The human body needs calories to survive. Without energy, the cells in the body would die, the heart and lungs would stop, and the organs would not be able to carry out the basic processes needed for living. People absorb this energy from food and drink.
If people consumed only the number of calories needed every day, they would probably have healthy lives. Calorie consumption that is too low or too high will eventually lead to health problems.
The number of calories in food tells us how much potential energy they contain. It is not only calories that are important, but also the substance from which the calories are taken.
Calories were defined by the French physicist and chemist Nicolas Clément in the early nineteenth century. Let’s explain, very basically, what are calories: there are units used in physics, one calorie representing the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 g of water by 1 °C. Physics studies inert systems, as in non-living systems, so you may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with me?” The use of calories in nutrition was an attempt to measure the amount of energy a given food provides and how much of it we need daily in order to live.
By digesting food, our body metabolizes it in, among other things, vital energy. It is this energy that allows our breathing, heartbeat, brain function and so many other activities of our body. Food is our source of energy, our gas.
How do I know how many calories I need?
The science of nutrition has tried to assess how much food we need. It is common to find many tips in articles on the subject, such as:
“An average adult needs 35 calories per kilo per day, or 16 calories per pound. As an example, a 165-pound adult (65 kg) needs 2275 calories per day.”
But as you have already noticed, we are all unique and even from one day to the next, we are different. The above formula is, then, no more than a mere approximation of reality, something extremely simplified.
What then can we possibly do? The good news is that we have within us the tools to feel the amount of energy we need. Knowing what are calories, therefore, is not that helpful.
Should You Count Calories?
In general, strict control of calorie balance is unnecessary on the ketogenic diet. The keto diet is consistent with the foods we were designed to eat. A diet low in starchy/sugary carbs and favoring proteins and fats, along with fiber-rich vegetables, was the mainstay for humans for thousands of years.
Proteins and fats promote satiety and help control blood sugar to reduce cravings. Resting metabolic rate increases somewhat, and does not continue to spiral downward as the body sheds excess fat. As you become more keto-adapted, calories burn at a higher clip. Elevated levels of ketones (beta-hydroxybutyrate) even reduce inflammation, whether introduced endogenously through diet or exogenously through HVMN Ketone.
Counting calories does have some benefits. It may be useful on keto for people who are still not getting results. These individuals may be unknowingly consuming too many fats, such as coconut oil, in order to increase ketones. Tracking calories may offer a reality check on what normal portion sizes look like.
What Should I take into Consideration?
Not everyone follows a ketogenic diet to lose weight. In fact, there are many medical conditions which studies have shown to be greatly improved by the individual remaining in ketosis. So, if your goal has nothing to do with weight loss, you can pretty much stop reading this article now, and just eat however much you want. 😉
As mentioned above calorie counting is not really necessary on a ketogenic diet. It would seem that as long as you keep your carbohydrate intake super low, and your protein intake moderate, you shouldn’t have to worry about calories.
It is true that a ketogenic diet is very satisfying, and after you adapt to ketosis, you’ll find you just aren’t as hungry as you were when you ate lots of carbohydrates. Ketones have a damping effect on the appetite, and most people spontaneously reduce their food intake when they eat a high-fat diet.
However, for some people, myself included, it may be necessary to track calorie intake to take off excess weight. There are two ways to do figure out how much of each macronutrient (fat, protein, carb) as a percentage of calories:
Use ketogenic percentage ratios
Setting gram amounts of protein, carbs, and fats on a reference weight and then multiplying to get calories.
I think the second way is the better way and I’ll explain why, but let’s explore the first way.
Using Percentage Ratios
You can set calories on the ketogenic percentage ratios of about 70% of calories from fat, about 25% from protein, and under 5% from carbohydrate.
Here’s an example on how to do it.
Let’s say you set your total calorie intake for the day to be 1500. Here’s one way to calculate how many grams of fat, carb, and protein to eat:
1500 x .70 = 1050 calories from fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram = 1050/9 = 116.5 grams of fat. (Reference: 1 tablespoon of butter has 12 grams of fat.
1500 x .25 = 375 calories from protein. Protein has 4 calories per gram, = 375/4 = 93.75 grams of protein. (Reference: an ounce of meat has 7 grams of protein).
1500 x .05 = 75 calories from carbs. Carbs have 4 calories per gram, = 75/4 = 18.75 grams of carb. (Reference: 1 slice bread has 25 grams of carb.)
While these ratios may work for a woman who exercises occasionally, for a heavily muscled man who works out twice a week, this may not be enough protein.
Set Protein Gram Needs on Reference Body Weight
Another way to set calorie intake is to start with individual protein requirements. I think this is the better, more accurate way to figure out ratios. Here’s why:
Total daily protein needs should always stay the same no matter how many calories you choose to eat in a day. Using percentages to set intake can be misleading if calorie intake is very low or very high. For instance, say a person weighs 200 pounds, but they want to weigh 160 pounds. They decide to eat 1200 calories a day in order to lose weight. Do they set protein requirements on 200 pounds or 160 pounds?
The best choice here is to set protein requirements on a reference weight of either lean body mass (if known) or on ideal or goal body weight. This method is more accurate in providing enough protein to support lean body muscle mass but not so much as to increase blood sugar.
The general formula for protein grams per day is 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of reference weight. So, in our example, we would convert pounds to kilograms by dividing pounds by 2.2 (and then multiply by 1 gram, which gives the same number, and then by 1.5).
160/2.2= 72 kilograms of weight
72 * 1.5= 108 grams
So, this person should shoot for between 72-108 grams of protein per day. Now as you can see, this is pretty close to the 20 percent measure from above, but in other cases, it may not be.
What not to do
Often times, people set a calorie amount that is just too low. So many times, I see people who are eating 1200 calories per day and wondering why they’ve stalled out. Your body is smart, and if you only provide 1200 calories per day in fuel, it’s eventually going to learn to only need those 1200 calories.
While you may lose weight initially eating very few calories, the weight loss will eventually stop, as your body adjusts. Once your metabolism slows to this point, it can be very difficult to get it back on track so that weight loss can resume.
If you end up hitting your goal before you plateau and start eating normally again, you may notice that the weight actually piles on again. At the very least, you’ll have to eat less than you did before dieting.
Calories seem to be linked only to weight gain and obesity, but they are vital for health. They only pose a health risk when people consume more than the recommended amount.
When thinking about calories, you should not be considering just your diet but also your level of physical activity. A high intake of calories can be countered with regular, high-intensity exercise.
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