What are Calorie Guidelines?
Calorie guidelines are the number of calories that are recommended on a daily basis for someone to reach or stay at their ideal weight. Calorie guidelines vary greatly, not only between different genders and sizes, but also between two people who are close in weight. The number of calories is determined by a variety of factors, which makes the guidelines differ from person to person.
Although there are general and basic guidelines for daily caloric intake, there are also guidelines for where the calories should come from. This can make eating and calculating calories a somewhat difficult task for someone who is really sticking to a strict diet guideline. Education and a little research can make the task easier, however.
How are calorie guidelines calculated?
Because everyone burns calories at different rates for different reasons, it is hard to get an exact number for calorie guidelines. For a general approximation, the Mayo Clinic has an online calorie calculator that will give you a quick estimate in less than a minute.
The calculator will ask for your age, height, weight, gender, and activity level. The activity levels include inactive, which means you rarely or never do physical activity; somewhat active, which means light activity a couple to few times a week; active, which is 30 minutes minimum of moderate activity the majority of the week; or very active which is large amounts of daily activity that is of vigorous or moderate intensity.
You will then be shown what your daily estimated calorie needs are to stay at your current weight. It will also show you how that amount changes with an increase or decrease in your activity level.
What affects calorie burn?
Although a calorie intake calculator gives you a general indication of how many calories you burn on a daily basis, it still varies from person to person. For example, muscle burns more calories than fat does, so two people who weigh the same may have different caloric guidelines if one has more muscle weight.
Although the amount of activity that is done daily affects how many calories you burn, the intensity of your workout will affect them as well. Someone who runs for a half hour will burn more calories than someone who walks for that amount of time. Someone who runs at a faster pace in those 30 minutes will burn more calories as well. That is why calorie guidelines are just an estimation.
From where should your calories come?
Although calorie guidelines give you a good idea about how many calories you should consume in a day, you also need to be aware of where these calories are coming from. Staying healthy and at an ideal weight is more than what the scale says. You need the proper nutrients in order for the body to function correctly.
The United States Department of Agriculture has laid out dietary guidelines that focus on five food groups. These food groups are important building blocks for a healthy diet and your calorie guidelines should be based on them.
Fruits and vegetables are a great way to take in calories. They provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Many vegetables especially are lower in calories so you can eat more and still have room for calories from other groups.
Protein is extremely important for building muscles, keeping you full and sated, and keeping your blood sugar steady. Grains are good for energy, although you want your calories to come mostly from whole grains. Items made with white sugar and flour have very little nutritional value and are considered to be junk calories.
Low-fat dairy products provide potassium, calcium, protein, and vitamin D. You even need fat in your diet. However, you want your calories to come from healthy fats such as nuts, oil, and avocado.
In order to maintain a healthy weight and prevent health conditions, you want the majority of your calories to come from nutrient-rich food. Keep processed food to a minimum and choose your snacks wisely.
What if you want to lose weight?
The calorie guidelines that are calculated by entering your information are for you to stay at your current weight. If you want to lose weight then you will have to adjust things accordingly. In simplistic terms, the Centers for Disease Control outlines that, in order to lose weight, you must be in caloric deficit. This means that the calories that you take in are fewer than what you are expending through normal functioning and physical activity.
You can approach weight loss in a couple of different ways. You can just cut down on your caloric intake and keep your physical activity the same or you can eat the same amount of calories and increase your activity time and intensity. Ideally, people who lose weight and keep it off do both.
Calorie guidelines are a way to help you stay on track with your weight goals. Adjust them accordingly with your activity levels or if you want to lose or gain weight. Make sure that most of your calories come from the healthy food groups and keep balance in your diet.