How Many Calories Do I Need a Day?
By Bonnie Pfiester, Fitness Trainer.
The million dollar question: “How many calories should I eat?”
Someone’s caloric allowance varies depending upon a person’s activity, weight and metabolism. One of the best places to start is by looking at the most popular brand name diets. Why do many brand named diets work? Brand name diets work because most of them are based on 1200 to 1500 calories no matter what food combinations they tell you to eat. Just look at these examples:
- South Beach Diet – 1200-1500 calories
- Atkins Diet – 1500 calories
- Sugar Busters – 1300 calories
- Low-Carb Diet – 1400 calories
- Jenny Craig – 1200-1500 calories
- Weight Watchers – 1500 calories
- Cabbage Soup Diet – 1000-1500 calories
- The Zone – 1000 – 1500 calories
You basically need to take in fewer calories than you burn to lose weight. The greater the deficit – the greater the weight loss. The question is how fast do you want to lose the weight? A caloric allowance or a brand name diet may seem low, but they give you plenty of room for error. Take into consideration most people miss calories and/or under estimate calories recorded during the journaling process.
If your caloric allowance is too close to your approximate calories burned, you may not be leaving enough room for error and not getting the results you want. It takes a 3500 calorie defecit to lose one pound. That means, if you reduce your calories by 500 calories a day you would lose 1 pound a week…or reduce your caloric intake by 1000 calories a day to lose 2lbs a week.
The average American eats nearly 3790 calories a day. Now, that doesn’t mean the person actually eats 4,000 calories a day – it could mean they eat 2,000 calories a day during the week, and on the weekends they consume enough restaurant meals and drinks to increase the overall average. This is also why American feels like they are living on a diet – most Americans diet during the week and screw it all up on the weekend….creating what I call “the never-ending diet plan”.
I bet you are saying “I know I don’t eat that many calories” and of course you probably don’t. That’s just a national average and you are probably already more aware of what you eat, putting you on the lower end of the average.
The only way to know exactly what you are eating is to journal your food by writing everything you eat down and documenting the number of calories in each item.
Most people’s mistake is they are not consistent. They key to success is dieting 7 days a week so your daily caloric intake for the week averages to be 1200-1500 calories. Just think of it like checks in balances with your bank account. You can save everyday, but all it takes is one bad shopping day to wipe out all your hard work.
You are invited to leave your fitness and sports nutrition questions in the comments below for Bonnie to briefly answer or write about in future articles.