A calorie is the energy needed to heat 1 gram of water by 1°C. You can keep track of calories to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your weight.
Consult your doctor or dietician before starting this (or any other) diet.
The word calorie is often used instead of kilocalorie. It is important to keep this in mind. When something is described to contain 4 calories it can actually mean 4 kilocalories, which is equal to 4000 calories.
The number of calories you need per day depends on your weight, height and age. The Harris-Benedict formula uses these factors to calculate your BMR. BMR stands for 'basal metabolic rate' and represents the amount of calories you need if you do nothing all day.
The Harris Benedict formula differs for men and women. Below you can find the formula:
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BMR = 66 + (13.7 * weight in kilograms) + (5 x height in cm) - (6.8 x age in years)
BMR = 655 + (9.6 * weight in kilos) + (1.8 x height in cm) - (4.7 x age in years)
For all the things you do (e.g. cycling or walking) you need to add calories to determine the amount of calories you need (per day, on average). Many different apps can help you keep track of this.
Many products have the number of calories on the packaging, but not all of them do. For these products you will have to look up the calories yourself.
To give you an idea: 1 kilo of body fat equals 7700 calories. If you eat 550 calories less per day, you should lose 1 kg of body fat in 2 weeks. Note that it is unhealthy to eat far fewer calories than you need per day: it can be best to eat a little less for a long period.
Tip: first, keep track of your calories for a while without going on a diet. This will give you a good idea of your normal calorie intake.
In the book 'The calorie alphabet' you can read more about calories and caloric intake.
This page has been checked, and warnings have been added by, Jolande, dietician. Read more here.
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As you see fit
If you want to work purely on losing weight, it is important to compare calorie intake with energy usage. If usage is higher than intake, you will logically lose weight. Taking in fewer calories than consuming them does not necessarily mean you are taking in healthy calories. There are many other nutritional values that can be compared to see if a product is healthy or not.
The basis for any weight-loss/weight-loss diet is the balance of calorie consumption and intake. Calories say something about how much energy something gives, but nothing about the health value of a product. For example, it says nothing about the amount of fibre, vitamins, (un)saturated fat, etc. An example here is an avocado compared to a portion/bag of crisps. Both around 220 kcal, but the avocado is high in good fats, vitamins and fibre while the bag of chips is high in saturated fat, carbohydrates and salt. Reading packaging and looking up calories is good, but try to read and think beyond calories.
Calorie tracking with an app (fat secret) worked well. I started eating healthier and exercising more. However, after 2 months I was tired of entering everything in the app.