If you think that fast healthy weight loss is a myth, then you are WRONG. With the right information and a customized diet plan you are on the right track.
The most common question asked these days is how many calories can I eat to lose weight. Well, the basic equation of weight loss is simple: Input less calories than you use up every day. That said there is more to a successful weight loss strategy than simply reducing your calorie intake. It requires a little bit of math for calculating your BMI and calorie requirements, some science for knowing which nutrients you get from the different varieties of food you consume, the art of preparing or selecting healthy and satisfying meals that would contribute to your weight loss goals, and finally, a whole lot of resolve to stick to your goals. Let’s tackle a few of the questions that you are likely to have as you begin your endeavour.
What are the correct calories for you?
The correct number of calories for a person depends on a number of factors that include age, gender, weight, and height as well as your activity levels in a day. As per the American Dietetic Association, one of the most accurate methods of calculating your calorie needs for simply existing is the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation for BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate.Calculating the BMR:For Men:
9.99 * Weight (Kg) + 6.25 * height (cm) – 4.92 * Age (Years) + 5For Women:
9.99 * Weight (Kg) + 6.25 * height (cm) – 4.92 * Age (Years) – 161Now, since the above number is a resting metabolic rate and it is unlikely that your body is continually at rest, you need to multiply this number with an activity factor that reflects your lifestyle:Activity FactorsSedentary (little to no exercise):
1.2Light Exercise (1-3 days per week):
1.375Moderate Exercise (3-5 days per week):
1.55Heavy Exercise (6-7 days per week):
1.725Very Heavy Exercise (twice per day, extra heavy factors):
1.9So we have the final equation for calculating your daily calorie needs:Calorie needs for maintaining your body weight = BMR * Activity Level
How Many Calories can I eat to Lose Weight?
Now that you know how much calories you need to maintain your weight given your lifestyle, the next step is to decide how many calories you need to cut down from this number to lose weight. And this is where you need to be careful. Indiscriminately cutting your calorie intake can negatively impact your health, as you do still need all the essential nutrients from your diet. Also, weight loss is a result of burning more calories that you consume so you need to focus not just on how much you are eating but also on how much you are burning. The best way to achieve your weight loss goal
is to make adjustments in both food habits and lifestyle. However, as a rule, cutting around 500 calories a day from your required calorie intake will make you lose 1 pound (which is equal to 3500 calories) in a week, everything else remaining the same. So, you can set your calorie intake per day depending upon your current intake, work out plan and weight loss target.
Weight Loss and a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet goes a long way in maintaining your health and weight. If you are not eating right, even a hectic lifestyle will not be able to help you achieve your goals and as such, focusing on the food part of your weight loss plan is extremely important. This can be done by identifying nutrient-dense food
and calorie-dense food
and adding more of the former in your diet.Whole foods (or unprocessed foods) like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, poultry, lean meats, nuts and legumes are all nutrient-dense and fulfill the body’s needs for vitamins, proteins, minerals, antioxidants, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, etc. On the other hand, food items like chips, sugary drinks, sweets, cakes and pastries, pizzas and burgers are your calorie-dense culprits that can totally spoil your weight loss plans.As you start your weight loss regime, make sure that you break the habit of eating frozen foods, takeaway meals, and other such junk. Preparing a healthy meal at home with whole foods, vegetables and fruits will not only provide the necessary nutrition but also make you feel more in control and accountable. Another must is giving yourself a great start to the day. Eating a healthy breakfast is important to start your body’s metabolism after the night hours of fasting. Ensure your breakfast is a healthy mix of proteins, carbs, veggies and fruits.
The Ideal Rate of Weight Loss
Though your weight loss target is a factor to be considered when deciding if the weight loss should be slow or quick, it is important to remember that it should not make you feel unhealthy, tired or outright starved. Usually, a person can safely lose a pound or two a week without feeling too energy-deficient by maintaining a healthy eating pattern. Dieting too fast or too strictly may make you lose lean tissue or your metabolic rate to slow down making it difficult to lose more weight. And if you are too lenient with your diet, then it may not be possible to meet your weight loss targets. The thing to do is to monitor your weight weekly and tweak your diet accordingly so that you lose weight at a rate which is comfortable for you. It does not have to a pound a week; losing three pounds a month is also good if it works better for you.Another reason for losing weight gradually and at a steady rate is that people who take it slow are able to keep weight from coming back. Such a plan includes lifestyle changes and not fad diets giving better results in the long term.
How to reduce calorie intake without starving?
