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If you’ve been unsuccessfully trying to drop pounds, it may be because you haven’t yet learned the rules of the calories game. Let’s start from the beginning… what is a calorie, anyway?
Everything you eat and drink has calories, but they aren’t just used to describe food items. Calories are actually a way to measure energy… That being said, the calories we see on food labels represent the amount of energy available to our bodies after eating those certain food items. (1)
We call them calories in the nutrition world, but they’re technically called “kilocalories” – hence why we see “kcal” by the amount on dietary labels.
Think of calories as energy. If you give your body too much “energy” than you’re able to burn off each day, it can lead to excess weight. Basically, any extra calories from food items that you don’t burn off by physical activity or your normal routine are stored by the body as fat.
Therefore, for successful weight loss, you need to eat less calories from foods and drinks than you’re going to burn off, so your body taps into your stored fat reserves and burns that instead. For weight maintenance, you want to eat only the same amount of calories that you burn off – keeping things balanced.
The number of calories per day you need to eat for weight loss is not one size fits all… everyone will have a personalized goal based on age, sex, weight and physical activity level.
That’s why it’s best to use a calorie counter and calorie tracker app to determine the calorie intake that’s ideal for your particular needs, and then help you keep track of the calories you eat daily.
You can easily find an effective calorie calculator online or download an app. You simply insert your individual body metrics and it uses a proven formula to generate a specific target calorie number for you.
The tools use different equations to get the data, and it’s all based on basal metabolic rate (BMR), or the amount of energy you use while you’re stationary.
The Harris-Benedict Equation was previously the most trusted formula used to calculate your BMR, and it was mainly used until 1990, when a new formula – the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation – took its place. This one is now considered to be the most accurate (and you’ll find it used in most of the online calorie calculators). (2)
Next, you’ll want to get yourself an efficient calorie tracker tool. Although some people like to do this part the old-school way by writing everything they eat and drink down in a food journal (then looking up the calories themselves),this way takes more time.
Instead, there are websites and even apps that you can get right on your phone that do the work for you including:
With these, you insert each specific food and drink item that you consume into the calorie tracker app, and it generates and keeps track of the calories for each. It also lets you know how you did each day in reference to your specific calorie goal. Many of them can also be used to log your physical activity and how many calories you burn. And these tools are usually free, which is a huge plus!
It’s not just the number of calories that’s important, but also the type. The best way to stay on track with your overall weight goal is to eat the right kind of calories daily. Basically, you want to eat calories from foods that are nutritious, and that fulfill and sustain you – helping you fight hunger and make healthy dietary choices.
Think of your body as a car, and calories as the fuel. You need to give your body quality fuel so that it runs properly – so you’re energetic, motivated and feel your best.
To do this, you want to stay away from “empty calories” – or calories from foods that are void of nutrients, and don’t support your overall health goals.
Foods containing “empty calories” are typically lacking in needed:
These empty calories can mostly be found in two places:
Solid fats: These fats are solid at room temperature, and most are high in unhealthy saturated and trans fats, having less of the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Some examples of solid fats include butter, cream, lard, chicken fat, shortening, margarine, partially hydrogenated oils and coconut oil.(3)
Added sugars: These sugars are added to processed foods and drinks during the manufacturing. Some examples include sodas, candy, cookies, pastries, fruit drinks and ice cream. (4)
A great way to avoid empty calories and maintain a clean, healthy, low-calorie diet on a busy schedule is with high-quality meal replacement shakes.
A meal replacement shake is designed to contain a proper balance of essential macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) along with vitamins and minerals needed to replace a wholesome meal.
The best part is that many of these shakes are low in calories and can help you stick with a clean, healthy diet and weight goal.
Here’s what you want to look for in a diet shake that will best support your total health and weight management goals:
In addition, low-carb meal replacement shakes (and low-carb diets in general) are also a great way to meet your daily calorie goals along with your weight goals faster. You can also monitor your daily carbs along with your calories in some of the calorie tracker apps (such as FitBit).
You have different options, but the bottom line is that calories aren’t the enemy! There are tons and tons of nutrient-packed, low calorie foods that you can enjoy along with the best meal replacement shakes while you work towards your weight goals.