Counting calories is something that is equally as important to those who are trying to lose weight as it is to people who want to bulk up. While counting calories is important, plenty of research indicates there is more to be concerned with than just that.
The 3500 Rule
A rule states that in order to lose one pound you must burn 3500 calories more than what you take in. This same rule claims that if you consume 3500 more calories than what you burn, you will effectively gain one pound. While that is a good rule of thumb to follow, 3500 is not a hard-and-fast number in most cases.
Dr. Arya M. Sharma claims that a person’s energy requirements increase as he or she gains weight, resulting in the need for more calories in order to continue putting on pounds. As such, a person who used to need only 2,000 calories per day might now require 2,100, and would not notice an excess until reaching that number.
The opposite is true when losing weight. Consuming 500 fewer calories each day will only result in a loss of one pound or so each week for as long as it takes the body to decrease its daily caloric requirement by that number. As hormonal changes kick in and the metabolism slows, you will find yourself needing fewer calories than before, and this is what often accounts for the “plateau” in weight loss.
Fat vs. Muscle Gains
Instead of asking “How many calories does it take to gain a pound?” you should probably be questioning the amount needed for gaining fat vs. muscle, as you’ll need different amounts for each. One gram of protein contains only four calories, while a gram of fat has a whopping 9 calories. This means that in order to gain one pound of muscle, you need take in only approximately 1,600 calories or so, as compared to around 3,500 for gaining fat. To gain muscle, you must also provide your muscles with the right stimuli (protein, exercise, etc.). If you don’t, you will not obtain the results you desire.
Not all Calories are Equal
The number of calories is not always as important as the type of calories you consume. There are certain factors that affect how quickly calories are burned, including:
- The amount of glucose vs. fructose in a particular food. High levels of fructose can lead to insulin resistance and an increase in abdominal fat.
- Thermic effect, which is the amount of energy needed to digest the food and absorb its nutrients. Research performed in The Netherlands showed that consuming a high protein, moderate carbohydrate diet increases energy expenditure by around four percent.
- A food’s Glycemic Index (GI), as foods with a high GI increase your odds of developing obesity and diabetes.
Read more about good calories vs bad calories here.
How many calories does it take to gain a pound? The answer is not really all that simple. Many things must be considered besides the calorie count if you are to maintain the right weight and increase muscle rather than fat.