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Should You Go for a 1,200-Calorie Diet?

When it comes to getting rid of extra weight, 1,200 calories a day seems like the magic number. There are a plethora of health magazines and websites that feature diets with that exact amount of calories. Even the National Institute of Health (NIH) published a dietary plan with that many calories. Every month, people from around the world search the term 1,200-calorie diet on Google. Let’s delve deeper into what this hype is all about.

Why 1,200 calories

For an average person, 1,200 calories is that minimum recommended number they can consume in a day that doesn’t have a negative impact on health. Getting anywhere below 1,200 calories a day can deteriorate health and lead to nutritional deficiencies, explains Justine Roth, a certified nutritionist from New York City.

Plus, while a low-cal diet can really help you lose excess weight in the very beginning, all of the pounds you lost will eventually return. Roth explains that the fewer calories you consume, the slower your metabolic rate will be. She likened the situation to a car running on low gas – it’s going to not go as fast when you push on the pedal, and the air conditioning may not work that well because it’s trying to conserve all of its fuel. The body does something similar to this, it’s not going to speed up burning calories if you aren’t giving it enough to do so.

Herein lies the catch

It has to be noted that very few individuals among us are the “average” person. Most of us are either smaller, bigger, physically active, physically inactive, older or younger, which are some of the factors that influence our ability to shed off pounds.

You may then wonder what’s the ideal caloric goal for you. First things first, let’s begin with how many calories you would need in order to maintain the weight you have now. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,  men need anywhere between 2,000 and 3,200 calories daily. On the other hand, women have to consume 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day to maintain their current weight.

That’s a big range and the right number depends on a variety of factors such as activity levels, age, levels of lean mass, and body size. The lean mass we mentioned is everything in your body mass that doesn’t consist of fat. The larger the people, the more calories they burn, even when they aren’t performing any type of physical activity, says Marie Spano, a certified dietician for Atlanta Hawks basketball team.

How many calories should you consume

According to Spano, the best way to estimate your caloric needs is to perform a simple calculation based on your level of activity;

  • People who are lightly active, should multiply their current weight in lbs by 17 if they are men or by 16 if they are women.
  • Moderately active persons who cycle or perform other intense exercises more than five times a week should multiply their weight in pounds by 19 if they are men or by 17 if they are females.
  • Heavily active individuals who play team sports more than five times a week are to multiply their weight by 23 if males or by 20 if females. Now do the calculations.

Once you have calculated how many calories you need to maintain your current weight, subtract 250 to 500 calories from that amount of calories. Consuming 250 to 500 fewer calories than recommended should result in losing up to two pounds a week.

Should you go the twelve hundred way

Not to digress from the topic of 1200-calorie diets. While such dietary plans are okay, you shouldn’t stick to them forever to lose weight. Experts advise that the twelve-hundred-calorie diets should be done temporarily, being best suited for those who don’t need many calories to begin with. Such low-calorie intake mostly benefits people who are really looking forward to seeing immediate weight loss results. And the initial loss of excess pounds powered by the diet plans can be a motivation for further downscaling of the number on the weight scale.

Keep in mind to always consult your doctor before beginning any diet, specially diets based on calorie intake. And when you commence such a nutrition plan, stick to it for no more than two weeks. You will need to increase your intake of calories after two weeks to boost your metabolism.

That, however, doesn’t mean you should return to your old eating habits because that will ultimately lead to the notorious yo-yo effect.

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