Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Taking in the right calories to lose weight

Overweight folks are always on the lookout for the best diet regimens that can lose excess fat. They often ask "how many calories should I eat to lose weight?" If you read the many nuggets of wisdom from several weight loss experts online, there are a few answers to the question that makes sense. Here are a couple of them:

You need a good calorie calculator

In theory, a pound of body weight equals around 3,500 calories. That means you need to consume fewer than 3,500 over a stretch of time to lose one pound. This can be your goal if set realistically over a period of time. For instance, you can eat 500 fewer calories per day and lose a pound in a week (500 x 7 day). Just be sure you don't go below daily survival calories. In general, you need no less than 1200 calories a day for female, and 1600 - 1800 calories for male.

There are several calorie calculators online. After specifying you age, weight, height, daily activity level (from sedentary to very active) and how much body weight you want to lose over a period of time, the better online calculators return with a recommended calorie intake over a period of time that progressively goes down as you lose weight over the period you've specified. One such helpful and well-designed calorie calculator can be found at

It's not the calories you take in that matters, as long as you burn off more calories than you take in.

Apart from taking the right calories, Losing weight is also about burning excess fat. That won't happen if you continue to take in more calories than you burn off. This is often the mantra behind aerobics and strength-developing workouts. You can take in 500 more calories from your favorite ice cream, cakes and soda, but if you lose that much or more in a workout, then you can maintain or lose weight. Losing weight requires a holistic approach that uses the right mix of diet and exercise.

WebMD's Elaine Magee, MPH, RD ( makes this point with her eight-point suggestion on how best to burn calories, the first of which is a rigorous workout. Cited in her article Christopher Wharton, PhD from the Yale University pointed out that the more time spent exercising, the more calories are burned. He further stresses the value of building muscle mass with the right strength exercise. Apart from burning calories in each workout session, having muscles burns more calories than body fat does even when you're at rest. Ten pounds of muscle can burn 50 calories each day compared to 20 calories from an equal amount of body fat even when doing nothing.

Burning calories is not exclusively the domain of gym workouts. Everything the body does burn calories. Magee points out that firing up the digestive process alone burns calories. Hence, spreading your food intake over several short meals and snacks each day will turn on your digestion and burn more calories than if you were to take the usual heavy meals during lunch and dinner only.

Even fidgeting burns calories since they get you to move a part of your body repeatedly while sitting or doing nothing. Jamie Pope from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing cited in Magee's article revealed that any body movement spends energy and mundane body movements like fidgeting have been shown in many studies to burn calories, possibly even more than formal gym workouts. Rob Stein of the Washington posts ( corroborate this and cites a 2005 study conducted by James A. Levine of the Mayo Clinic which showed that fidgeting along could lose 350 lbs a day, enough to lose 10-35 lbs a year. While losing 10 lbs in a year is not exactly the goal of many obese people, it certainly helps the weight loss effort even when you're doing anything at all.


A calorie calculator won't reduce your weight, but the information on the right calories you need over a period of time provides a valuable guide to your weight loss effort. At the very least, this directly answers the question, "how many calories should I eat to lose weight?" Indirectly, knowing that every type of body movement and activity burns calories, from spreading your meals more evenly each day, fidgeting, to a formal gym workout session will complement a diet regimen that allows you to consume the calories within the prescribed levels. With a strong determination, such a knowledge religiously followed can get you to succeed in achieving your weight loss goal.

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