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Calories can be extremely confusing – how many do you need, how many do you need if you want to lose weight, how do you factor in exercise and how do you know if you are consuming too many or too few? Indeed calories are complicated and it may surprise you to hear that calculating calories is not an exact science, rather a rough estimate of how many we consume via food and then expend each day. In saying that, having some knowledge about your daily calorie requirements can be exceptionally helpful when learning how to eat to lose or even maintain our weight. So if you would like to know more about calories, or how to calculate a rough estimate of how many you are likely to need, here are some steps to work through.

1) Calculate your baseline
We all have a baseline number of calories that we will approximately burn each day, known as our resting metabolic rate. As a rough guide, a female will need a minimum of 1200-1400 calories each day, whereas a male who generally has more muscle mass will need 1600-1800 calories.

2) Create a deficit
To lose ½ – 1 kg of body fat each week, you will need to create a calorie deficit of 200-300 calories each day. It is for this reason that weight loss diets often focus on 1200 and 1500 calories – they are roughly 200-300 calories less than the person needs to function. You can easily cut back on calories each day by watching portion sizes, minimising mindless munching and cutting back on high calorie foods such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and alcohol which contain at least 200-300 calories per serve.

3) Next add in your activity
Now this is where many people seeking weight loss go wrong. They cut back on their calories but they forget that they will also need more if they are exercise. The reason for this is that an active muscle burns extra calories, and if we do not eat enough calories to fuel the muscle, fat loss will slow down. This explains why people training an hour a day and eating only 1200 calories do not always lose weight, they actually need to eat more as strange as this may sound. As a general rule of thumb we will need at least 200 extra calories per hour of physical activity that we do. That means if you go to the gym for an hour and are a small female trying to lose weight eating 1200 calories, most likely you will need more calories or 1400-1500 calories to lose weight when you are exercising.

4) Pay attention to your hunger
While we have these rough ways to calculate the number of calories we require, another powerful sign may be how hungry we are. If you are eating 1200 or 1400 calories and are hungry all the time, it is the body telling you that you actually need to eat a little more. The best time to add an extra 100-200 calories, early in the day, at either breakfast or lunch or before the time that you exercise. Experiencing a little hunger in between meals is ok, it is relentless hunger and extreme cravings that we need to pay attention to.

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