What is a calorie?

What is a calorie?

Calories are simply units of energy.  We all need them to survive. But how many??? That’s the question that needs answering when reaching your health goals. Not everyone burns or utilized calories the same way. Each individual is unique and some people are sugar burners and some are muscle burners. Figuring out how many calories you need can be tricky.

Proteins and carbohydrates have the same amounts of calories per gram: 4. Fat, on the other hand, has 9 calories per gram.  3500 calories equal one pound. Deciphering how many calories one needs to lose, maintain, or gain weight can be determined by doing some basic calculations.

First you need to know your Basal Metabolic rate (the minimum number of calories your body needs at rest per day) To find your BMR you take your Lean Body Weight and multiply by 11. Now there are more complicated and precise formulas available, but this will give you a close enough estimation. To find your LBW take your total body weight and subtract it from your body weight multiplied by your body fat percentage:  LBW=body weight – (body wt. x body fat %). BMR=11 X LBW.  A personal trainer can use fat calipers to calculate your total body fat.

Once you find this number you will want to add approximately 500 calories for daily activity if you are moderately active.  This number is your maintenance number.  If you are Highly active, add in the additional calories burned during exercise.  If you are looking to lose weight, you will want to subtract 500 calories per day from your maintenance number. If you are wanting to gain, you will want to add 500 calories per day to your maintenance number. Decreasing your calories by approximately 500 calories a day will give you about a 1-pound weight loss per week.  This is considered a healthy rate of weight loss. Losing more than 2 pounds of week can put you at risk for losing lean muscle tissue and other metabolic disorders.

Now, having said this, please understand that this scientific formula does not consider hormonal issues, genetic conditions, stress, or other extenuating circumstances.  This is a general rule of thumb that doesn’t always work out so nicely in the real world.

  • Lowering caloric intake, lowers metabolism.  If you don’t supply your body with adequate calories, it will start to use Lean Muscle Tissue as fuel. Less LMT=Lower metabolism
  • Low calories can lead to an increase risk of osteopenia and lowers B12 and Iron absorption.


Tina Cotterill, Owner of TMC To Health, is a personal trainer for women based in Snohomish. An NFPT Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, and a Hormone Specialist, Tina also is certified in CPR and First Aid. Tina sees clients one-on-one both in her no-pressure Snohomish studio or in clients’ homes. Learn more about Tina.


Lost your password?