How many calories should you eat every day to lose weight?

How many calories should you eat every day to lose weight?

Staff Writer
6 minute read

How many calories should you eat every day to lose weight?

If you’re on a journey to lose some fat, get in better shape and maintain a healthy weight you probably are considering some form of dieting and/or calorie restriction, and you would be absolutely right about that approach. However, if you're not sure how to do it, how many calories you should really be eating and how many calories you should be cutting or if you believe that the least amount you eat the better then today’s article is for you.

Read on to learn why you should be in a caloric deficit, how many calories that means and how to do it right to achieve your weight loss goals in a safe manner that doesn’t compromise your health but actually makes it better.

Caloric deficit the key to weight loss

You can do all the hours of exercise you want, get all the supplements in the world and rub all the magic lotions and cream on your belly you can afford all day long, but in the end there is only one way to lose weight and that is a caloric deficit, which basically means burning more calories every day than those you consume whether it is by consuming less calories from your meals or by increasing the energy you expend with exercise movement and a healthy metabolism.

However, it is important to note that it is not as simple as continuously restricting your calories more and more every time wishing you keep losing weight. Your body is quite good at becoming efficient with the fuel you give it so it might fight against your fat loss goals by slowing your metabolic processes and by losing muscle instead of fat, both things are bad for you and we want to avoid them at all costs. So maintaining a moderate caloric deficit that allows you to stay healthy, burn fat and preserve muscle is the goal.

Calculating your calorie intake 

First of all you would need to know how many calories you do need to consume everyday to maintain good health and well, keep you alive. Then you can start thinking about gradually cutting some calories out.

This might sound complicated as it requires some math with formulas that take into consideration your weight (in kg), your body fat percentage, your activity level and a couple mathematical constants. 

  1. You start by calculating your basal metabolic rate with the Katch Mcardle Formula:

BMR = 370 + (21.6 * LBM)

  1. Your Lean body mass (LBM) refers to your body’s mass without the fat, which can be calculated by subtracting your body fat weight from your total weight (in Kg):

LBM= (1- BF% expressed as a decimal numeral) * total body weight

  1. And your body fat percentage (BF%) can be calculated or measured through many different methods, the easiest and cheapest one being Skinfold calipers.

  1. Once you know your BMR you multiply it by your activity level modifier as follows:

  • By 1.2 if you exercise 1 to 3 hours per week

  • By 1.35 if you exercise 4 to 6  hours per week

  • By 1.5 if you train vigorously 6 or more hours per week

So for example if you’re a 200 lbs male (90 kg) with 20% body fat who trainings 4 days a week, your calculations would look like these:

BMR = 370 + (21.6 * 72) =1925

LBM = (1 - 0.2) * 90 = 72

Daily Calories = BMR * 1.35 =2600

As you can see from the calculation you would need to consume 2600 calories to maintain your current weight and you should start with a caloric deficit from that point down to start losing weight.

If all of these seem a bit complicated, fear not as nowadays it is quite easy to do this process  with online calculators where you input your data and get an estimate of the calories you would need to consume everyday to maintain your current weight, like this one or you can let us do the calculations for you and help with your meal plans. From that starting point you can start cutting your calories to stimulate weight loss.

How much to cut to lose weight in a safe manner

We all want to reach our goals as fast as possible and cutting a lot of calories to get there faster seems like the way to go, however that is not the best approach as that can cause damage to our bodies and health. Instead a moderate restriction that allows us to lose 0.5 to 1 lbs of muscle per week is more desirable to maintain good health and to make the journey sustainable and easier to maintain in the long run.

A good way to start is with a caloric restriction of 100 to 200 calories for a couple of weeks and make sure you stay on that rate of 0.5-1 lbs of loss per week. You can keep adjusting this number but try not to go on a deficit higher than 500 calories, and definitely don’t go under your BMR number and never go under 1200 calories per day as it can cause serious health issues like metabolic damage, extreme hunger, malnutrition, hormonal disruptions, muscle loss, mood disturbances and menstrual irregularities.

You can check our article here to understand more of why it is not a good idea to lose fat faster than that rate.

Some extra tips

Now that you have an understanding of how many calories you should be getting every day here are a few final tips to make your journey more sustainable and even more effective.

  • Protein is of paramount importance to make sure you preserve as much muscle mass while on a caloric deficit, as a general rule aim for 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, 1 gram of carbs per pound, and 0.2 grams of fats per pound. If you’re not sure how to plan and prep your meals, let us help you and check out our great weight loss meal plans here

  • To make sure you don’t lose muscle while in a caloric deficit, research shows that coupling your efforts with a sound strength training program is the best approach. You can check our training articles here if you’re not sure where to start.

  • Again, start with a moderate restriction of 100 calories and if after a couple of weeks of your caloric deficit you’re not losing weight at the desired rate you can increase the restriction by 100 calories.

  • Keep in mind there are other markers of progress in your fat loss journey if the scale is not moving like: your clothes fitting better, how you look in the mirror, your energy levels and your sleep quality, Keep an eye on all of those to make adjustments on your calorie intake.

  • If you had a lot of weight to lose from the beginning, the scale might move a bit faster at first, at a rate of 2 to 3 pounds a week, but that will soon stabilize and you should remain, in the long run, on a moderate rate of 0.5-1 lbs of weight loss every week or every two weeks.

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