Status: 25/09/2023, 17:17 p.m.
By: Juliane Gutmann
To stay slim, a lot of calories count. In itself, this is a good way to get a feel for your own diet. But if you eat too little in the long run, you live dangerously.
Do you want to maintain your desired weight? Basically, this is quite simple for healthy adults: You can only consume as many calories as you burn. To do this, you need to know your own basal metabolic rate. This refers to the amount of energy that our body needs every day. You can find out how to calculate your basal metabolic rate here.
However, the basal metabolic rate only includes the energy that our body needs to maintain all vital functions. Daily exercise is not included. For example, if you have a basal metabolic rate of 2,000 calories a day and cycle for an hour, you burn around 2,500 calories per day.
Guideline value for daily energy intake
The Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) recommends that women between the ages of 25 and 51 consume around 1,900 calories a day. Men of the same age should not exceed or fall below 2,400 calories, it adds. The values apply to people with predominantly sedentary work and a rather passive leisure activity. With increasing physical activity, the guideline values increase accordingly, informs the TK.
But in order to stay slim, quite a few people permanently reduce their calorie intake. Can this be healthy?
Less than 1,000 calories a day – the consequences for the body
In order for us to stay fit, healthy and productive, our body must be supplied with all the important nutrients. In addition to the macronutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat, these also include micronutrients such as minerals, vitamins and trace elements. As a rule, these can only be supplied through a balanced and sufficient diet.
If you eat healthily and get enough exercise, you can save yourself calorie counting. © Nataliya Lazaridi/Imago
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Otherwise, there is a risk of nutrient deficiencies and associated physical complaints such as hair loss, forgetfulness, muscle cramps or weight gain despite dieting.
In addition, people who permanently consume only around 900 calories a day, but mathematically need more energy, run the risk of losing vital muscle mass. Because if the body does not get enough calories that it can convert into energy, then it falls back on the reserves available in the body. Once existing fat deposits are broken down, the body finally uses muscle mass for energy production.
What does the body convert calories into?
The body converts calories into energy for the basic functions of life support. This includes breathing, heartbeat, digestion and brain activity. In addition, we need calories from food to keep the body temperature stable. Muscle activity, for example during sports, can only be used optimally if we have sufficient energy available.
Signs that you are taking in too few calories
Signs that indicate a chronic undersupply are brittle nails, permanent fatigue, hair loss and the absence of periods in women. Even a very low weight should be an occasion to increase calorie intake. If you have cold hands and feet all the time, you probably don't take in enough energy in the form of food either. The body uses the little energy supplied mainly to supply blood to vital organs. There is no more energy available for blood circulation in the extremities. Poor blood circulation is not only unpleasant, it is also dangerous because it promotes thrombosis, stroke and heart attack.
This article contains only general information on the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. It is in no way a substitute for a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, individual questions about clinical pictures may not be answered by our editors.