Losing weight doesn’t necessarily have to be about starving and dreaming of your favourite foods. You can do the right thing and attain a great looking and healthy body even on a full stomach. You can read our article on “Is starving a good idea to lose weight
”. Here are some smart weight loss techniques that ensure you don’t starve yourself out of your weight loss plan the same way:
- Cut down unnecessary calories: Research suggests that it is not the amount of calories you intake that fill your stomach but the amount of food you eat. So, you can simply reduce your weight by reducing the calorie rich food from your meals. Some examples would be reducing the amount of cheese in your favourite Italian recipes, replacing full fat milk with non-fat milk, cutting down the amount of butter on your toast, replacing processed foods like bread, pasta, etc. with whole wheat varieties, white rice with brown rice, and so on. You can also add more vegetables to your recipes to make sure they fill you up just the same.
- Reduce portion size: Another great way of losing weight without giving up the foods that you most enjoy is to cut down on the portion size of calorie-rich foods. For example, if you are used to eating 3 cups or portions of a high fat content food, you can eat one portion less of it and add a healthy alternative to your meal like a fruit or vegetable salad minus a rich dressing. Adding fillers like spinach and broccoli to your meals will not only make you feel fuller but also give you added nutrients.
- Snack Healthy: Most of us need some snacks besides the three full meals every day. Unfortunately our snack choices are the spoilers of our diet plans. Potato chips, muffins, doughnuts, fries, ice cream, dried fruits are all packed with a high amount of calories and need to be avoided or eaten with caution. On the other hand foods that contain more water and fibre have lesser calories and fill you up better. So some healthy snack suggestions include fruits, broth –based soups, carrots with hummus, sugar free drinks, air-popped popcorn, etc. Stay out of temptation’s way by keeping high-calorie food items out of your home and office.
- Drink more water: Many a times, we mistake thirst for hunger! Try having a glass of water when you feel hungry in between meals. If you still feel hungry a few minutes later, opt for a healthy snack. Similarly, drink water before a meal to reduce the amount of food you need to feel full. Again, every time you feel like going for a sugary drink or packaged juice, opt for water instead. This will ensure you keep the calories at bay and still satisfy your thirst. If you love juices, go for homemade juices. Read here about how juicing helps to lose weight.
- Make Healthier Cooking Choices: The way you cook your food also adds up calories to your food. How about steaming your food instead of cooking with oil or frying? If you feel it won’t taste as delicious, shop for some spices and low-fat sauces that you can add to give your food additional flavour.
- Use Smaller Dishes and Dinnerware: A lot of satiation comes from psychological factors. Using larger sized bowls or serving plates tend to make you serve yourself bigger portion sizes. Similarly, if you eat directly from a bag or a tin, you are likely to eat more than you would if you served yourself in a bowl. So, if you are looking at portion control, eating in smaller utensils would be a great start.
- Enjoy your Food: Keep you attention on the food at mealtimes and avoid distractions such as working on a computer, watching television or indulging in table talk. Chew slowly and enjoy every bite. It helps you keep a check on how much you are eating.
- Meal replacement shakes: If you really want to cut down on your calories, you can have meal replacement shakes, which are low on calories and high on energy and nutrition.
So you are on your way to becoming slimmer, it’s time to set up a system of monitoring your progress from week to week so you can achieve in your target successfully. Make a diary titled “How Many Calories Can I Eat to Lose Weight”. Monitoring progress also helps in staying motivated and doing course correction, if required. Here are a few tips to help you keep track:
- Keep a written or web-based record: Using a log to note down all the important details related to your weight loss plan is one of the best ways to monitor progress. Use the journal to note your weight weekly, the details of your weight training program like the weights you are using, the reps you are doing, and so on. You should also note down the amount of calories you are eating every day of the week. You may be able to recall these details for the first couple of weeks but beyond that it would be your journal which would serve as a progress and reference book.
- Use your weighing scale but don’t go just by it: If you are looking at losing some weight in a systematic manner, you do need a weighing scale and using it to weigh yourself weekly is a good idea but you would be making a mistake if you track your progress solely on its basis. You need to focus on body fat composition to get the right picture. You can test your body fat with the help of callipers, Bioelectrical Impedance Scales, or skin fold measurement.
- Use your measuring tape: Use the good old measuring tape to measure yourself around chest, stomach, forearms, legs, etc. Every week and record the changes in your log. It can give you a fair idea of the progress you have made.
- Watch yourself looking better: Apart from the health benefits of losing weight, most people also have better looking body as one of the motivating factors. So as you move nearer to your goal, how about getting yourself clicked to admire the changes in your body and track your progress in pictures.
Check our article on workouts to lose stomach fat
.It is important to remember a few things before you start measuring your weight. You don’t want to be disappointed by the results you see on your scale and tape, especially when they are incorrect results. Yes, if you are not careful, you may end up taking wrong measurements. So, here are a few tips before you start measuring:
- Don’t measure yourself daily as there may be fluctuations that can only serve to confuse you.
