Calories = Energy


Did you know you can actually cut too many calories from your diet and not get the desired results. It’s true! Many believe that having a restrictive, low calorie diet will help speed up weight loss. However, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women on average need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day, and men from 2,000 to 3,000. And caloric needs also depend on several factors such as age, size, height, lifestyle, overall health, and activity level, even the outside temperature impacts the calories we need. When you are eating less than the minimum calories your body needs, this impacts our body negatively.

For the human body to stay alive, it needs energy. And energy comes from the calories we eat – more specifically, the carbohydrates that we consume. Carbs fuel normal bodily functions such as breathing, thinking and moving. About 20 percent of the energy we take in is used to support brain function. The other 80 percent is used to support functions such as basal metabolism, blood circulation, digestion, breathing, and movement. How efficiently energy is converted to fuel depends on the quality of food you eat,  the type of physical activity you do, and whether muscles are used aerobically or anaerobically.

While we need calories to maintain normal bodily functions, the amount of calories we consume has a direct impact on weight. When you eat more calories than your body needs, it will result in weight gain. On the other hand, not eating enough calories, will result in weight and fat loss in the short term but eventually, you will also lose muscle mass. Losing muscle mass has dire consequences on your body – it directly impacts your mobility, strength and energy levels, immune system, and even organ function. Performance also suffers. You may not be able to finish a workout and you may be fatigued all day because you don’t have enough fuel. When your body doesn’t get the energy it needs to function, it spikes your hunger hormones, causing you to seek food, and may lead to weight increase.

To determine the amount of calories you need to decrease in order to see healthy weight loss results, start by identify the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight. You can use this interactive calculator from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine the daily caloric intake recommended for you. Based on that number, you can identify the number of calories you can healthily reduce from your everyday diet to get the weight loss target you are aiming for. Tracking your nutrition to check how many calories you consume daily will also help your weight loss plan have the best chance of success. You can use apps like MyFitnessPal to start tracking your nutrition.

Although the concept of weight loss is simple, it can be hard to change behaviors. Start by tracking your calories for a day or even a week. Then start implementing small changes such as substituting one meal for a more healthy option. Start small and then build up! Here are some delicious and healthy recipes you can start implementing.