you can understand both of these as such:
1 Calorie = 1 kcal
To compare the energy in a food at a given quantity, is often written on nutrition facts label as “kcal per 100g” or “Calories per serving” in case the package has many servings.
And nutritional consumption is mostly expressed as “Calories per day”.
How to count calories per day?
As you now know, Calories are the unit to measure intake energy or food energy and already stored energy in our body.
Food energy is what we obtain from eating foods. This is the energy we mostly measure as calories per day or counting calories.
All foods have different amount of energy or calories in them. Some have a lot of calories and some have a lot less. How much calories a food product contains, It depends on macro-nutrients types and serving size of a particular food.
You can see calories counts as “Calories” or “kcal” on nutrition facts label on all packaged foods.
In case you are wondering, how do they counts calories in food products? Well, food calories are measured by Calorimeters which work on the laws of thermodynamics.
So, the real important point is here to know how can you count calories per day.
Well, it’s very easy and simple if you give a little more attention to:
1. What are you eating?
2. What is the recommended serving size?
3. How many times you are eating?
These simple details can help you count your calories per day intake and form a diet plan based on that easily.
Now, you might be thinking, “okay, it’s good if I am eating only packaged food which has nutrition fact labels printed on it. But how to count calories of my homemade food?”
Well, if you have been reading our previous posts, you may have read our post on Healthy Eating Plate Method for Diabetes. It focuses on creating whole meals which includes all the essential nutrients foods in well balanced portions to avoid imbalanced food, overeating and high blood sugar levels.
It also includes most common foods and their serving size to properly manage your healthy diet.
So, we are not going to repeat the whole long lists of foods here again to avoid repetition and keep our focus on today’s point which is understanding Calories per day.
However, if you want to explore more about the food lists and the serving sizes, read our post here.
So, back to our topic: how to count calories in food?
As we discussed above, counting calories in a particular food is done by calorimeters which is mostly done in laboratories.
But you can use following Calorie Chart to ensure proper servings of food portions as per plate method and manage over all calories per day easily.
|Servings & Calories Per Day||1200||1600||1800||2000||2200||2600*|
|Bread, Grains, Starchy Vegetables||5||7||8||9||10||12|
|Protein (Meats or Substitutes)||4 oz||6 oz||6 oz||7 oz||8 oz||10 oz|
Before we proceed on how much calories per day you may need, first let’s understand how to determine your physical activity level so that you can better understand your intake requirements.
Determine your physical activity level
How many calories per day you eat is only just one side of the coin.
How many calories per day you burn by physical activities other than daily body functions and work. That physical activity will determine how well you are managing your weight and health.
Most people think that doing daily routine work counts as physical activity but that’s not entirely true. Of course unless you do heavy labor work which already exhaust you completely.
When weight loss is your goal, you have to do some extra physical activities to burn more calories than you currently do.
For example if you want to lose 1 lbs. weight per week, you would have to cut and burn extra 500 calories per day for a week to achieve that goal.
Cut/Burn extra 500 calories X 7 days = lose 1 lbs. per week
But you can only achieve it if you don’t overeat in the week which means strictly no more calories per day than you eat normally if you are going to burn extra calories rather than cutting back.
But the best way to lose weight is to do both cutting and burning calories simultaneously to prevent unwanted weakness due to less calories consumption and still burning extra calories through workout.
Burning extra calories per day helps you shredding already gained weight while the cutting back on calories helps you avoid the weight gain. That’s why combining these both methods gives best results.
And that’s why it all comes down to how much effort you put in to burn extra calories other than your daily routine work.
We can divide physical activity level into three categories:
1. Not active: Basically this is the most common category for most people which is also known as sedentary lifestyle. If you don’t do anything other than your daily routine work activities like going to work, sitting behind a desk for whole day working, shopping or household chores, you aren’t not so physically active which you need to be.
2. Moderately active: This category represents people who know they need to do something more than just daily work routine such as walking, running or cycling about 2-3 miles a day. Or It can be some sports as well such as badminton, tennis, basketball, golf etc. to give body a fair burnout of extra calories.
3. Very active: This category represents people who are fitness conscious and know that they have to put extra efforts to be in great shape and health. And they believe in “Health is Wealth”. For example jogging, sprinting, long distance fast cycling more than 3 miles a day, swimming laps and a good regular workout in gym.
With these categories and examples, you can easily determine your activity level and get a basic idea what needs to be done to achieve your health and fitness goals.
