If you’re asking the question…
“How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?”
… then you’re already one step ahead of the game, because it’s clear you recognize that the key to shedding the pounds successfully cannot be found in a bottle or pill, and that you’re going to have to make some changes to your diet (and hopefully) your lifestyle, in order to do so.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:
- Simple solutions for determing calories are not necessarily the best.
- Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) determines your “base” number of calories. Let’s figure out yours.
- What to do with your BMR after you’ve got it.
- How to determine your daily calorie requirement.
- How to figure out how much you should reduce that number to shed pounds.
- Why what you eat is almost as important as how much you eat!
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So, How Many Calories Do I Need to Eat?
Well, here’s the thing…
Many popular diet plans and programs use very simple parameters because they are the easiest to work with and eliminate all complexity from calorie counting…
1200 calories / day for women
1800 calories / day for men
What’s the Problem with Simplifed Calorie Counts?
In a nutshell, they work on averages.
Like the 130 lbs. women who sits behind a desk all day.
Or a 170 lbs. man, who works in a cubicle.
What if you’re a 150 lbs. women who runs a daycare and spends all day chasing around 3-year olds?
What if you’re a 240 lbs. man who works on a construction site?
While adhering to these simple metrics will almost undoubtedly result in a daily caloric deficit for most people – which is an absolute necessity for weight loss – the problem is for a LOT of people, these numbers will result in a very significant caloric deficit.
Well, so what, right? I mean… you’ll just lose more weight, faster, right?
- An excessive reduction in calories will cause your metabolism to slow to a crawl, making it even harder to lose weight.
- You’ll require an excessive amount of will power because you’ll almost definitely be hungry.
- You may find yourself dragging your ass and having absolutely no energy to get through your day.
You’ve probably heard that losing weight successfully is not about dieting, but about lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes you can sustain.
These you cannot.
Sure, you can grit your teeth and endure it for a while, but eventually you’ll be able to endure it no longer. And that when your diet abruptly ends.
A Slightly Better Solution
… is to take your weight, and multiple that by 10.
That’s your daily caloric intake. You divide that up into 5-6 small meals and snacks, and you’re good to go.
While this is better than 1200 / 1800 calories solution mentioned earlier, it’s still not ideal.
The Solution: Your Personal Caloric Requirement
So here’s the crux of the matter; the number of calories you will need to lose weight will vary according to your physical size, age, sex, and activity levels.
In other words, your number will be different than my number, your spouse’s number, your neighbor’s number, and so on.
Determing Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Don’t be intimidated by the term; all basal metabolic rate” means is the number of calories you need to sustain yourself at rest – the amount of energy you need to keep your body’s processes functioning, without factoring in additional calories for your daily activities.
In other words, if spent the entire day sitting on the couch and not moving, you’d still burn some calories. Your BMR is this number.
To determine your BMR, you can use a simple calculator, like this one…
OK, I Got my BMR. Now What?
Now that you know how many “base” calories you require, you need to adjust this number based on your activity level.
For you guys that care, the equation used for this is called the “Harris Benedict equation”, and the way it works is simple…
Take your BMR and multiply it by…
- 1.2 if you are sedentary and perform little or no exercise, and move very little during the day.
- 1.375 if you engage in light exercise (i.e., walking) or sports 1-3 times per week.
- 1.55 if you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week).
- 1.725 if you engage in hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week.
- 1.9 if you are extremely active, engage in very hard, multiple-session workouts or sports, and have a physical job.
Let’s Figure Out Your Number…
Let’s suppose our “subject” is a 30 year old 155 lbs. women who is 5.5 feet tall. Our calculator tells us that her BMR is 1489 calories per day. She’s not really active, but she walks 3 times a week, and plays with her kids when she can.
As a result, we’re going to multiple her BMR by 1.375…
1489 X 1.375 = 2047 calories
So our subject’s daily caloric requirement is 2047 calories.
To find your caloric requirement, take your BMR number you obtained earlier, and multiply it by the appropriate number just above.
That’s YOUR number.
Of course, I’m not going to make you do the math. Just plug your BMR into this calculator to determine your daily requirements for calories…
The Harris Benedict equation is pretty accurate with the exception of especially muscular individuals (it will under-report calories) and the very obese (it will over report them). For everyone else, it’s a good place to turn for determine how many calories you need to lose weight.
So… How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
That’s a good question.
Weight loss is caused by a caloric deficit – and by that I mean consuming fewer calories than you require.
A pound of stored fat is the equivalent of roughly 3,500 calories.
To create a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories over the course of a week, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories per day.
So, working with our same 30 year old woman…
2047 – 500 = 1547
So the amount of calories our subject would need to eat per day is 1547 (in order to sustain weight loss of a pound/week).
And your number?
Take the TOTAL calorie count you determined in the previous step (by multiplying your BMR and the Harris Benedict multiple together) and subtract 500 from that.
Do not subtract 500 from your BMR.
That’s too low.
Calories… A General Rule…
Subtract 500 calories from your daily caloric requirement.
It’s not a good idea to reduce your caloric requirements much more…
- It’s not sustainable in the long term.
- It will slow your metabolism to a crawl, making further weight loss even more difficult.
- You will be hungry, tired and cranky.
If you’re looking for more dramatic weight loss, the key is to combine a reduction in calories with an increase in exercise.
In other words, if you wanted to lose two pounds per week by creating a caloric deficit of 1,000 calories per day, you’d do it half through diet (by reducing calories by 500) and half through exercise.
This is really the only sustainable way to lose more than a pound of weight per week.
What you eat is almost as important as how much you eat!
While weight loss is all about creating that all important caloric deficit, I would argue that what you eat makes a big difference too.
Certain foods – like simple carbohydrates, for example – have a dramatic effect on the key hormones involved in the storage and deposition of fat, so a good diet plan, focused around the right foods, is essential to your success. So yeah…
Knowing exactly how many calories you need is just the starting point.
Your diet is what’s gonna make or break you. It’s where the rubber hits the road.
If I can make a suggestion?
Have a look at our review of the “Every Other Day Diet” by Jon Benson.
Like the title suggests, you only diet every other day.
No diet is easy, but not being 100% deprived of your favorite foods is always a great thing, in my humble opinion.
Here’s the link to the review again.
Or you can check out the diet directly by clicking here!