How many calories should I eat a day?

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Finding a Balance

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Log in with your Medical News Today account to create or edit your custom homepage, catch-up on your opinions notifications and set your newsletter preferences. Sign up for a free Medical News Today account to customize your medical and health news experiences. If we consistently take in more energy than we need, we will gain weight. If we take in too little energy, we will lose weight, fat, and eventually muscle mass. The type and amount of food we eat determine how many calories we consume.

For many people on a weight-loss diet, the number of calories in a food is a deciding factor in choosing whether or not to eat it. How and when we eat can also make a difference, as the body uses energy differently throughout the day. Our body's energy use will depend on how active we are, how efficiently our body uses the energy, and our age. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women are likely to need between 1, and 2, calories a day, and men from 2, to 3, However, this depends on their age, size, height, lifestyle, overall health, and activity level.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a calorie intake that ranges from 1, calories a day for an infant of 2 years to 3, for an active male aged 16 to 18 years. This reduces their need for energy. From age 19 to 25 years, the recommended intake for women is 2, calories a day, but after 51 years, this falls to 1, Around 20 percent of the energy we take in is used for brain metabolism.

Most of the rest is used in basal metabolism, the energy we need when in a resting state, for functions such as blood circulation, digestion, and breathing. In a cold environment, we need more energy to maintain a constant body temperature, as our metabolism increases to produce more heat. In a warm environment, we need less energy. Cellular respiration is the metabolic process by which cells get energy by reacting oxygen with glucose to produce carbon dioxide, water, and energy.

How efficiently energy from respiration converts into physical—or mechanical— power depends on the type of food eaten, the type of physical energy, and whether muscles are used aerobically or anaerobically.

In other words, we need calories to fuel bodily functions, such as breathing and thinking, to maintain our posture, and to move around. Here are some tips for burning energy and losing weight more effectively. A protein and healthy fat breakfast can keep you full for longer and help prevent snacking during the day. This can help you burn calories more effectively and helps prevent mindless snacking. They are high in nutrients and fiber and low in calories and fat. High-fiber carbohydrates , such as legumes, and healthy fats, such as avocado, take longer to release energy, so you will not get hungry as quickly.

This can help burn off extra calories, and it can make you feel good. A brisk daily walk is easy for most people to do and costs nothing. Challenge yourself with a pedometer. For people who use a wheelchair , there are exercises that can boost heart health and strength. It is healthful, has no calories, and can fill you up. Avoid alcohol and sodas as these can easily provide far too many calories.

If you crave sweet drinks, choose unsweetened fruit juices, or better still, get a juice maker. Fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains, can help you feel full and encourage healthy digestion.

Some items have hidden fats or sugars. If you are counting calories, the label will help you keep track. Research indicates that portion sizes have increased over the last 3 decades, and this may contribute to obesity.

Using a smaller plate encourages smaller portions. Eat slowly and rest between courses or extra servings, as it can take 20 to 30 minutes for your body to realize it feels full. Make a shopping list: Plan a week of healthful meals and snacks, list the ingredients you need, and when you go grocery shopping, stick to it. A little of what you fancy: Banning foods can lead to cravings and bingeing. Spoil yourself occasionally with a favorite treat, but in smaller amounts.

Sleep loss affects the metabolism, and it has been linked to weight gain. Avoid eating 2 hours before bed: Eating within 2 hours of sleeping can interfere with sleep quality and promote weight gain.

Here are some examples of activities and the calories they can help you burn in 30 minutes. The estimates are for a person weighing pounds. Keeping calorie intake within certain limits will not ensure a healthful diet, as different foods have different effects on the body.

After consuming carbohydrates carbs , insulin levels will rise significantly more compared with eating fats or protein. Some carbs in particular get into the bloodstream in the form of sugar, or glucose, much faster than others.

Refined flour is a fast carb, while legumes are slower. Slow-release carbs are better for body weight control and overall health than fast carbs. A calorie meal of fish or meat, salad, and some olive oil, followed by fruit, is more healthful and will stave off hunger for longer than a calorie snack of popcorn with butter or toffee.

To work out how many calories you need, you need to know your basal metabolic rate and an activity factor. To calculate your BMR automatically, follow this link and enter your details into the calculator. This will give a rough idea of the daily calorie intake you need to keep your body weight where it is.

The result is still not perfect, as the equation does not take into account the ratio of muscle to fat. A very muscular person needs more calories, even when resting. As with calories requirements, an ideal body weight depends on several factors, including age, sex, bone density, muscle-fat ratio, and height. Body mass index BMI is one way of working out what a person should weigh.

If you know your height and weight, you can use this calculator to find out your BMI. To learn how many calories you are taking in, write down the foods you eat and the beverages you drink, plus the calories they have, each day.

By writing down what you eat and drink, you become more aware of what you are consuming. Also, begin writing down your physical activity each day and the length of time you do it. Do you want to try a Web-based approach to track your food intake and physical activity?

Go to the SuperTracker. The site will give you a personalized diet and activity plan. Listen to or download the podcast 0: A healthy lifestyle requires balance in the foods you eat, the beverages you drink, the way you do daily activities, adequate sleep, stress management, and in the amount of activity in your daily routine.

Counting calories all the time is not necessary, but it may help you in the beginning to find out how many calories are in the foods and drinks you consume regularly as you strive to achieve energy balance.

A test of balance is whether or not you are gaining, maintaining, or losing weight. By focusing only on carbohydrates, you can still eat too many calories. Also, if you reduce the variety of foods in your diet, you could exclude vital nutrients and not be able to stay on the diet over time. While physical activity is a vital part of weight control, so is controlling the number of calories you eat.

If you take in more calories than you use, you will still gain weight. What other factors besides diet and behavior contribute to overweight and obesity?

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