Unfortunately, it is not possible to accurately calculate the daily calorie intake. And the values determined by special calculators, as a rule, are far from the truth. Why? You will learn the answer from this article.
Calorie Calculation Formula
It is impossible to choose the right diet for weight loss or, conversely, for muscle growth, without first calculating the daily norm of kilocalories. It is with this step that the formation of the diet begins with the main nutrients, that is, with fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
In the literature, you can find two basic formulas by which the rate of calorie intake is determined. These formulas are used by special fitness bracelets, fitness equipment and smartphone applications. However, all the formulas used have huge errors, which, as a rule, are never mentioned anywhere.
The definition of "calorie"
First of all, it is worth determining what calorie is. This word comes from the Latin term for thermal energy. Initially, the word had nothing to do with nutrition: it was used to denote the heat released during the combustion of fuel. Only at the beginning of the last century, calories began to denote the energy received by the body along with food.
The calorie content of any food is the heat that would be released when burning food in a special device. It is important that the body processes food differently. The share of absorbed energy may differ by 30-50% from the calorie content indicated on the product packaging.
Why are the formulas wrong?
The formulas that calculate the number of calories consist of two parts: from calculating the basic metabolism, that is, the energy that is needed to maintain the body's activity at rest, and human activity, which is determined with great approximation.
This is precisely the main error of any formula. After the level of basic metabolism is determined, the obtained value should be multiplied by the activity coefficient, which can be determined in the range from 1.2 to 1.9. As a result, the difference can be up to 1,500 kilocalories.
How to calculate your baseline metabolic rate?
The basic metabolic rate is determined by the Harris-Benedict formula, which takes into account the number of kilocalories needed for the nervous system to work, maintain a constant body temperature, process food, and other needs. Moreover, the formula does not include the energy that is spent on a person’s physical activity.
Basic metabolism depends on the age, gender and complexion of the individual. In this case, the calculation can be quite accurate only for people who have an average physique. If a person is thin or, conversely, is overweight, his basic metabolism can only be calculated approximately. The same applies to people with large muscle mass.
For men and women, the level of basic metabolism is determined by separate formulas. It is also important to take into account age, the level of fat and muscle tissue in the body, and a number of other parameters.
Calculation of an individual activity level
In the classical formula used to determine the required number of calories in the daily diet, several types of physical activity are distinguished: from minimal, which assumes almost complete absence of loads, to very high (training takes place several times a day).
It may seem that determining the level of physical activity is quite simple. To calculate the body’s need for kilocalories, you need to multiply the base metabolic rate that matches your gender and age by a factor that ranges from 1.2 (for a minimum level of activity) to 1.9 for people who are undergoing impressive physical exertion.
How to choose a suitable ratio?
If you are working in a mine or chopping wood, then you need to choose the maximum ratio. If the activity that you are involved in is associated with an average level of physical activity, for example, you are involved in caring for cattle, you should use the odds of 1.55. Such recommendations were given by the authors of the formula at the beginning of the last century. Naturally, there are no modern professions that require a long work at the computer.
Therefore, when you enter your gender and age into a computer on the simulator or in a fitness bracelet, you cannot assume which coefficient the device will choose to calculate the daily calorie intake. Perhaps you are lucky and the coefficient will be in the range from 1.4 to 1.7, that is, the error will not exceed 20%, or 500 kilocalories.
How to be in the end?
If your basic metabolic rate is about 1700 kilocalories, your work does not require physical activity and you visit the gym three times a week, then you should consume from 2500 to 3000 kilocalories per day. This figure is quite approximate and is not an absolute recommendation.
It’s more important not to look for a reliable formula, but to listen to your own body. Try to consume about 2500 kilocalories per day, while assessing your well-being and the dynamics of weight loss or weight gain. Gradually, you can increase or decrease the calorie content of your diet to find the ideal value for yourself. Blindly guided by the data that "issue" the application should not be.
All devices that "determine" the body's need for kilocalories give only an approximate result. They take into account the baseline metabolic rate, as well as the coefficient of physical activity, which is calculated approximately. As a result, the error can range from 500 to 1000 kilocalories. Therefore, it is more important to listen to the needs of your body and monitor its changes, and not try to determine the ideal calorie intake for a meal taken per day.