So, now you have a pretty good idea about at which physical activity level you currently are.
Now, let’s talk about how many calories per day you should eat to maintain good health and lose weight as per your goals.
How many calories to lose weight
How many calories you should eat to lose weight, this is the main and very common question everyone realize at some point who wants to lose weight.
As we talked above about determining your physical activity level, how many calories per day you need is very closely related to your physical activity level.
How much extra calories you are burning while cutting on intake of calories determines your weight loss progress.
And as we talked before, you know men and women have different calories requirement based on age, size, weight, health conditions as well.
But, let’s get a pretty basic general idea of how many calories you need based on these factors for average built man and woman.
How many calories for a man who is very active:
Recommended calories per day: 2600 – 3000
Men have more muscle mass than women and they burn around 20 percent more calories per day even if they are not active.
It clears that men require more calories than same build women.
that’s why for a man who is physically very active and wants to have great fitness by keeping extra pounds off, can eat around 2600 – 3000 calories.
However, It’s better to be on lower calories side unless you are pushing towards hard workouts and extreme sports and need more calories to replenish energy.
How many calories for a woman who is very active:
Recommended calories per day: 2000 – 2200
For a woman who is very active and wants to maintain fitness by keeping extra pounds off, it is okay to eat around 2000 – 2200 calories per day.
But keep in mind, for both men and women that being very active doesn’t give immunity against junk foods. So, try to avoid bad foods as much as you can and eat healthy to keep your health and fitness intact.
How many calories to lose weight for a man who is moderately active:
Recommended calories per day: 2200 – 2600
If you are moderately active and want to lose weight, 2200 – 2600 calories per day should be your intake to start losing weight.
Here moderately active means you are increasing your physical activities simultaneously to burn extra calories and keep the weight off otherwise keep the calories on the lower side.
How many calories to lose weight for a woman who is moderately active:
Recommended calories per day: 1800 – 2000
For a woman who is moderately active and wants to lose weight, should eat around 1800 – 2000 calories per day. So, you can start losing weight by cutting on calories gradually step by step to prevent unwanted weakness in the beginning and easily increase the physical activity.
The main goal here is to find the right balance between calorie intake and your physical activity level. You should keep calories intake at lower level until you can increase your activity more to lose weight as per your goals.
How many calories to lose weight for a man who is not active:
Recommended calories per day: 1800 – 2200
For a man who is not active or lives a sedentary lifestyle it can be hard to lose weight. But by lowering your calories per day to 1800 – 2200, weight can be maintained to a point.
But it’s not ideal situation. Lowering calorie intake for men and women who are not active can be very tricky. It’s very common with people living sedentary lifestyle. They tend to eat more calories without knowing that they are doing it.
That’s why it is always recommended to give yourself a caring push once or twice a week to put some extra efforts to burn extra calories. It will give you motivation to eat less and help you become active and lose already gained weight gradually.
How many calories to lose weight for a woman who is not active:
Recommended calories per day: 1600 – 1800
For a woman who is not so active or have a sedentary lifestyle other than daily work routine, requires less calories and to prevent being overweight. In this situation, 1600 – 1800 calories per day are sufficient to keep you healthy and avoid weight gain.
However, if you are not able to increase your physical activities due to a busy schedule or any medical condition, you should at least give one day to yourself in a week when you can give your body a good workout as in walking, jogging and you can even opt for less straining and quick activities such as yoga and meditation.
For a more age specific calories per day approach:
You can check your age and physical activity level criteria in the following table.
|Age||Male/ Sedentary||Male/ Moderately Active||Male/ Very Active||Female/ Sedentary||Female/ Moderately Active||Female/ Very Active|
|76 and above||2000||2200||2400||1600||1800||2000|
This table will be very handy when you take the first steps towards controlling eating habits and increasing your physical activity level. This age specific calories per day table gives you a pretty good starting point to set calories goals.
However, when you want to lose weight, remember to eat less calories than mentioned here in this table. As these calories numbers only refers to maintain average weight and health as per your age segment.
Now, I won’t tell you that Counting Calories approach will be great fun. No, it can be overwhelming, boring and frustrating in the beginning. But as you start giving attention to food and calories in it, you will find it motivational to change your eating habits. And in a week or two, your overeating habits will be controlled easily.
At the same time, it will motivate you to exercise more to burn those extra calories to achieve desired weight and fitness goals. From my personal experience, this can motivate your family too. To eat less and burn more calories.
And I am sure, you will start seeing the results yourself.