Know Your Body's Caloric Needs

Know Your Body's Caloric Needs

Calories: body fuel

You need calories not just to run your body but also to grow and repair.

Caloric needs

As you age, your calorie needs seem to decrease. Sixteen percent of people over 60 eat fewer than 1000 calories a day. This is because they are getting older and also because they are less active. As a young person, you may require two or three times as much food and energy as you do at older ages. Clearly, then, if you continue to eat the same amount at older ages as you did when you were young, you will become fat. The fat content of older people's bodies is higher than that of younger people, both because of the calorie excess and because muscles have deteriorated from decades of underuse.

You should be interested in both the calories in your food and the calories in your body. Having more calories in your body in the form of fat is valuable to your survival only in two extremely rare situations--prolonged starvation and extreme cold. A fat person will outlive a lean person in these situations only.

It takes one calorie per minute just to keep your basic machinery running, or about 1500 calories a day. Of course, everyone's needs differ, and your calorie needs could go up to 5000 per day if you are very active. This energy must come from food. How well you manage this energy transaction determines how efficient your weight control will be. And remember, you absorb virtually all of the calories you eat.

Burning the fat calories

A pound of body fat contains 3500 calories. This means that in order to gain a pound of fat you must consume, over some time span, 3500 more calories than your body needs. Conversely, when you seek to lose a pound of fat, you must eat 3500 calories less than you need to maintain a constant weight.

For example, a 60-year-old woman of moderate activity may require 2000 calories per day to maintain her weight but she is ten pounds too heavy and desires a calorie restricted program. To go really slowly on the diet, she takes in 1800 calories per day, 200 calories a day less than she needs. This means it will take her 17 or 18 days to lose one pound, or six months to lose all ten. But better slow than never.

Bottom line:

Food labels help you understand the energy content of what you feed yourself. A few of them will make 100. Your chances are much better if your belt is notched in.