Monday, March 19, 2012

Calorie Guidelines

We all focus on the calories we eat but in reality, caloric requirements fluctuate greatly between individuals. There are many variables to consider including age, muscle to fat ratio, activity level and more. There are many calculators and formulas professing to find your magic calorie number. However, none of these considers all the elements because two individuals of same age, gender and current weight could have big differences in calorie requirements. One could have more muscle and thus a great resting metabolism – as example. (This is a good thing that we strive for in these posts.)

As a guideline, I would recommend that you start with a calculation of what your caloric requirements are to simply maintain current bodyweight. I would start with approximately 15 calories per pound of body weight. For example, someone that weighs 160 pounds must consume approximately 2,400 calories each day to maintain his or her weight ( 15 calories/pound x 160 pounds = 2,400 calories). There are individual fluctuations so some of us may need only 14 calories per pound of body weight to maintain our weight; others may need 16 calories per pound.

The rule of thumb is that for every 3,500 calories that we eat over what we need to maintain our weight (regardless of how many days it takes us to do it), we gain a pound. So if your maintenance level is 2,400 calories daily, and you are consuming 2,650 calories daily, you can expect to gain about a half pound or so per week ( 250 calories/day x 7 days/week divided by 3,500 calories/pound = 0.50 pounds/week). It also works in reverse; for every 3,500 calories under our maintenance requirement that we do not eat, we lose a pound.

There is one important factor we do have some control over. The increase of muscle resulting from exercise will also increase your maintenance caloric requirement. Furthermore, keep in mind that the number of calories that are burned while exercising are minimal when compared to our daily maintenance caloric requirements. (Sad but true.) For example, a half-hour of aerobic exercise may burn only 150-200 calories. So a little sweat in the gym does not give you a free pass for a big meal.

Remember from a previous posting, where we talked about muscle recruitment? Muscle recruitment -- getting many muscles engaged -- is the key to building muscle and have a higher resting metabolism rate. To burn more, gain more muscle.

Beware of losing too much tooo fast. If you rush it, you will lose muscle, destroy your metabolism and totally defeat your goals. Scales are NOT the true indicator of your body changes. As you are losing fat and building muscle, the scales will not reflect the fat to muscle ratio. Read previous blog postings.

There is no exact science to it. It takes monitoring and paying attention and as your body changes, so will your metabolism and calorie requirements. Being aware is a huge step forward.

Stay tuned………….

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