Counting calories and tracking nutrition information is important whether you are on a diet or not. From vegans to paleo diets or no restrictions at all, knowing what you put inside your body throughout the day is one of the best ways to achieve your health goals.
A calorie deficit is especially important for people trying to lose weight. The number of calories you consume can be your best friend or your worst enemy — the bottom line is that it all depends on how and what you eat. We recognize that finding that perfect balance of calorie intake can be stressful and overwhelming, and we’re here to help.
Not only does it matter how many calories you consume daily, but the type of calories is also equally as important. There are good and bad calories, and they all have a significant impact on your weight, energy, and overall health. For example, the calories from a salad or sandwich full of veggies are better than empty calories from a fudge brownie.
Calories are crucial, but how can you manage your calorie intake? What is a calorie? How can you know whether a calorie is good or bad? Thankfully, there are plenty of answers to these commonly asked questions.
Below, you’ll find these answers and so much more. Let’s start by taking a look at exactly what a calorie is.
Calories are small measures of energy. Every individual cell out of trillions has a specific job to keep your body functioning. Calories provide the required energy for your body so you can make it through each day.
When we eat food, the calories break down into different forms of energy. This energy is either used immediately or stored for later use. When you eat too many calories, your body begins to store them in excessive amounts. If you aren’t active enough to burn the extra calories, fat builds up, contributing to obesity.
Obesity is a massive problem in today’s society, especially with children. Not only can obesity cause physical problems like heart disease and high blood pressure, but it can also lead to mental health problems. Obesity has been proven to contribute to mood disorders and low self-esteem.
There are two leading causes of obesity: inactivity and high caloric intake, also known as overeating.
Both are important to be mindful of, but your daily calorie consumption is critical. If you’re trying to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in.
Just like eating too many calories can lead to health complications, not consuming enough can be equally as detrimental to your health. Specific diets and eating disorders involving a low caloric intake can lead to nutrient deficiencies. When the body doesn’t have enough calories, your metabolism begins shutting down, and your energy levels drop significantly. In extreme cases of caloric restriction, organ damage and cardiac arrest are common.
While you should try to consume fewer calories during a weight loss routine, there is a fine line between decreasing caloric intake to lose a few pounds and restricting your body from producing enough energy for proper functioning.
There are two sides to the caloric spectrum: too much and too little. Fluctuating your intake slightly over or under the recommendations every so often won’t lead to significant health complications. Still, it is essential for you to make sure it doesn’t happen too often. Additionally, movement is necessary to balance your caloric intake. You should develop different types of routines depending on your needs, weight, sex, and age.
While some calories are beneficial, other calories are not so much.
There are a lot of foods, especially snacks, desserts, soft beverages, and candy, that contain empty calories. Empty calories come from fats or added sugars and provide no nutritional or health benefits.
Empty calories are especially prominent in drinks like soda or energy drinks and foods like candy or chips. These empty calories are detrimental to your health, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
That said, some foods contain a balanced mix of empty and regular calories, like fried chicken or whole milk. However, foods like ice cream and drinks like brand-name soda have no beneficial calories— they’re all empty.
In short: empty calories are awful for you. They are foods designed to keep you wanting more without gaining any health benefits. Empty calorie foods will only lead to weight gain and other health complications.
We’re not saying you should never consume these foods. A pizza and soda once in a while won’t hurt you. We understand everyone has cheat days, and if one not-so-often bad day keeps you on your path, go for it. Just watch how many empty calories you consume and try not to make it a consistent occurrence.
Now that we’ve covered the importance of calories, you’re probably wondering what the perfect amount is and how to count them. Well, it’s a lot easier than you might think.
The worst answer to any question is “it depends.” So how many calories should you consume daily? Unfortunately, it depends.
We know, but that’s the unfortunate reality of weight loss— many answers depend on various factors, and everyone has different needs and a different journey. For calorie consumption, the right portion size or grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates will vary depending on your weight, age, sex, and the objective of your health goals.
If you’re trying to gain weight, it is best to try a diet that is high in non-empty calories and carbohydrates. If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to aim to burn more calories than you consume.
For men and women, daily caloric intake should hover around 2,500 and 2,000. A good rule to follow for weight loss is lowering that number by roughly 500 calories. Be cautious not to go drastically under that number. If you’re trying to gain weight, you can up that number by more than 500 as long as you are still staying active consistently.
Remember that it’s impossible to reach these numbers down to the exact calorie, so don’t worry if you manage to go just a little over or under the recommended amounts. As long as you’re getting in range of your recommended caloric intake, you’ll be fine. Focus on vegetables, complex carbs, whole grains, fiber, healthy fats, and lean protein for the best results. Incorporate various different foods into each recipe for a range of nutrients.
Counting calories is a lot easier than you may think. Most food that you can buy at the grocery store will have nutrition labels that will give you valuable information about what you’re putting in your body to meet your weight goals. Be cautious and precise when reading these food labels, as most will have a “per serving” stipulation, meaning the number of calories you consume will depend on how much of the product you eat, which may be several servings in one container.
You can take the long route and hand-write everything you eat throughout the day, but better methods make calorie counting more efficient and straightforward. You shouldn’t take weight loss and gain lightly, so it’s essential to consider all of your options before starting anything.
For example, you can create a meal plan with a prewritten number of calorie consumption for the day or week. This method will save you a lot of time and energy.
What about the food that doesn’t have a label, like meals at a restaurant? What if something happens during the day or week that prohibits you from eating your planned meal? This is where we come in.
Able is an easy and accurate way to help you with weight gain, loss, or an overall new and healthy lifestyle. Simply plug in your starting health information and get a precise estimate of when you will complete your goal, no matter what your objective may be.
If you’ve started to count your calories, you know it isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It takes time, research, and effort. New health routines are never easy, so why make them more complicated than they need to be? If you’re unsure how many calories you are consuming, record what you eat in the Able app. It’s an easier, cheaper, and faster way to count your calories and macros than any other traditional method.
If you follow our advice consistently, you can get the help you need to meet your healthy eating goals quickly and healthily. From a calorie counter to challenges for staying active, Able is with you every step of the way towards becoming a happier and healthier you, long-term.
Start taking your health seriously with proper food intake and food choices, and you will be feeling like yourself again in no time. We understand and recognize that everyone’s journey is different, and it’s never been easier to start and finish than with Able.
What Are Empty Calories? | University of Michigan