Diets can be tricky: it can be confusing when deciding the best way to lose weight. There are many different methods, all of which can work well, but regardless of more exotic approaches, if you understand the calorie principle then you will be several steps nearer to controlling your weight for good. Calories have been speculated over in all kinds of ways, but in reality it is very simple. As time passes, we eat a lot of food and at the same time we burn calories every day. We must also remember that the drinks we drink can also be very high in calories. Alcohol is calorific and even if you’re enjoying a Dry January, your waistline will not thank you for drinking a ton of full-fat milkshakes.

So, taking into account everything, food and drink alike, whether we gain or lose weight is all simply a question of balance. If we consume more calories than we need it will definitely lead to weight gain. If we consume fewer calories than we burn, then we will lose weight. Here’s more detail about how to win the calorie war.

How Many Calories Should We Eat?

An average man needs around 2500 calories a day to maintain his weight. For an average woman, that figure is around 2000 calories a day. Many plans recommend that you reduce your intake by just 600 calories per day, others are stricter. It is not recommended that anyone drop below 1000 calories per day when trying to lose weight.

Why Try to Lose Weight?

Losing weight is well worth the effort and not just for looks. When we carry excess weight we are at far greater risk of a wide range of serious health problems. First, when we eat and drink more calories than we need, our bodies store the excess as body fat. Fat is not just unsightly, it can be very dangerous for our health, particularly the extra pounds of fat that so many of us can carry around our belly area. If this weight gain goes unchecked and continues over time then we will become overweight, and can even become obese.

Being overweight or obese causes an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Many adults in the West need to lose weight, and to do this they need to eat and drink fewer calories. Combining these changes with increased physical activity is the best way to achieve a healthier weight.

Remember, achieving a healthy weight is all about striking the right balance between the energy that you put into your body, and the energy that you use. To lose weight, you have to use more energy than you consume in food and drinks throughout the day.

Calorie Cutting: Low-fat Food

It makes sense to most people that if you don’t want to be fat, then you should probably eat less of it, right? This is common sense… but it is not the whole story by any stretch of the imagination. There are different types of fats and they act within your body in very different ways.

Everyone needs some fat as the body requires it to function properly. A small amount of healthy fat helps the body to function at optimum levels. But remember the calorie/ energy-burning balance.

Fat is very calorific every gram of fat contains 9 calories. Compare that to other macro-nutrients:

Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories

Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories

Alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calories

Eat too much fat and, at 9 calories per gram, it will obviously be fattening. However, not all fats stack up the same nutritionally and some fats are better for you than others.

All About Fats

These include both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats come from plants and include olive oil, corn oil, and avocadoes among others. If you are trying to lose weight you should really stick to this category of fat on your diet.

Saturated fats come from animal products, for example meat and dairy foods. They increase the risk of heart disease because they raise the “bad” LDL cholesterol in the body. Only 10% or less of your daily calories should be from saturated fats.

Trans Fats are the worst types of fats to eat and too many of them can impact hugely on our health. Trans fats can be found in products like margarines as well as in many unhealthy snacks such as processed foods including cookies, cakes, pies, ready meals and potato chips. Trans fats can actually raise your bad cholesterol and as such, many medical experts recommend that you avoid them altogether.

Why Low Fat, Low Cal Works

On a low-fat diet, you restrict your calorie intake through fat to a lower than normal percentage. For example, on a normal weight-loss diet of 1,200 calories, you will limit fats to only 20% of total daily intake. This basically means that you can have 240 calories, or 26 grams, of fat each day, with a maximum of 120 calories, or 13 grams, coming from saturated fat. That leaves you with nearly a full 1,000 calories to “spend” on protein and carbohydrates.

Most dieticians would still encourage the consumption of some low-fat dairy products. They are rich in calcium and vitamin D and these help preserve and build muscle mass during a diet. The higher the percentage of fat in your body and the less muscle, the worse your ability to burn calories. Conversely, having a good muscle mass is essential for maintaining a super-efficient metabolism.

The Thermogenic Factor

Certain foods have a very high thermogenic effect, so you literally torch away the calories as you eat on your diet. Other foods contain nutrients and compounds that add kindling to your metabolic fire. Feed your metabolism with these wonderful dietary additions.

Whole grains

When your body tries to break down whole foods your body burns twice as many calories. This is especially true when it comes to those foods which are rich in fibre, like oatmeal and brown rice. If you only consume processed foods, you lose this advantage, as well as lots of fibre and vital nutrients.

Whole grains

Lean meats

Lean protein really is the dieters’ friend and it has a very high thermogenic effect. Did you know that you burn about 30% of the calories the food contains during digestion? This means that a 300-calorie chicken breast requires about 90 calories to break it down.

Lentils

One cup of lentils packs in an amazing 35% of your daily iron needs. This is fabulous news, since up to 20% of us are iron-deficient. When you lack a nutrient, your metabolism slows down because the body’s not getting everything that it needs to work efficiently and to lose weight, your body needs to be working as efficiently as possible.

Hot peppers

Want to add some real fire to your metabolism and burn calories to diet as efficiently as possible? Capsaicin, the compound that gives chilli peppers their heat, warms up your body, so that you burn off additional calories. You can get it by eating raw, cooked, dried, or powdered peppers.

Green tea

It is a proven fact that good green tea infusions can help you dramatically lose weight, more than any other drink (apart from water). Drinking four cups of green tea a day helped people shed more than six pounds in eight weeks, as it was reported following a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. There is a compound in the green tea called EGCG and it temporarily speeds metabolism after sipping it.

Fabulous fish

Salmon is high in protein and contains essential omega-3 fatty acids. These have been shown to regulate a vital body hormone called leptin, which is involved in the regulation of energy, causing an increased caloric burn. Tuna is also an excellent source of omega-3s and should freely be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet.

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