If you are trying to lose or gain weight, it is particularly important that you understand how your body burns calories. There are 3,500 calories in one pound. If your goal is weight loss, this means that you need to eliminate 3,500 calories in order to lose one pound. The most efficient way to lose weight is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Anyone can adopt a healthy diet and lose weight. First, however, you must be able to recognize what comprises a healthy diet.
The average person burns about 2,000 calories a day. Depending on your weight, age, gender and activity level, this number may vary by up to 500 calories. Your body burns calories based on your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the thermic effect of food and your activity level. Your BMR is the calories you burn while at rest and accounts for about 60 to 70 percent of the calories you burn. The thermic effect of food is the amount of calories your body burns during the eating process and may account for about 10 percent of total calories burned. Your activity level, which may range from sedentary to highly active, may account for 20 percent of your total expenditure.
Calories found in food come from fats, carbohydrates and proteins. A healthy diet includes appropriate percentages of each of these three macronutrients. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 20 to 35 percent of the total calories you consume should come from fat. Of those, less than 10 percent should come from saturated fat. One gram of fat contains 9 calories. Fats carry and help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins a D, E and K, which provide essential fatty acids necessary for healthy skin and help you feel full longer.
Carbohydrates are essential to our bodies and provide energy, vitamins, minerals and fiber. One gram of carbohydrates equals 4 calories. They should comprise the largest percentage of your diet, about 45 to 65 percent of your total calories. A healthy diet will consist of plenty of complex carbohydrates such as those found in whole wheat bread, whole-grain cereals, rice, beans, pasta, potatoes, peas and yams.
Proteins are essential for building and repairing muscle, bones, cartilage and skin. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, your body doesn’t store protein. However, your body needs to consume only about 10 to 35 percent of your calories from protein. One gram of protein is 4 calories. A healthy diet will consist of proteins found in lean meats such as skinless chicken, pork tenderloin, ham, nuts, beans, fish and shellfish.
The most successful method of losing weight and keeping it off is adopting a healthy lifestyle that consists of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity at least five times a week. This may include two days of weight lifting and three days of cardiovascular exercise such as bicycling, jogging or swimming. Online calculators can help you determine the amount of calories you need to consume in order to lose weight and the amount of calories burned for each type of exercise (see Resources).