Calories – The Cost Benefit Analysis

We all know the lesser the better when it comes to food and the higher the better when it comes to workout. But, it’s not always possible to stick to that rule. The good news is you don’t have to avoid eating calorie rich food or struggle to burn 50 extra calories all your life. Just learn to do a bit of cost-benefit analysis and reach your weight-loss goal effortlessly. Read on to learn how you can make food and exercise a matter of your choice and not a compulsion or a guilt-trip…


Start with an assessment of your daily energy requirement

You can go to this website to get an idea of what your total calorie intake for a day should be based on your age, current weight and weight loss goals. Remember this is the net calories your body should get in a day. Which means this is calorie intake minus the calories burnt. For example, if your daily prescribed daily calorie is 1400, you can eat around 1700 calories as long as your workout burns 300 calories. Big relief, right? This is the 1st step to the cost benefit analysis…


Don’t be obsessed – Just have a general idea

Now that you know how much you should eat and workout, let that only be a general guide. Don’t start keeping track of every calorie gained or lost…. Else your mind would get so obsessed with calories that you would neither relish a good meal nor concentrate on the workout. When you are just starting out, you can probably monitor the calories more closely. Look at the calories per serving and also the fat calories per serving. Sometimes the calories may not be much but it might be all fat calories – like in olives – and this needs to be factored in.

Follow this practice only till you get a hang of the amount of calories in different foods. Don’t get bogged down by it. It will be difficult to let go if you have followed it for too long. It should be something that comes naturally to you after a while. And it’s ok if it’s just an approximation. It doesn’t have to be accurate.


Average it out over the week

Now that you know the calorie content in the foods that you eat, the next step is to assess the amount of workout needed to burn those calories such that your net calorie intake is not too different from what’s prescribed for you. A more fun way to do it is to make sure your weekly calorie intake is maintained. For instance if you have a slice of pizza and your net intake for the day happens to be 1500 cal, it’s perfectly alright. Some other day in the week, you can probably limit your net calorie intake to 1100. So you average out your calories over the week instead of strictly adhering to the exact same number each day.


What is Cost-Benefit analysis

When it comes to calculations, the satisfaction you receive from a piece of chocolate would be benefit and the corresponding effort you would need to put in your workout to burn those calories is the cost. Simple, isn’t it? So, the next time you are tempted to reach out for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream just think of how much you love it v/s. the extra 30 min of running you would have to do that day. If you feel it’s worth the extra effort then by all means enjoy your favorite ice cream. But, if you feel the effort is too much compared to the satisfaction you would get from the ice cream, then don’t have it. As long as you understand the consequences or the effort you would have to put in to burn the calories gained, there is nothing stopping you from eating all your fav foods. Once you get into this routine, you will be amazed to find out not only how many things don’t tempt you that much anymore but also how you don’t feel guilty when you do indulge yourself once in a while. It’s a win-win either way.


How it works

It’s all about being aware of what you eat and understanding the implications of any extra calories. If you don’t realize how high the calorie content of some foods is or effort involved in burning those calories, then there is nothing stopping you from munching when you are bored or picking up a pack of chips to go with your lunch. And trust me, a lot of stuff have disproportionately high amount of calories and if you don’t take a moment to assess the benefits against the cost, you will never realize why things aren’t going anywhere for you. For instance, my friend who was a big fan of Mc D’s thick shake always ordered the large shake. One time when I happened to be with him, I just casually mentioned the calories it contained (1300!!!!). He was completely stunned. It’s been a year since and he hasn’t touched the thick shake – not even the small one! So, a lot of times, it’s a simple matter of knowing what’s going in your tummy.

And once you get into this cost-benefit routine, all your decisions will be a matter of personal choice. There is no compulsion of any sort. If you are prepared to burn 300 extra calories, go ahead enjoy the pizza slice.



  • Assess your daily energy requirement.
  • Make a conscious effort to find out how many calories are contained in the foods you eat. Compare the satisfaction you would get from that with the amount of workout you would need to do to burn those.
  • If you are prepared to put in the effort, by all means indulge. If not, don’t touch it.
  • Stick to an approximate number and monitor calorie intake on a weekly basis as compared to a daily basis.


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