Did you know that there are more than 1.9 billion people worldwide who are overweight? Even though gaining weight is relatively easy, losing it can be pretty challenging.
When it comes to losing weight, you will often hear about the process behind burning calories and how to burn them fast. But what does burning calories mean exactly? And why do calories in diet and exercise have anything to do with losing weight?
As it turns out, calories are one of the most important aspects of losing (and gaining) weight. If you don’t know what calories are, it can be hard to take control of your weight.
Keep reading and learn more about calories and how the right amount of calories can contribute to a healthy metabolism.
What You Need to Know About Calories
While many people know that burning calories is a good thing, what many people don’t know is that a calorie is a unit of measurement. Specifically, it is a unit of energy. Calories don’t just have to be in food, and they aren’t only involved in losing weight either.
Calories play a large part in all energy sources, even coal and gas!
In humans, calories in food are the units of energy we need to survive. Without calories, our brain and the cells throughout our body would not have the power to function normally. As a result, they would die off.
Initially, a calorie was defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a certain amount of water.
Of course, calories today are not talked about in this manner. More than that, calories in science versus nutrition are not quite the same. One of these traditional, scientific calories is called a kilocalorie—”kilo,” meaning thousand.
This is important because one thousand kilocalories make up one nutritional calorie. So, whenever you look on the back of food packaging and count the number of calories, there are one thousand kilocalories for each of those calories. While this may sound complicated, the process of counting and consuming calories for the sake of dieting is not.
There are specific recommendations when it comes to the consumption of calories. For example, you might already be aware that the recommended daily intake for women is around 2,000 calories. However, this number is not the same for everyone.
How Many Calories Should You Consume?
The number of calories you need to consume daily will depend on your height, body size, and sex. For example, a large man needs to eat much more food than a small woman. This is because the large man will automatically burn more calories than the woman simply by doing everyday activities.
Suppose this man needs to eat 2,600 calories daily while the woman only needs to consume 2,000. If the man tried to consume only 2,000 a day, he would quickly lose weight, and his muscle mass would deteriorate. If he eats any less than this, he may become deficient in nutrients and feel very weak because he isn’t getting the right amount of nutrients his body needs to function.
On the other hand, if the small woman boosted her calorie intake to 2,6000 from 2,000, she would start gaining weight. If she continued to increase her calorie intake, she may gain so much weight that it would interfere with her ability to go about her day-to-day activities. As you can see, consuming the correct number of calories for your body type is essential when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle.
However, the problem is that many people tend to eat far more than what is recommended. That is why, as mentioned before, almost 2 billion people worldwide are overweight. Keep in mind that there are different kinds of obesity.
Common obesity is when your body mass index (BMI) exceeds 25. On the other hand, morbid obesity is when your BMI is above 40. In either case, being obese can be very unhealthy.
Obesity Is Not Permanent
Even if you are overweight and feel fine now, as you age, the extra weight you carry will start to deteriorate certain parts of your body.
For example, many older obese people have degenerative knee problems, which make it difficult for them to walk. Others may have breathing problems because of all the effort it takes to breathe under the excess weight. Some also suffer from sleep apnea for this reason.
Fortunately, obesity is not a permanent problem. If you are overweight and can’t figure out how to lose weight, the solution has to do with the calories you consume. This is important because many believe that as long as they go to the gym and exercise, they can keep eating the same foods and still lose weight.
This, however, is not true. What you eat is far more important than how much you exercise when it comes to losing weight.
You can spend all the time at the gym you want, but if you are still eating too many calories than what is recommended, your weight will remain stable. You might even gain weight if you’re not careful.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that going to the gym is hopeless. In fact, working out at the gym is essential to leading a healthy lifestyle. But you will need to combine a more nutritious, calorie-deficit diet with your exercise routine before you can start losing weight.
So, how should you go about cutting and burning calories?
How to Follow a Healthy Diet and Lose Weight
As mentioned before, there is a recommended daily calorie intake that people need to follow to get enough nutrients to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight. Aiming for around 2,000 calories per day is an excellent place to start. However, depending on your activity levels, you may need to eat less.
