Weight loss fads come and go. Some claim that completely cutting out fat will help you fit into those skinny jeans. Others, like Regina George, live by eating only carbohydrates. None of these or their fellow equally unrealistic trends have withstood the test of time and results like looking at your calories.
A calorie, also called a Kilocalorie in more scientific circles, is what your body runs on. Whatever is taken in throughout the day is converted to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and stored in your cells to keep them running and you happy.
Your body needs a certain amount of calories just to function. Even if you were just laying in your bed all day catching up on your shows, your body is still burning energy. How much your body burns in this state is your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is calculated using your height, weight and age in a formula.
For a 20-year-old female at the average height and weight of 5-foot-5 and 140 pounds, her BMR is about 1,475 calories. This means she needs to eat 1,475 calories in order to keep her body functioning properly while watching the latest "CSI: Miami."
A 20-year-old male at 6-foot and weighing in at 180 pounds has a higher requirement and needs to eat about 1,966 calories to get him through a day of "Jersey Shore."
The more active you are, the more this number needs to be adjusted using the Harris Benedict equation. This new number will tell you how much you need to eat in order to maintain your current weight.
Of course, there are those who want to change their weight. With easy access to the Student Recreation Center, many students seize the opportunity to be the cousin that comes home for Christmas break completely transformed.
It’s simple math, really. If you want to lose weight, you want to burn more calories than you take in. If you want to gain weight, you want to take in more calories than you burn.
If you are losing weight, this doesn’t mean you need to burn off every single calorie you ate that day. If you did, your body would have nothing to function on. Don’t forget your BMR.
A pound of stored fat is about 3,500 calories. At the healthy weight loss of one to two pounds a week, you’ll need to lower your weekly caloric intake by 3,500 to 7,000 calories. This can be achieved either through less overall taken in or more given out through exercise and activity.
The opposite is true if you want to gain weight. By adding about 500 calories to your daily intake you’ll gain one pound a week. To do this the healthy way (eating 500 calories a day of ice cream would be just as effective, though in a different direction), it’s recommended to pair weight gain with weight lifting and eating foods with plenty of protein in them. This will help build your lean muscle mass.
To get your daily recommended intake taken care of, it’s highly recommended that you eat breakfast every morning. Eating something in the first few hours after that alarm goes off will help jump start your metabolism and will give you more energy throughout the day. Breakfast is your body’s starting point and will keep your stomach from talking to you before your lunch break.
Also, note that all the calculations above are averages. What works for you might not work for your friend and vice versa, even if you’re the same height and weight. All in all, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full and try to get some sort of physical activity in every day. The rest will work itself out.
Be excellent to yourself and others, Cougs.