Women's Guide to Calories and Weight Loss

Talk about weight loss and calories go hand in hand. One of the biggest misconceptions women have it that they need to severely limit the number of calories they eat in oder to lose weight. This is not entirely true. Before you start "watching" your calories you first have to understand what calories are, how they work, and how they are related to weight loss. 

What are Calories?​

Calories in the simplest form are just a unit of energy, it's how we measure energy. They are what our body uses for all the important functions it needs to do to keep us alive and healthy. This means that we are burning calories all the time, even in our sleep!​ 

So calories are how we measure the energy our food will provide. Calories are made up of macronutrients. These macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. ​If we break up the macronutrients into 1 gram each we can easily figure out how many calories are in that single gram... 

  • Carbohydrates are 4 cal/gram
  • Protein is 4 cal/gram
  • Fat is 9 cal/gram​

How Many Calories Do We Need? 

So the question comes down to how many calories do we really need. To answer this question we need to look at calories as macronutrients. Here is the general calories guideline for a health adult: 

  • 45% - 65% of calories should come from carbohydrates
  • 10% to 35% of calories should come from Protein
  • 10% - 20% of your calories should come from HEALTHY fats

Many people make the mistake of consuming too many "empty" calories. These are calories that come from sugar, which has no nutrients and many health risks. 

Related: How to Stop Eating Sugar​

Carbohydrates

Carbs at the main source of energy that the body uses. Carbs are quickly broken down into glucose and used as fuel by the body. Extra glucose the we do not use is stored in the liver and muscles to be used later. Not all carbs are good for you. It's important to know the difference between good carbs and bad carbs and choose carbs that are lower on the GI. ​Examples of healthy carb choices are yogurt, whole grains, fruit and veggies. Avoid processed and prepackaged carbs. 

Protein

Protein is essential to building and maintaining muscle. It can also help to increase your metabolism. We need protein for growth, muscle repair, immune function, as well as to help produce essential hormones and enzymes. The body can also use protein for energy when carbs are not available. Protein isn't only found in meat, there are many good meatless sources of protein. Good sources of protein are lean meats, fish, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, yogurt, soy milk, and cheese.

Fats

Your body does need fat! Fats are important for cell, nerve, tissue and hormone production. They also help your body absorb essential vitamins and minerals. Fats have the most energy. If your body doesn't use it's all its fats for energy it is stored as fat for later use. Healthy fats include: olive oil, avocados, nuts, and fatty fish. 

Calculate Your Calories Needs

Every person is different and had a different body, diet, and lifestyle. There is no magic number of calories that everyone needs. You can calculate your daily calorie intake needs in three simple Steps: 

STEP 1. Your Basic Metabolic Rate

For women: 655 + (4.35 x weight (lbs.)) + (4.7 x height (inches)) - (4.7 x age (years))

My Example: 655 + (4.35 x 135lbs) + (4.7 x 69in) - (4.7 x 24) = 655 + 587.25 + 324.3 - 112.8 = 1,453

STEP 2. Your Activity Level

  • Sedentary (little or no exercise, like a desk job) - 1.2
  • Light Activity (little exercise, 1-3 time a week) - 1.375 
  • Moderate Activity (workout 3 to 5 times a week) - 1.55
  • Very Active (hard exercise 6-7 days a week) - 1.725
  • Extra Active (very hard exercise and a physical job 7 days a week) - 1.9

STEP 3. Your Basic Metabolic Rate x Activity Level

This is your results from the equation in step 1 multiplied by the sctivity level from step 2. 

BMR x Activity Level = Recommended Calorie Consumption

If I use my example it would be 1,453 (step 1 results) x 1.725 (very active activity level from step 2) = 2,507 calories a day is what I should be eating to maintain a healthy weight. 

Calorie Needs for Losing or Gaining Weight

Now that you know how to calculate your basic daily calorie needs we can start to take about weight loss. 

  • Weight loss: if you want to lose weight the calories you consume daily needs to be less than your results for calculating your calorie needs. However, you need to be careful with how you restrict your calories. You still need to make sure you are getting all your macronutrients and essential vitamins and minerals. Women should also never limit their calorie intake to be below 1,200-1,500. Regardless of how much weight you want to lose or how fast, you need at least 1,200 - 1,500 calories a day. ​
  • Weight Maintenance: In order to maintain your healthy weight the number of calories you consume should match the number of calories you use. So you should be getting your daily calorie needs on a daily basis. 
  • Weight Gain: If you regularly consume more calories than you need daily your body will take this extra energy and store it as fat. Over time fat will build up if you never burn it off. Storing too much fat can lead to an assortment of health problems. 

Related: How Lemons Can Help You Lose Weight

Now that you know what calories are, how they are used by the body, and your daily calorie requirements you can start tracking your calories. There are many helpful apps that can be used to easily track your calories and macronutrients like "LoseIt!" and MyFitnessPal. Both are available for download in the itunes and google play stores. One "diet" that people are really liking is the Keto Diet which is when your body in a state of purely using fat and burning fat cells 24/7 for energy.