- Don’t measure yourself right after a meal; allow the food to get digested!
- Monthly hormonal changes may inflate your weight due to fluid retention and bloating, so women should not weigh themselves during their periods.
- Use the same weighing scale every time as different scales are not known to give the same reading!
- Mind your clothes. Make sure you are wearing similar kind of clothing each time.
- Weigh yourself at the same time of the day every week.
How to Keep the Weight from Coming Back
Congratulations! You have gone ahead and achieved your desired weight. You already know how many calories should you consume to lose weight quickly. Now comes the tough part: maintaining that weight. Losing weight has several health benefits and you definitely don’t want to become a part of a huge list of people who have given the gains away by lowering their guard. Here are some ways you can stay on top of your weight issues:
- Take stock: Take your time settling into your new weight. Continue monitoring your calories and weight for a couple of weeks to see if you are losing or gaining weight.
- Add calories slowly: After the initial 15 day period, you can begin adding calories gradually, a 100 a day through healthy food choices. Be careful with calorie measurements, as an additional 100 is easily achieved. And yes, weigh yourself regularly.
- Analyse your weight: Use the third and fourth week to analyse the impact of the calories you have added, if you are losing weight slightly, you are on the right track and can add another 100 calories in the fourth week. If you are able to maintain your weight, no change is needed.
- Adjust calories if the weight comes back: You should how many calories are required per day if the weight comes back. You can safely add 100 calories a week till you are losing weight. The moment you reach the point where you start gaining it, you must stop increasing your calorie intake and at the same time try to enhance your workout routine. Being physically active helps you to maintain your weight in the long run.
- Don’t change your eating pattern: Whatever happens, don’t fall into old habits. Eat healthy, drink loads of water, take brisk walks and if you are celebrating or going on a vacation, find a way of planning ahead to make sure you don’t end up putting on unwanted pounds. Go for foods that increase metabolism and burn fat.
- Stay motivated: Enlist the help of a family and friends, have a work out or healthy cooking partner so that you are motivated to stay fit on an on-going basis.
Have you lost too much weight?
Over eagerness to achieve your weight loss target may sometimes result in losing too much weight, too fast. This is not just undesirable; it can be outright dangerous for your body. It can have several side effects like:
- It can cause liver damage resulting in non-alcoholic fatty liver.
- It can cause gall stones by preventing the gallbladder from emptying in a proper way or by causing an imbalance in cholesterol and bile salts.
- Losing too much weight can lead to fluid imbalance as most of the rapid loss is body fluids. This results in a shortage of electrolytes in your body and has negative effects on all muscles, including your heart.
- Losing too much weight triggers survival instincts in your body and it starts saving energy. The result is a slower Basal or Resting Metabolic Rate which does not get corrected even when you reach your ideal rate. This low RMR may cause you to regain weight.
- Some other side effects of too much weight loss are low blood pressure, hair loss, osteoporosis, increased oestrogen production, etc.
Symptoms of rapid and improper weight loss
So, how do you know that your diet plan has caused too much weight loss? Well, when you have lost only desirable amount of weight, you will feel healthy and energetic. Your body has its way of telling you when things are not right and the same would be the case with excessive weight loss. One of the first signs of malnutrition due to excessive weight loss is a constant feeling of fatigue accompanied by dizziness. This is due to a lack of adequate proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in your body. Other signs include dull and dry hair, skin rashes, and a weakened immune system making you susceptible to diseases. Women may experience a cessation of their menstruation cycles due to hormonal imbalances. Both men and women may experience lower sexual desires. Forget looking great with your new weight, too much weight loss impacts skin pigments and make your skin dry with growth of fine hair on the body. You may also experience mood swings as well as a lack of mental prowess, memory loss, etc.
Your body and your BMI
BMI or Body Mass Index is a function of your height and weight and is one of the indicators of a healthy body weight.BMI = Weight in Pounds/ (Height in Inches * Height in Inches) * 703Reading the BMI:Under 18.5 –
You are considered underweight and possibly malnourished.18.5 to 24.9 –
You are within a healthy weight range for young and middle-aged adults.25.0 to 29.9 –
You are considered overweight.Over 30
– You are considered obese.Though BMI is used when assessing if your body is at its ideal weight, this is not a conclusive proof of a healthy body as BMI is influenced by gender, age, and ethnicity. Moreover, it does not take into account the difference between fat and lean mass and distribution of body fat. All the same, the equation is widely used as an indication of a body being overweight or underweight.
