One of the more common questions I’m asked regarding weight management is without doubt “how many calories should I eat?”
Unfortunately there is never a clear-cut answer for this age-old question. First of all, you need to be very clear on what your weight management goals are. Are you looking to simply lose weight, or are you trying to shed some extra fat, while at the same time gain muscle for overall improved fitness?
To make things ever more complicated, the traditional logic of “calories in / calories out “ has lost a lot of favor in the weight loss research arena lately. This is referring to the assumption that as long as you are burning more calories per day than the calorie amount you are consuming with your food and beverage, in theory you should be able to lose weight.
What we now more clearly understand is how different types of calories have different affects on our body. It should come as no surprise that 100 calories worth of potato chips will have a different affect on our body than 100 calories worth of broccoli.
How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day ?
When personally evaluating how many calories should I eat a day, I’m now more focused on the quality of the calories I’m consuming and how I space them out through out the day.
You have probably heard of the term “empty calories.” This typically refers broadly to junk food types of products such as processed treats such as candy or soda where the items are high in calories, but often have little or no nutritional value. These same foods also most often trigger an insulin response that stores the excess calories as fat.
As a rule of thumb, you should avoid “empty calorie” types of food, and I would even go as far as to recommend limiting processed foods such as processed white breads, and most processed bakery types of goods which can have similar fat storage responses if not eaten responsibly.
You should set the goal of consuming the majority of your calories eaten per day from a balanced diet of unprocessed whole foods such as healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains that are no overly processed such as choosing brown rice over white rice.
Another important consideration in how you space out your calorie consumption throughout the day. If you were going to eat 2,000 calories in the entire day, it would not be in your best interest to eat all these calories in just 2 large meals. If your body consumes more calories in a sitting than it will need within that window of consumption, the excess calories can be stored as fat.
However if you take that same 2,000 calories and space it out over the day in 3 main meals ( breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 2 snacks in between the meals, your body will be able to use the calories more efficiently and many studies imply that this act of many smaller meals actually helps to speed up your metabolism.
Now that you have a basic understanding of quality of calorie sources and the importance of spacing them out throughout the day, it’s important to find out how many calories your body actually burns per day. This will help you set your target calories you should eat per day to reach your goals.
Use the below Calorie Burn Calculator that contains over 800 different activities to help determine your daily caloric expenditure.
To learn more about your resting metabolism, or basal metabolic rate (BMR) so you can calculate how many calories you should consume per day continue on to our article: How Many Calories To Lose Weight.