Alexa studied nutrition and fitness. She loves the boost of energy after a healthy meal and a great workout.
How Can You Lose or Gain Weight While Staying Healthy and Smart?
In this series of articles I will cover everything that would be valuable for you to know in order to become healthier, to gain more energy and motivation to start working out or perform better in the gym, or simply work smartly towards your dream physique.
Your Caloric Intake
Your daily caloric intake is the main reason you gain or lose weight. Basically, if you eat more calories than you burn during the course of a day, you gain weight. If you eat less calories than you consume, you lose weight.
Your daily caloric expenditure depends on a series of factors:
Let's assume that your body burns 2000 calories/day. That means you want to eat or drink 2000 calories/day in order to keep your body composition the same, to keep looking the way you do now. In other words, there needs to be a balance between your caloric expenditure and intake.
How Many Calories Does Your Body Burn Every Day?
In order to determine how many calories your body burns each day, you should calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index) and your ideal calories intake. If you want, you can calculate your BMI here, or you can calculate it on your own, using the chart below. You can calculate your caloric intake here.
BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI is moderately correlated with more direct measures of body fat obtained from skinfold thickness measurements, bioelectrical impedance, densitometry. n general, BMI is an inexpensive and easy-to-perform method of screening for weight category, for example underweight, normal or healthy weight, overweight, and obesity.
A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.
Now that you have an idea about the amount of calories you need to eat every day in order to maintain your body weight, you can start getting slimmer. In order to achieve that, you need to make sure that your daily caloric intake is not the same as your daily expenditure. The intake should be lower.
For example, if your body needs 2000 calories/day to maintain its weight, then you need to make sure you eat less than 2000 calories, in order to start losing weight.
The goal of this weight loss process is to have a healthier life AND to look good. This doesn't mean that in order to get thin you should drastically decrease your caloric intake. In fact, you should drop the caloric intake gradually and in a healthy manner. You don't get anywhere by starving your body.
Don't starve for nothing! It is not recommended to lower your caloric intake more than 20% of the total amount of daily calories you need. The more weight you lose, the lower your maintenance caloric number will become. This means, you will need to eat less calories than you need now, in order to maintain your new weight. That will be the time you will need to cut more your caloric intake, or increase the amount of exercise.
For example, you have calculated your BMI and you find out that you need to lose some weight and the calorie calculator is showing you that you maintain your current weight by ingesting 2000 calories/day. In order to lose weight, you will cut the caloric intake by 20%. That means, you are going to eat 1600 calories. After you have lost a few pounds, your new caloric maintenance number has decreased from 2000 to 1800 and it is time to lower your caloric intake again. Got it? However, you should never lower your intake under 1200 calories/day. If you need to do that in order to lose more weight, it is time you exercise more instead.
In order to gain weight, you need to make sure that your caloric intake is higher than your daily caloric expenditure. If you need 2000 calories to maintain your weight, then you need to eat more than 2000 calories to gain weight.
Now, usually people who don't gain weight easily are very much accustomed to watch less what they eat and they end up eating large amount of carbs and fat. In order to gain weight, you can choose to stuff yourself with junk food or make a big salad only for you, with pasta, avocado and nuts.
Which one do you think is the best choice so that you can start gaining weight?
If you chose the fast food menu, you were wrong. The Junk Food menu contains a smaller amount of calories than the pasta and salad and it is not by far the healthiest option.
If you start looking at the actual macronutrients each of these alternatives contains, you find out that the salad contains more fibers, more complex carbs and less saturated fat than the junk food menu.
I suppose your goal is not to gain fat, but weight and muscle. Well, for building muscle you need many proteins and a medium quantity of fat, but not as much as fast food contains.
In order to build muscle, you need to be on a daily caloric surplus, but you also need to minimize fat gaining.
Start Paying Attention to Your Macros!
Nutrients can be divided into 2 categories: macronutrients, and micronutrients. Macronutrients are those nutrients that the body needs in large amounts. These provide the body with energy (calories). Micronutrients are those nutrients that the body needs in smaller amounts.
The Macronutrients are: proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
What are Proteins?
Protein is built from building blocks called amino acids. Our bodies make amino acids in two different ways: Either from scratch, or by modifying others. A few amino acids (known as the essential amino acids) must come from food.
- Animal sources of protein tend to deliver all the amino acids we need.
- Other protein sources, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, lack one or more essential amino acids.
Vegetarians need to be aware of this. People who don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products need to eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the amino acids needed to make new protein.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are found in a wide array of both healthy and unhealthy foods—bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, corn, and cherry pie. They also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches.
Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity. But carbohydrate quality is important; some types of carbohydrate-rich foods are better than others:
- The healthiest sources of carbohydrates—unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans—promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
- Unhealthier sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.
What are fats?
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Choose foods with “good” unsaturated fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid “bad” trans fat.
- “Good” unsaturated fats — Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, and fish.
- “Bad” fats — trans fats — increase disease risk, even when eaten in small quantities. Foods containing trans fats are primarily in processed foods made with trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil. Fortunately, trans fats have been eliminated from many of these foods.
- Saturated fats, while not as harmful as trans fats, by comparison with unsaturated fats negatively impact health and are best consumed in moderation. Foods containing large amounts of saturated fat include red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream.
- When you cut back on foods like red meat and butter, replace them with fish, beans, nuts, and healthy oils instead of refined carbohydrates.
Start paying attention to the amount of macronutirents you ingest each day and make sure you don't overeat the carbs and fats and that you get enough proteins!
If you want to get fit, you have to remember that either losing weight, or gaining weight, it is all about the energy balance.
You can use My Fitness Pal App to calculate your nutritional values:
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 Alexa R
Alexa R (author) on March 24, 2018:
Thank you for your comment, The Stages of Me!
I am happy you find it useful!
Kathy Henderson from Pa on March 24, 2018:
Loved this hub, it was very informative and easy to follow and understand. Healthy living in a nutshell. Thank for sharing!