It can be very confusing for people to figure out the number of calories needed daily or "rate of metabolism" and its affect on weight loss. Let's see if I can shed some light on the subject...

The first step in determining how many calories you need to consume each day isn't just figuring out how many minutes you spent on the stair-climber at the gym, but rather what your metabolism is.

What is metabolism? Simply stated, metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories while at rest. Or, another way to look at it, the number of calories you'd burn if you stayed in bed and slept all day. A person's BMR decreases as they age, therefore you need to be more active to burn the same amount of calories that you naturally burned at a younger age. The BMR calculation below uses height, weight, age and gender to determine your resting calorie count.

Since your BMR (basal metabolic rate) or metabolism, is the number of calories you need to fuel your body's basic energy needs at rest, it is also necessary to have an honest idea of how active you are to determine your total daily calorie needs. A person can figure on needing 20-90% more calories than your calculated BMR. Here's how to calculate your energy needs:

1. First, find your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by using this equation:

o Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches ) - (4.7 x age in years)
o Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

2. To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:

o If you are sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2

o If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375

o If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55

o If you are very active: BMR x 1.725

o If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job or 2x training): BMR x 1.9

The number you get is the number of calories you need to eat in order to maintain your current weight. Decreasing that number by 500 calories per day is a good place to start if you want to lose about a pound per week.

If you want to do a quick estimate without a computer or calculator, a rule of thumb is that most people generally need a daily caloric range of somewhere between 7 and 10 calories per pound for long-term weight loss success, with a minimum of 1,200 calories per day.

Quick Tip: To make this complicated process easier, there are several reliable websites that have calorie need calculators. All you need to do is add in your age, gender, height and weight, and activity level. Online BMR calculators, such as the one from the Mayo Clinic, will do the math for you! WebMD also has a fun tool that will calculate your BMI and provide additional information.

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