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How Many Calories Do We Need? Should We Count Them?

When we talk about body care, we must be aware that obsessions and other bad habits can be counterproductive, therefore we mustn't overdo the methods.
How Many Calories Do We Need? Should We Count Them?

Last update: 26 October, 2021

In our daily diet or when we resort to a weight loss diet, we usually ask the question: how many calories do we need each day? In this article, we’re going to explain how to determine the amount of calories the body needs.

It should be noted that the most current trends in nutrition play down the importance of counting total calories. Instead they focus on other parameters like metabolic health or food combinations.

Basal metabolic rate and calories as a unit of measurement

To begin, we must first understand the principle of the Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. It refers to the amount of calories that the body burns, even at rest.

A calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a liter of water by one degree to normal atmospheric pressure. The calorie is a unit of energy already in disuse within the technical system of units. Its use today is reserved for the field of nutrition, where it allows us to express the energy power of food.

In the field of nutrition, what we really count are kilocalories. One kcal = 1000 calories, although we popularly call them calories.

Counting the kilocalories of food allows us to know how much energy we have ingested and if this will be enough to keep us functioning well.

The energy that living beings need to live is obtained from the macronutrients provided by the food we eat, although we must take into account that each food provides different amounts.

The body uses its energy, in the form of kilocalories, to warm itself, to stay alive and also to perform physical or mental activity. The sum of all these expenses is equal to the total energy cost.

How many calories do we need.

The uses of calories

The energy that the body needs throughout the day is used in the following aspects:

Basal metabolism

It refers to the minimum calorific consumption that a living organism needs to complete its basic vital activities. It can be estimated using the Harris Benedict formula, according to a study published in Clinical Nutrition. Data such as weight, sex, and age are entered into it.

Cell growth and renewal

Cell regeneration, like the creation and renewal of tissues, requires energy to develop properly.

Physical activity

This is the calorific consumption necessary to carry out different activities and is classified into minimal, moderate, and intense activity.

Stressful situations

Like a disease or surgery. Even stress itself at the central nervous system level could influence energy expenditure.

How many calories do we need on a daily basis?

To have a good energy balance, we must consume the same calories that we expend each day in order not to lose or gain weight. In this way, we’ll have the necessary energy to sleep, digest, move blood through the arteries, and breathe.

When we eat, we’re giving our bodies the necessary amount of calories to function properly, through a significant intake of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water, which are present in the different foods that we consume daily.

It’s very important to note that although a certain number of calories is often suggested for adults, these are determined by many factors. Thus, the needs may vary according to:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • The very activities that we carry out each day

If we want to know how many calories we need per day, we must start by calculating our Basal Metabolism Rate. This represents approximately between 60% or 70% of the total calories that the body uses daily and that, therefore, we must supplant to live and enjoy good health.

Calculation of the Basal Metabolism Rate to find out the calories expended

Accelerate metabolism.

As we mentioned above, different personal factors are used to calculate the basal metabolic rate, such as:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight

Although there are different formulas to obtain this rate, there’s a very reliable and precise equation that was established by Harris Benedict. According to an article published in Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, it has the following form:

  • Men: BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) +5
  • Women: BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) – 161

Since this rate only shows us the minimum consumption of the body at rest, it’s now necessary to calculate energy expenditure based on lifestyle. This is because the calories we burn aren’t the same for a person who spends eight hours sitting in the office, as for an athlete who trains two hours a day.

A quick and easy way to calculate the calories that a person needs to consume per day is to multiply the current weight by 15. Thus we will obtain the number of daily calories needed just to maintain the current weight.

There’s life beyond counting calories

Although many experts still focus on calculating calories for weight loss diets, the truth is that good results can be achieved without this method.

It should be noted that it’ll be essential to decide on a good combination of foods, along with the practice of physical exercise on a regular basis. The latter has proven to be one of the best tools to improve body composition and to reverse inefficiencies in the functioning of the metabolism.

Calories, a measure taken into account

Calories have been, and are, the units by which the energy needed and expended by the body is measured. They allow you to make an estimate of what the needs of the subject are, although it isn’t a precise calculation. Although they can be used to design suitable diets, they aren’t the only method.

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