Food is a quality raw material that gives us energy, health, and youthfulness. Each food has its own energy value. In physics, burned items give off a certain amount of heat. After we eat a portion of food, our body generates energy. We call the system of units for counting the energy we give off calories.
The calorie counting system was first industrialized in the German army during World War I to calculate rations for soldiers based on their workload.
What Calories Are and How Do They Affect Weight?
As we have already determined, calories are a unit of measurement, just like centimeters, ounces, feet, etc. However, it is worth recognizing that in real life, this unit is quite relative. Calories are supposed to label the energy value of foods so people can reference calories for proper eating.
People who eat fewer calories than their bodies use up lose weight. But conversely, if they eat more calories than their body uses in a day, they start to gain weight rapidly. Sounds like pure mathematics.
However, not all foods are factory labeled. To understand the caloric value of, for example, meat or fresh vegetables, there are calorie tables. They allow us to determine the energy value of foods and their protein, fat, and carbohydrate content. Modern nutritionists and trainers use this tool when formulating diets to lose or gain weight.
How to Count Calories?
Nowadays, calories are most often counted for the purpose of losing weight or proper eating. Knowing our daily calorie intake, we can follow strict limits in our diet and adjust the calorie deficit for weight loss. However, to understand what kind of deficit to create, we need to know the norm.
The daily caloric norm is calculated individually. The standard for each person depends on different factors. Gender, height, age, lifestyle, physical activity, and health status are just some of the major ones. The caloric norm assumes that the weight is stable and the amount of fat does not decrease or increase. The amount of muscle tissue remains at the same level. A person has enough energy to perform basic tasks, move, and have a full lifestyle. Humans burn energy even when they sleep. It is spent on breathing, blood circulation, and other metabolic processes.
There are actually several formulas for calculating calories. The main ones are the Harris-Benedict formula and the St. Jeor-Mifflin formula. They take into account different factors that affect the metabolic rate.
The Harris-Benedict Formula
For women: 655.1 + (9.563 × weight) + (1.85 × height) – (4.676 × age). For men: 66.5 + (13.75 × weight) + (5.003 × height) – (6.775 × age). All that remains is to multiply the obtained value with the activity coefficient.
St. Jeor-Mifflin Formula
Calorie calculation for men: (9.99 × weight (kilograms) + 6.25 × height (in cm) – 4.92 × age (years) + 5) × A Calorie calculation formula for women: (9.99 × weight (kilograms) + 6.25 × height (in cm) – 4.92 × age (years) – 161) × A, where A is activity ratio.
Many people find these calculations stressful, which often makes them give up on the idea. However, not everything is as sad as it may seem at first glance.
How Does a Calorie Counter Help to Manage Weight?
A calorie counter is a web-developed tool, or in the form of an app, that has some formulas for calculating. With the help of a calorie calculator, a person can determine how many calories per day to consume, taking into account the metabolism level. Activity ratios are initially put into the program.
With the help of the calorie calculator, we can determine our daily calorie allowance in seconds, knowing the parameters of our bodies. When we know our daily calorie allowance, we can adjust the number of calories to manage our weight.
The main rule for losing weight with a calorie deficit is that your daily energy allowance should not be lower than your basal metabolic rate. Generally, it is safe to stick to a 10-20% deficit. It is recommended to start with 10% and then gradually increase the deficit as needed.
How Does the Calorie Calculator Work?
The calculation is based on basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories (energy) the body expends at rest to maintain body functioning: breathing, gastrointestinal function, blood circulation, thermoregulation, and nervous system function. This value depends on age, sex, height, and weight – these numbers usually need to be entered.
The calculator usually uses one of the formulas we described above in its calculation algorithm. As a result, it makes weight management much more manageable and saves time.
However, the basal metabolic rate does not consider even a minimal physical activity such as sitting at a computer. That’s why the calculator multiplies your basal metabolic rate by your physical activity rate – to adjust the result for your lifestyle.
Proper Eating Using an App
Not all that glitters is gold, we like to say when we talk about calories. If it were that simple, we could eat at McDonald’s once a day and lose weight. However, for some reason, it doesn’t happen. And that’s because calories can be both healthy and unhealthy.
Proper eating with counting healthy calories is only possible if one eats natural foods. Besides calories, our body should get proteins, healthy fats, and slow carbohydrates. In addition, we should not forget about the necessary micronutrients that help break down and assimilate food, participate in metabolism, and positively affect hormones.
Today, many useful apps include a calorie counter that allows you to keep a food diary, track the balance of macro and micronutrients, and remind you to drink water and engage in physical activity. Constant use of handy apps helps cultivate healthy eating habits for managing weight and health.
A smartphone, tablet, or laptop can control our eating habits. A nutritionist who is always with you – isn’t that great? Weight loss or nutrition apps can help you change your eating habits and control your diet.
Such apps with built-in calorie calculators contain food databases for different foods, and often even for prepared meals or ready-to-eat restaurant dishes, helping not only to count calories but also to plan future meals and make them healthier.
About the author:
Amber Campbell is a graduate of National Institutes of Health. She is an unspoken expert in the study of health and nutrition. Amber is also a blogger, author of articles and she works as nutrition specialist.