Especially for beginners, knowing your calorie intake and whether to increase, maintain or reduce its intake in order to maximise the outcome of your gym training can be daunting. But, as long as you know the basics which I will outline in this post, it doesn’t have to be.
First things first, what are calories?
A calorie is a unit of energy. It is a unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body.
For example, a car may burn around 5 litres of petrol to drive 50 miles. Your body may burn around 200 calories from food to walk 2 miles. Our body burns food (metabolites) that produces energy in the form of heat. This heat energy keeps our body warm and powers every physiological function. When you read a food label, and it says 100Kcal, it means that metabolising the food produces 100 calories of heat that your body can use as energy.
Is eating a lot bad?
Eating too many calories and not being active enough can lead to being overweight and obesity. When we eat and drink more calories that we use up, our bodies store the excess as body fat. Therefore, an excess amount of calories can be detrimental to our health.
How much should I eat?
Our bodies need energy to keep us alive and to help our organs function normally. To maintain a stable weight, the energy we put into our bodies must be the same as the energy we use up throughout the day. As a rough guide, men need around 2,500kcal a day to maintain healthy body weight, and women need around 2,000kcal a day. But of course, other factors contribute to this such as age.
If I want to gain muscle, how many calories should I be consuming?
The best way to build muscle is with a calorie surplus. This means you need to consume more calories than you burn. You need a slight calorie surplus to form new muscle tissue. I emphasise on the word “slight” because an excess amount can easily turn into fat.
To help illustrate this, Imagine building a wall. The bricks are your muscles, and your calorie intake is the cement. If you don’t have enough cement, you will never be able to build a bigger wall. Also, if you don’t let the cement set (resting your muscles), it will never be stable enough to get bigger or stronger.
If I want to lose weight, how many calories should I be consuming?
It’s the same concept as gaining, except in reverse. So rather than having a calorie surplus, you will create a calorie deficit. This means you will be burning slightly more than you are consuming. Too much of a deficit however, can be harmful. So be sure to have a healthy diet and exercising.