Calories for bringing BMI to a healthy range
Being overweight or underweight may put your health at risk and so, if you have lost too much weight or have always been underweight, perhaps it is time to do something about it. By now, we already understand the weight loss equation and the reverse would hold true if your target is to gain weight and reach a healthy BMI. Here are some tips for increasing your calorie intake in a healthy manner to reach your desired BMI:
- Add healthy calories: It is important not to think of your weight gain plans as an opportunity to indulge in junk food. That kind of approach can do more harm than good. Being underweight basically means being deficient in essential nutrients and you need to make that deficiency good through a proper diet plan. Add the amount of complex carbohydrates in your food, especially whole grains. Whole wheat breads, pastas, muffins, crackers are all good choices. You can also add nuts and cheese or fruits as side dishes to your regular meals for extra calories. You need to ensure that you get your calories from nutrient-rich foods and not just calorie-rich foods.
- Snacking is good: You need to gain weight so no harm reaching for snacks in between meals. In fact, eating frequently is a very good idea. Just make sure that it’s not just bags of chips and fries that you reach for! When you think snacks, think healthy ones like protein drinks or bars, whole wheat crackers with hummus, fruits like avocados, etc. Knowing how many carbs should you have a day helps a lot.
- Try smaller meals: If you are underweight, chances are you are not a big eater and trying to eat too much at a time may cause digestive issues for you. The wise thing to do is spread your calorie intake by taking mini meals five or six times a day.
- Get enough protein: If you are aiming gain weight and muscles, you must add sufficient protein to your diet. Get your protein fix first thing in the morning.
- Eat before you sleep: A healthy snack just before you go to bed may help your body regenerate with additional nutrients.
- Drink healthy calories: Thirsty? Go for healthy calorie-rich drinks like shakes and smoothies instead of sodas. You can also have these healthy beverage choices with your meals for some additional calories.
Adjusting workouts to suit your weight gain plans
Daily workouts are a must for a healthy body but you need to remember that each body is unique and so are its needs for rest and workout. If you are underweight and need to gain some, take a look at your workout plan besides adding calories to your diet. Try to avoid workouts that increase your heart rate as strenuous training they may lead to faster burning of calories. You can go for resistance or strength training which involves stressing your body to enhance endurance, strength and muscle size. It is good for muscles, bones, nervous system and helps maintaining hormonal balance. Let’s look at some of the variables you need to consider while chalking out a workout plan for you:
- Selecting the right exercises.
- Intensity of workout in terms of weights or amount of load.
- Repetitions or number of times exercise is to be performed.
- Sets or number of repetitions to be performed.
- Length of rest interval between sets.
- The exercise tempo.
Tips for designing your workout plan
- Research shows that using a weight that tires you in 8-12 reps along with a short rest interval of 45 seconds stimulates hormones optimally for muscle growth.
- Choose exercises that involve more than one joint and one muscle group at a time. Examples of such compound exercises would be barbell dead lifts, movements like squatting, pulling, pushing, lunging, etc.
- Allow a gap of at least 48 hours between successive training sessions involving same body parts or movements to ensure optimal muscle growth.
- Power your workouts with a shake containing carbohydrates and proteins before and after your workout sessions.
- The human growth hormone Somatropin is produced while you sleep and so adequate sleep is a must for muscle growth.
Check our list of 5 best exercise equipment for weight loss and toning.
Just like weight loss, weight gain can also be a long drawn out process. While setting your target, try not to be over optimistic. Set realistic targets and stick to your weight gain regime. If you feel that the results do not correspond at all to your efforts, maybe you need to consult a physician to rule out any underlying health issues.
A Word of Caution
Don’t let you weight issues get to you so much that you become its slave. Many people become obsessed with their weight gain or loss plans and end up being depressed if the results are not fast enough or to your liking. Weighing yourself after every meal or avoiding friends and family when results are not encouraging or having mood swings that match the readings of your scales, are all symptoms of going overboard. Take it easy, stick to your plans, keep your motivation level high and you will meet your goals. Enlist the support of your family members or if possible, start your regime with a partner who has similar goals.
Reaching the ideal weight
Reaching the ideal weight is not just about eating the right number of calories. Moreover, there is no specific definition of an ideal weight and a relentless pursuit of a magical number can only be unhealthy. After all, a healthy weight gets affected not just by gender, height, and age but also factors like ethnicity, genes, your metabolism, etc. which cannot be put into a single equation. And so while deciding how many calories can I eat to lose weight or to gain weight, you have to customize your decision on the basis of your individual needs. When not sure as to how to go about making a winning strategy, seek advice from experts in the field. Just remember, whether you are aiming to gain weight or lose weight, you will know that you have reached your ideal weight when you feel good about your body, have high energy levels and a generally sound health.References:How many calories should you consumeWay to cut 500 calories