To understand what your daily caloric intake is, first you need to understand the importance of energy for your body.
Energy forms the fundamental basis of our body’s daily functions; it acts like fuel to power healthy cell repair and internal function, as well as building and maintaining cells and tissues. Unlike plants that get their energy from the sun, we source all of our energy directly from our diet. It is imperative to consume a wide variety of macro and micronutrients to make sure we are meeting our energy, and maintain a healthy balance.
What Are Calories?
Everything we eat or drink provides us with energy in varying amounts. The energy in our diet is measured in units called calories or kilojoules. These terms are not interchangeable, one calorie equals approximately 4.18 kilojoules.
The approximate calorie count provided in your meal plans are a guide, averaging between 1500 to 2500 calories a day. As a result, you may have to adjust the food portions to match your body type and energy requirements.
Energy Surplus VS Energy Deficit
Your body composition can be altered depending on whether you are consuming a surplus or deficit of energy. Consuming more energy than your body requires without burning it off creates a surplus and is the cause of fat storage, therefore a deficit is required to reduce fat. Conversely, an energy surplus combined with adequate protein and an appropriate exercise regimen is the key to building muscle mass.
Both fat and muscle add weight to your body – with the key difference being that excess body fat can contribute to a wealth of health problems. On the other hand, added muscle promotes strength, muscular endurance, muscle tone and definition as well as aiding your metabolism.
To decrease your calorie intake, and create a deficit, you can simply reduce your portion sizes but ensure you still have the appropriate amount to fuel your training.
How Do I Calculate My Energy Requirements?
Individual energy needs vary from person to person. The ideal amount required is unique to each individual and depends on several factors such as age, gender, body composition and whether or not you exercise regularly.
Several predictive equations have been developed to estimate a person’s energy requirements for your body to function healthily at rest, known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Multiplying your BMR by an Activity Factor (AF) can give you an indication of what your energy requirements are for the amount of exercise that you do.
Eat For Health online provides a calculator to estimate you daily energy requirementsGO TO CALCULATOR
This will provide you with a kilojoule number that is specific to your goal. (Weight loss, weight gain, maintain) You can then begin to consider and incorporate this energy value into your daily food choices.
Each food item holds an energy value and has a specific nutrient composition. By understanding your own specific energy and nutritional requirements you are able to optimise your health and wellbeing, reduce the risk of diet related conditions and potentially achieve your body compositing goals.
How to Track Your Caloric Consumption
Keeping a diet diary will help you to understand if you are consuming an energy surplus, energy deficit or you are in energy balance. Apps such as Easy Diet Diary (Australia) or My Fitness Pal (worldwide) provide an easy way to track your dietary intake and distributions of energy and macronutrients.
* When using online calculators, your weight may need to be adjusted down is you are categorised as overweight or obese, in order not to feed excess weight.
Once you have downloaded one of the above apps, you can input your specific energy target that was assigned to you using the calculator. From here, you begin by simply adding in each food and drink item that you consume across the day. The app will total your daily intake for you and will show you a detailed overview of the nutritional composition of the foods you consumed in the day.
The apps can sometimes feel complicating to use at first, yet they are quite user friendly and just take some initial navigating to get used to. (You tube holds tutorials which may be of assistance).
Each day you will see your daily target energy values, your aim is to consistently try and reach this target. Applications are great ways to see your habits and trends and enable you to be accountable. There are options to view your accountability over the past 7 days, months and even years to watch your progress over time. You are also able to take photos and record your weight throughout these applications which is highly recommended, to watch your results.