All of us know that cutting calories and exercising more is the secret to healthy weight loss. But how many calories do you need and still have enough to fuel your body? The number you need to eat each day varies depending on many factors, such as overall health, physical activity, sex, weight, height, and shape.
Because of these variables, experts cannot agree on the number of calories you should consume each day. In the U.S., the average male should eat around 2,700 calories per day while in females that number is 2,200; in the UK, the recommendations are 2,500 and 2,000 respectively. The United Nations on the other hand, recommends consuming no less than 1,800 calories per day.
While these are all good guidelines for general information, in the scope of nutrition and weight loss they are generally irrelevant. If you want to lose weight, you have to create a 500 calorie per day deficit between the number of calories you eat and the number you expend. There are three ways to accomplish this.
1) Eat fewer calories
If you want to keep your physical activity the same but lose weight, then you have to eat 500 fewer calories than you are currently eating. It is easy to do by making smarter and healthier food decisions. A good place to start is to cut (or at least limit) the calories you consume by watching foods high in simple carbohydrates (sugar) and saturated fat.
Instead of that latte in the morning, choose plain coffee with a little cream. The latte has 180 calories of which 25% is saturated fat. By comparison a tall Starbucks coffee with cream has 20 calories of which 5% is saturated fat.
Eat more foods high in protein, such as chicken, turkey, pork, and lean beef. Substituting natural foods – fruits and vegetables – for processed food is also a good way to cut calories.
2) Burn more calories
However, if you want to keep your calorie intake the same, then you can burn up to 500 more calories each day by adding in more exercise; it is easy. Instead of parking close to your work, park at the far end of the parking lot and walk the rest of the way. During your lunch break, walk around the block a couple of times. You will still have time to eat a healthy lunch that you brought to work. Or go for a walk after you get home from work; a 150 pound person walking for 30 minutes at 3.5 mph burns 149 calories. The point is there are many different ways you can increase the number of calories you burn each day with very little extra effort.
3) Combination of the two
This option works the best for most of us – eating fewer calories and increasing our physical activity. By eating 250 fewer calories per day and burning 250 more per day through exercising, you will have your 500 calories per day deficit. Maintain this deficit regimen for seven days and you will lose a pound. One-pound-per-week weight loss is considered both healthy and easy to maintain.