How Much Should I Eat? Eating to Reach Your Goals
Obesity is one of the largest epidemics in America. Two-thirds of us are currently considered overweight.
Although obesity is a huge problem in America, at the other end of the spectrum we also have a growing health and nutrition industry focused on improving health.
Even so, over 95% of diets ultimately end up failing. Many people that go on diets eventually gain the weight back, and then some.
One of the reasons for diet failure is that people are unaware of how many calories they should be consuming. Each individual has a slightly slightly different caloric need depending upon age, gender, and activity level.
However, by following a few general guidelines you can obtain a solid understanding of caloric needs and adjust the numbers accordingly so you can reach your goals. Here are a few things to remember.
What is Your Caloric Maintenance Level?
What is your caloric maintenance level? This is the level at which your weight stays the same (not increasing or decreasing) based on a given number of calories.
If you want to maintain your current weight this is the number of calories that you should be consuming. How do you calculate this? It’s really quite simple.
Take your current weight and multiply it by a factor of 14 to 17. If you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle (e.g. sitting behind a desk all day with little physical activity) your multiplier would be a 14. If you are in an extremely active occupation and also are extremely active outside of the workplace use the factor 17.
Example: John is 200 pounds, is mostly sedentary and wants to maintain his weight. 200 x 14 = 2800 calories.
In the example above what if John wanted to lose weight? One pound of weight loss is equal to 3500 calories. If he wants to lose one pound per week he needs to reduce his intake by 500 calories per day. Therefore, he should start his diet by consuming 2300 calories per day.
The opposite is true if John wants to gain weight. If he wanted to gain one pound per week he should increase his caloric intake by 500 calories per day to 3300 calories per day.
Calorie Adjustments Are Necessary
Using the example above once again as an example, if John starts his diet at 2300 Calories, he will eventually have to adjust his caloric consumption. As a diet continues, the body gets more accustomed to changes that are made. Eventually this will result in plateaus.
After several weeks, John’s weight loss has stalled and he is no longer losing weight. John should further lower his calories by 200-300 per day to continue progress.
Physical Activity Can Help
Weight gain or loss is simply energy consumed versus energy expended. It’s much simpler than the rest of the world makes it out to be. Exercise and burning calories can be helpful in assisting in the weight loss process, but is no substitute for a solid diet plan.
Many people use the excuse, “I worked out today so I can eat this double cheeseburger.” However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s say someone burns 300 Calories in their 30 minute cardio session and proceed to eat a 1000 Calorie cheeseburger. In simple thermodynamic terms you are in a much greater caloric surplus intaking far greater energy than you just expended.
Weight Loss Should Be Gradual
Every person is searching for that quick fix method, meaning how to lose 30 pounds in 30 days. Instant gratification is always sought after in our fast-aced society. Unfortunately, this mindset is not the most ideal in terms of reaching our overall goals.
Focus on losing 1-2 pounds per week (or 1% of your total bodyweight, whichever is greater). Weight loss greater than this amount is not sustainable and weight loss less than this amount means your plan is not effective as it should be.
Measure Your Success
Keep track of not only the calories you consume, but also how much weight you are losing. Weigh yourself daily and determine an average for the whole week.
Weight can vary day by day depending upon water retention. Just remember weight loss is not a linear process but fluctuates day by day, there are many other biological factors at hand that you are not necessarily aware of.
Build Good Habits
Remember a diet should be sustainable for life, not a simple quick fix to temporarily lose weight before returning to bad habits. Focus on living in moderation to create a diet that is both healthy in nature but also allows for occasional indulgences.
When assessing your diet, always focus on this single point:
What is your goal?
Whether your goal is weight loss, weight gain, or simply to maintain current weight, use the guidelines stated above to work towards your goals.
Keep in mind that everyone is different. There is not a one-size-fits-all equation. Your overall metabolic rate can vary slightly depending upon age and genetics. Determine your maintenance needs and adjust accordingly from there.
If you are interested in learning more on the upcoming topic look out for my upcoming book Mind, Body, and Swole where I tackle these issues and more. If you are interested in getting an early copy release send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.