“How many calories should I eat a day?” and “How many calories should I eat for different goals?” These were some of the questions I had in the beginning as I am sure you do too. When I wanted to lose weight I for sure thought I was always going to be hungry and unsatisfied. That’s really not the cause though!
One of the most important things to understand when you’re eating unhealthy and want to make that change is that healthy eating is less about the calories and more about the nutritional content. Of course you want to eat enough calories through out the day, that’s how you fuel your body. Unless you’re otherwise directed I like to divide my food into five portions through out the day. Three meals and two snacks. That doesn’t sound restrictive does it? It is completely doable in the scenarios discussed below and with the right food you will be full all day and have great energy.
I am going to break this down very specifically for you. Every one tells you what a calorie is, but what they don’t tell you is that all calories aren’t equal. Education on this is starting to get better I’ve noticed overtime but it still a surprise to some. It basically comes down to the nutritional value in the food we consume.
You can eat the same amount of calories between two different foods but not receive the same benefits. Some foods have empty calories, while others are packed full of necessary nutrients for you. Here’s an example:
- Oreo (3 cookies)
- 160 calories
- 7 grams of fat
- 25 grams of carbs
- 2 grams of proteins
- Skinless and Boneless Chicken Breast (3.5 oz)
- 165 Calories
- 3.6 grams of fat
- 0 grams of carbs
- 31 grams of proteins
So there is about the same amount of calories in 3 Oreos as there is in a 3.5 oz chicken breast. I don’t know about you but if I’m going to eat some Oreo I probably wouldn’t just eat three. Sorry, not sorry. But you can see that those three cookies have more fat and way more carbs than the chicken does. Plus, those fats and carbs in the cookies aren’t healthy ones. You really want to stick with foods that have great nutrition because it’s 1. better for you in general and 2. will help you feel fuller for longer which is key for success in weight loss.
Knowing the difference between healthy fats and carbs is really important when it comes to weight loss. Counting your Macros (number grams of protein, fats, and carbs consumed) is also going to play an important role. You may already be getting to the point where you’re saying to yourself: “Ugh. I don’t want to spend all this time figuring out portions and counting calories and macros. I just want to eat.” We’ve all been there. But once you figure out what you’re doing and the goals you need to set then everything else will fall in place. Plan ahead of time so you don’t have to worry as much or obsess over these every day. There are also services or trainers that can do all that for you so you don’t have too.
The number of calories you want to consume daily will differ from person to person. It all depends on your age, gender, weight, height, all that stuff. There are lots of calorie calculators out there but here is one you can take a look at:
This calculator will tell you how many calories you specifically should be eating a day in order to maintain and/or lose weight. Typically, women should eat no less than 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day for safe weight loss. Not eating enough calories can lead to nutrient deficiencies, negative side effects, health problems, and it can ruin your metabolism.
Along with the right amount of calories consumed, you should also watch your macros. Eating nutrient dense food with a focus on high protein, carbs, and low fat intake is a good start. Proteins will help you build more muscle which will help you burn more calories. Carbs will provide you with energy. Fats are still necessary for a balanced diet and weight loss (you need fat to lose fat).
This is a basic plan. There are definitely other avenues to take with other diets. Some people like to use a keto diet (low carb, high fat and moderate protein) to kick start their weight loss. Having low carbs forces the body to use its fat stores for energy. If you do this type of diet know that it is not typically a long term solution. When you decide to start incorporating carbs back into your diet, do so slowly.
There are many diet plans but one that some nutritionists recommend for weight loss is a 40% carbs, 30% proteins, and 30% fats. In a 1,500 calorie a day diet it would break down like this:
- Carbs- 600 calories – 150 grams
- Proteins- 450 calories – 112 grams
- Fats- 450 calories – 50 grams
This is a typical example but everyone is different. Your body’s needs can be different than someone else’s so you may need to adjust these amounts to best benefit you. Talk to a professional to find out what plan will be best for you.
Weight loss has a lot of moving parts involving caloric intake, nutritional value, and level of activity. Your intake will also change as your goals do. If you are trying to lose weight your intake may look something like this:
- Carbs- 149 grams – 596 calories
- Proteins- 146 grams – 584 calories
- Fats- 35 grams – 315 calories
If you’re trying to build muscle your goal could change and look more like this:
- Carbs- 203 grams – 812 calories
- Proteins- 145 grams – 580 calories
- Fats- 51 grams – 459 calories
It can be a lot to keep track of calories all day, every day. Some write them down but I like to live in this world of technology (at least when it comes to this kind of stuff). I like to use MyFitnessPal to track calories. It is a great tool to keep yourself in check, learn more about fitness and food, and so much more. You can do this online but they have an app you can download to your phone so you can access it where ever you go.
Now is a great time to sit down and think about your goals. You may just want to lose weight, you might want to build muscle, or maybe it’s a bit of both. Using the calculator above and/or the experience of a professional you can determine the right amount of calories and macros you’ll need in your diet to reach your goals.
I do want to leave you saying this. You do not have to starve yourself to lose weight. If you eat unhealthy now, making that change to eating nutritious food is going to help you to feel fuller and to help you feel better physically as well as mentally.
A lot of people think that a diet means starvation but that’s not the case. Even with a 1,500 calorie diet I eat five times a day. Three filling meals and two snacks in between them. Following this plan while eating nutritious foods keeps me full through out the day and since I am eating frequently it keeps my body working and raises my metabolism.
So, don’t look down at your plate and feel sad at small portions. Look down at yummy food that you know you’re going love and is going to help you feel amazing!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a dietician. The information I provide is based on my personal experience, and scientific studies. Any recommendations I may make about weight training, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle, or information provided to you through email or on this website should be discussed between you and your doctor because working out involves risks. The information you receive in our emails, programs, services and products do not take the place of professional medical advice.