How Many Calories Do You Consume?

shows apple being measuredHave you ever wondered how many calories you consume in a day?  Maybe you are you may be consuming more calories than you should.  Today, in this series on running to lose weight, we will help you understand the basic breakdown of calories and some ways ways to track your intake of calories.

Recently we discussed a basic strategy for running to lose weight.  The basic idea behind losing weight boils down to a simple mathematical equation; take the number of calories consumed each day and subtract the number of calories burned.  This gives you the net calories each day that are burned.

Formula For Net Calories
Net Calories = Calories Consumed Minus Calories Burned

A negative number is a good thing here, because it means that you burn more calories than you consume.  If you want to know how much weight you lost, just divide this number by 3500, as there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat.

Weight Lost (or gained) = Net Calories / 3500

But, how do you know how many calories you consume (eat) and how many calories you burn throughout the day.  The amount of calories you burn throughout the day was covered in the post called a Basic Strategy to Lose Weight.  Essentially you have  a base level of calories you burn throughout the day, and then you can add to that the calories burned during exercise.

So, How Many Calories Do You Really Consume?

First, let’s look at how many calories there are in the three basic foods, or macronutrients.  The three macronutrients that make up the majority of what you consume are fat, protein, and carbohydrates.  The number of calories in these foods are as follows:

Calories in Basic Foods
Macronutrient                 Calories Per Gram
Fat:                                                  9
Carbohydrates:                             4
Protein:                                         4

So, you can easily see from this chart that carbohydrates and proteins have much less calories per gram than fat does.  This is a large reason why staying away from fatty foods is a good idea.  Of course, it is easier said than done, I know.  However understanding the basic concepts is helpful.

So, if you know how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat you eat, you could quickly determine how many calories you consumed in a meal.  And, if you tracked all of your meals (and snacks) throughout the day, then you would know how many calories you consumed in a day.  Then you could compare your consumed calories to your burned calories, and have a good idea of how you are doing.

The first thing you need to do to track your calories is to get a journal or some kind of software to record your daily intake of food.  You can pick up a nutrition and calorie consumption log at a bookstore or at amazon.  Or, you may consider picking up an app for your iphone or smartphone.

Next, you need to know the quantity of food you are eating.  For packaged foods, you can usually get an idea of the weight or quantity by reading the label.  For natural and unpackaged foods, you can usually weigh the foods.  If you do not have a kitchen scale, then it will be a good idea to pick one up.

Finally, you will need to know how many calories are in different foods.  Again, for packaged foods, just read the label.  For natural and unpackaged foods, you will need to look the calories up.  A free online calorie counter can be found at the link provided.

I know that  it kind of sounds complicated and possibly overwhelming to keep track of your calories.  Try to consider these ideas to make it a little easier to ‘digest’.  Consider trying to count calories for a few days or a week.  By tracking your calories for a week, maybe you can see trends in your eating that need to be adjusted.  Or consider looking up the calories in the foods you ate for dinner.

What do you think?
Do you think it is worth it to track calories?

Take Action
Look up the calories you consumed for your last meal.

Did you Know?
I did not post this in the main article, but alcohol actually has 7 calories per gram.  I hope that beer tasted good 🙂

Or, if you are feeling good, then consider tracking your calories for an entire week.

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