The idea of counting calories can often be quite a daunting concept for many. It can often seem time-consuming and can also let you in on some insights that may seem quite surprising. But when it comes to health, calorie counting is one of the best tools to get you to your goals, whether it be to know how much to eat to gain muscle, lose weight, or simply to understand what you are putting in your body!
What actually are calories?
The health and diet world is quite synonymous with calories and eating a certain amount in order to reach specific goals. But what actually do calories measure when it comes to what you are putting into your body? Calories are a measure of the energy content of foods and beverages. Whenever we eat or drink something, calories are consumed and then throughout the day, are continuously burnt, without you even knowing.
You may have also heard of kilojoules, too. Kilojoules are the other way to count and track what you are consuming through energy. In simple terms, 1 calorie is equal to 4.2 kilojoules. To convert calories to kilojoules simply multiply the number by 4.2, and alternatively to convert kilojoules to calories, simply divide the calories by 4.2.
What and how do we ‘burn’ calories?
Calories are burnt all the time; when you sleep, talk, breathe, walk, and simply go about your day to day life. There are four main factors that go into play when we talk about ‘burning’ calories or energy:
- Exercise – no matter what exercise you do, calories are burnt! Depending on the intensity and type of exercise, varying amounts will be burnt. For example, on average 100 calories are burnt for every 2km you walk, or in an hour of doing weights, you can burn up to 500 calories. It is all relative to intensity and type!
- NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermoregulation) – this is the energy that is burnt from just living, which includes standing, walking to and from the bathroom at work, and running errands at the shops. This counts for the ‘incidental’ type steps and movement we do throughout the day.
- TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) – this is the energy our body uses to digest the food that we put into our bodies! There is a general formula to multiply the total calories you eat by 10%. For example, if you eat 1600 calories in a day, 160 calories will be ‘burnt’ digesting the food those calories make up. Pretty impressive, right?
- BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) – this is the minimum amount of energy used each day to simply keep us alive, carrying out our necessary metabolic functions, such as breathing. Thanks, body!
When should I count calories?
Counting calories is a form of tracking the food and drink you consume. Ultimately, it should always be addressed if you are counting your calories for the right reasons. Make sure you are aware of why, and if you are concerned it isn’t probably for a constructive and helpful reason, talk to a healthcare professional.
Ensure before you do start to count calories that you know it is for the right reasons. Do you want to know how much to eat to gain muscle? Or to healthily lose weight? These are generally the two top reasons!
It is important to remember a few things when it comes to counting calories healthily. Firstly, depending on what your goals are, different amounts of calories will be necessary to consume and secondly, differing foods contain substantially different energy amounts. For example, carbs and fats generally contain higher calories levels, whereas most vegetables are so low in calories, you almost don’t need to count them! Lastly, ensure you are aware that every single person will require a different number of calories to achieve the results they are wishing for depending on your metabolic rate, age, gender, weight, and so on.
The calorie rule of thumb
Generally speaking, two of the most common reasons people turn to calorie counting and tracking what they are eating is if they are either wanting to lose weight or if they are wanting to gain weight, such as putting on muscle.
In order to lose weight, more calories need to be burnt than are being consumed, which is what is known as a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit can be achieved in a number of different ways. Some of the most common ways of reaching a calorie deficit that is common include intermittent fasting, which of course is our favourite, being what SuperFastDiet is based upon, calorie restriction, and other diets which include cutting out higher calorie foods such as the keto diet.
In order to gain weight, more calories need to be consumed than are being burnt, which is what is called a calorie surplus. No – unfortunately, this doesn’t mean stuffing your mouth with McDonald’s and other more calorie-dense goodies. Instead, try consuming higher fat or protein-rich foods that provide your body with nutrition along with the higher calories.
How do I count calories?
Like most things, when you haven’t done it before, counting calories can often seem a little daunting or confusing. That is ok! We’ve got you covered. And it really isn’t as hard as you may think.
The most common and time-efficient way calories can be tracked, is by using an application. There are plenty of apps available offering simple calorie counters to keep track of what you are consuming each day. If you are more of a pen and paper person, you could also Google or ask Siri what the calorie amount is of your favourite foods and keep a log for next time! Kitchen scales come in handy when tracking fresh food to search up the weight of the food you are wishing to know the calories of. Not too bad, right?