No matter which mainstream diet trend you follow, they all have one thing in common - calorie restriction.
Anyone looking to lose weight knows that in order to do so, you must burn more calories than you eat, but do you really know how calories affect weight loss?
Let us look at the actual breakdown of a calorie, what it is and how it affects your body weight.
What is a calorie?
A calorie is a unit of measurement that has no size or weight. It is actually a unit of heat energy. To be precise, it is the amount of energy needed to raise 1 kg of water 1°C.
In terms of food, a calorie is a unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body.
How many calories are in a pound?
According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, one pound of body fat consists of approximately 3500 calories.
This means that in order to lose one pound of body fat, you have to create a deficit of 3500 calories.
This can be achieved by either reducing the amount of food you eat every day, or increasing your exercise levels.
Are all calories the same?
Many individuals think that a calorie is simply a calorie. Although on a bare-bones basis this is true, the quality of calories you eat can have a huge impact on your overall body weight.
Nutrient dense foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats generally have a lower fat-to-calorie ratio than unhealthy foods, such as a cookie or candy bar.
Unhealthy foods are harder for your body to digest and can contain excessive amounts of sugar and salt.
Sugar can cause unhealthy spikes in insulin levels, causing your body to store fat in the stomach, hips and thigh area.
Foods that are high in sodium can cause your body to retain fluids, even though they may have a low calorie count.
This will cause you to have a puffy appearance and retain several pounds worth of excess water, completely derailing any weight loss efforts.
Not only do these types of foods cause water weight gain, they can also lead to other dangerous conditions such as high blood pressure.
How to count calories for weight loss
As stated above, you must create a deficit of 3500 calories in order to lose one pound of body fat.
The best way to do this is to consume fewer calories and increase your levels of exercise.
If you can reduce your caloric intake by roughly 1750 calories, and burn an additional 1750 calories through physical activity, you should lose 1 pound of body fat per week.
Again, this all depends on the quality of calories you consume.
Try to eat a high-quality source of lean protein at each meal and several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day to ensure your body is receiving proper nutrients.
By carefully monitoring your calorie intake and increasing your physical fitness levels by least 30 minutes a day three times per week, you can easily burn off 3500 calories and shed excess body weight quickly and easily.