For the third Shaklak Aklak installment, we discuss everything that you need to know regarding anyone looking to lose weights’ favorite subject, calories!

Whether your goal is weight loss or weight gain, most of us have been on some form of a calorie-geared ‘diet’ plan to reach these goals before. So what exactly are calories and why are they so scary to most of us?

Just like any machine, our bodies need energy to perform even the simplest daily activities (e.g. walking, getting out of bed, and even digesting the food we eat). Our energy comes from food, and depending on how much energy is in the food, that food is given a specific caloric value.

The three macronutrients responsible for foods calorie (or energy) content are:

  • Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

Each individual’s calorie requirement will vary depending on a variety of factors, including gender, activity level, current weight, pregnancy, and existing health conditions.

For example, when you’re pregnant you will need extra calories depending on your stage of pregnancy. That being said, ‘eating for two’ during pregnancy is a huge myth we all need to bust! In reality, you don’t need any extra calories during your first trimester, and throughout the second and third trimesters you only need 300-500 extra calories daily. It is important to consult with your doctor regarding what your body-specific calorie requirements are during pregnancy.

To calculate your calorie requirements, first you need to calculate your basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate is how much energy your body needs to maintain it’s basic internal processes such as keeping your body temperature stable and ensuring the functioning of all your organs.

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (men): 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (women): 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161

The next thing your calorie requirements will depend on is your physical activity level.

Physical Activity Level Value Activity Level
1.3 Sedentary
1.5 Light Activity (Exercise 2-3 times per week)
1.7 Moderate (Intense exercise 3+ times per week)
2 Heavy (Intense exercise daily)

Total Calorie Requirements = Basal Metabolic Rate X Physical Activity Level Value

Now that you know how many calories your body needs, it’s important to make sure that you are meeting your total calorie requirements in order to ensure that your body is receiving enough energy to carry out its activities throughout the day.

The point in case here is that calories are not evil, in fact they are necessary for us to maintain our daily activities. Problems only start to occur when we have too few or too many calories.  The more calories you take in above your total calorie requirements the more your body will store this excess energy as fat.

Reducing your calorie intake while following a weight loss diet means your body will start to burn those excess energy stores from your fat storage, which is how weight loss occurs. The process of reducing calories should be done carefully. If you go below your Basal Metabolic Rate your body will enter ‘starvation mode’ whereby it will refuse to burn fat, and will instead store any food you give in case of shortage in the future.  It is important to remember how smart our bodies really are!