If you are at least moderately active, 2,000 calories per day is a healthy amount for both men and women—although men can stand to consume a bit more, around 2,400. On the other hand, if you are not active at all, you will need to consume fewer calories because you won’t be burning as many in the first place.
While you constantly burn calories as your body does automatic actions such as pumping blood or inflating and deflating your lungs, these basic actions burn only a few calories. You will burn more if you are more physically active. Exercising, walking, swimming, and many other activities will help you burn more calories.
But before you start exercising, you will need to alter your diet. First, consider what you eat on an average day. If you don’t know how many calories you eat in a day, try counting them. Almost every type of food will have nutritional information printed on the packaging.
A nutritional table will tell you how many calories are in a serving of a particular food product. It will also tell you what kind of nutrients that food has.
For example, a bag of pretzels may say “150 calories” on the packaging. This may not sound like a lot, but when you look at this figure closely, you will see that a single serving size of just seven pretzels will constitute 150 calories. If you didn’t know this and instead ate around 30 pretzels, you would have consumed a considerable number of calories, contributing to weight gain.
For this reason, it is vital to look at the number of calories and the serving size of the food you’re eating daily. That way, you will be able to keep track of how much food you’re eating, and it will be much easier to stay within your calorie limits.
Certain foods are better than others when it comes to losing weight. For example, so-called “junk food” like potato chips is full of “empty” calories. This is not a scientific term, but those in the nutrition field use it to describe foods that do not satisfy your hunger or offer any valuable nutrients but still provide you with calories.
This is not great for losing weight because even though you ate a ton of potato chips, you will still feel hungry. As a result, you will be tempted to eat more even though you have already consumed plenty of calories.
If you want to lose weight, it is much better to avoid these junk foods and instead opt for healthier and more filling foods.
For example, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean or plant-based proteins don’t have as many calories, or if they do, they are also filled with essential nutrients. More than that, they will make you feel full. As a result, you won’t have to eat as much, you won’t consume as many calories, and you will start to lose weight.
By doing this, you can lose weight without putting much effort into exercise. However, don’t let this idea tempt you since exercising is crucial for leading a healthy lifestyle.
Burning Calories With Exercise
Exercise is a great way to burn calories and is ideal for strengthening your body and keeping yourself healthy. Any exercise will help you burn calories, although more intensive exercise will help you burn more.
Even walking down the street will help you burn some calories.
This is important if you typically follow a sedentary lifestyle. For example, if you often sit around at home, sit at work, and sit in the car on the way to work and back home again, you will only burn the bare minimum of calories. But if you add a simple walk to your daily routine, such as a walk to the grocery store, you will be able to start burning calories without putting in much effort.
Of course, if you want to burn a more significant number of calories, you will need to do more intense exercise. Going to the gym is an excellent option because you can experiment with the machines until you discover which you enjoy using the most. Most gyms offer workout classes so you can exercise as part of a group and have fun while burning calories.
Focus on Cardio
While any kind of exercise will help you lose weight, aerobic exercises tend to be the best. These exercises get your heart pumping and your blood racing. They involve everything from jumping jacks and lunges to running and swimming.
Keep in mind that exercising can be demanding at first, especially if you’re not used to it. However, as you get yourself in better shape, you will find that the same exercises will become easier and more accessible.
Eventually, you will need to upgrade your exercise routine so that you can still be challenged while exercising.
If you have specific health problems that make it difficult to exercise, such as weak knees, don’t worry! There are still plenty of exercises that you can try.
For example, swimming does not affect your joints, but it can still help you strengthen your muscles and lose weight. Riding a bicycle is another low-impact sport you can try.
What Does Burning Calories Mean?
Calories are units of energy that your body requires to function. When you don’t consume enough calories, you will lose weight. When you consume too many, you will gain weight.
Burning calories is not as hard as you might think once you learn how to count them and incorporate them into your diet correctly.
So now you know the answer to the question, “What does burning calories mean?” it is time to consider the other part of the equation: exercise!
Exercising is essential in a different way; we need to exercise for a healthy heart and body. To learn more, check out our exercise programs here.