All you need to know about calories

Calories. We all secretly pay attention to them, right? But did you know that they are not only important to losing weight, but also to maintaining and gaining weight?

Caloric intake levels are different for every person and lifestyle. If you’re inactive, your body does not need as many calories as someone who exercises a lot. Think of Michael Phelps when he was training; he needed more than 12,000 calories because he burned so many in the water. The average adult needs about 2,000 calories a day. Can you imagine what would happen to your body if you had a 12,000 calorie diet?! Let’s hope that never happens.

Photo from Seriouseats.com

Calorie basics

Calories are the amount of energy supplied by a food. Energy can come in many different forms such as protein, carbohydrates, fats and sugars. The goal is to find what your body needs in order to perform to its maximum capacity, whether that’s maintaining your weight, building muscle and gaining weight, or losing weight.

Tips and tricks

  • Low-fat and fat-free doesn’t mean that there are less calories in what you’re eating.
  • Be sure to watch out for extra sugars or sugar substitutes. They have calories too.
  • Low-calorie isn’t always what you need. A healthy diet has a mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins and dairy.

Exercise and calories

How much energy are you using when you exercise? It depends on the type, your body weight and composition and the level of intensity at which you are working out. Here are a few examples for someone 150 pounds:

  • Playing basketball for an hour on a half-court burns approx. 405 calories
  • Biking on flat land for an hour burns approx. 441 calories
  • Dancing (depending on the type) burns approx. 370 calories an hour
  • Jogging burns approx. 675 calories an hour
  • Sleeping burns approx. 45 calories an hour (who knew?!)
  • Playing soccer for an hour burns approx. 468 calories
  • Swimming burns approx. 608 calories per hour

Listen to your body and find out what it needs. If you’re starving after a workout, you’re allowed to eat! It’s encouraged. A great post-workout snack is a lean protein that will fill you up and help you build muscle. If you’re going to have a hard day at the gym, make sure you’ve gotten enough fuel and water before you head out. It’ll take a little time to figure out what’s going to work best for you, but be patient and have a little faith!