How Many Calories Can I Eat and Still Lose Weight?
“What am I not able to eat on a weight loss diet?” I hear this question all the time. But let’s talk about what you can eat instead! There has long been a misconception that in order to lose weight, we must engage in severely restrictive diets. Not true! In fact, as described by a study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science , reductions in caloric intake alone may not lead to successful or long-term weight loss. So what is the best weight loss program? Further research conducted and published by Medical Clinics of North America demonstrates that in order to achieve long-term weight management success, we must approach the situation with both behavioral and environmental changes in mind.
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.
For different people, the answer is never the same to “How many calories can I eat a day for weight loss?” There is not one cookie cutter approach to weight loss. As featured on the Today Show (How to lose weight: Cut 500 calories a day, lose 1 pound a week (today.com), it is well-documented that a reduction of 500 kcal per day will promote one pound lost per week on average. So, let’s say that a person who generally overeats has a typical daily caloric intake of 3000 kcal per day. In theory, reducing daily intake to 2500 kcal per day initially should promote gradual weight loss. However, most of us have little patience and want what we want immediately. This often results in thinking that more has to be better—meaning more restriction. So instead of starting with a rational caloric level of just 500 kcal below the typical intake, people go crazy with diets as low as 1000 kcal per day. What is the harm in this? This kind of self-starvation can affect hormone levels and suppress one’s natural metabolism, leading to an increased chance of rebound weight gain. In addition, it can also lead to binge eating, associated guilt, and unhealthy compensatory behaviors. This kind of pattern turns us into a hamster on a wheel living a vicious cycle.
Calculating Your Calorie Intake
First of all, before knowing how many calories should I eat a day to lose weight, you would need to know how many calories I need to consume every day to maintain good health and well, keep me 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.
- You start by calculating your basal metabolic rate with the Katch Mcardle Formula:
- BMR = 370 + (21.6 * LBM)
- 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
- And your body fat percentage (BF%) can be calculated or measured through many different methods, the easiest and cheapest one being Skinfold calipers.
- 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 every day to maintain your current weight, 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
Knowing this, how do we start a weight loss journey? What are the best foods for weight loss? The best foods are those that touch on some key components: convenience, budget-friendly, consistent calories, portion control, variety, appropriate macros and balance among food groups. And thus, Clean Eatz was born! Our team is focused on this very thing. Our insight to the impact that crazy schedules, unhealthy societal triggers, quick-fix fad diets and budget constraints can have on weight management led us to become passionate about developing a strategy to promote healthy eating without causing an additional stressor. With nearly 80 fresh food cafes (and growing!) located all over the nation (Locations - Clean Eatz), Clean Eatz is a one-stop shop for meals, smoothies and snacks (Cafe Menu - Clean Eatz). Need catering for office events? We’ve got you covered (Clean Eatz Catering - Delivery Menu from ezCater). In addition, you can build an entire meal plan to be delivered directly to your home (Meal Plan Builder | Custom Meal Plan Delivery - Order Online | Clean Eatz Kitchen!
Now that you have an understanding of how many calories should I eat to lose weight 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.
- 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.
In conclusion, achieving weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight requires understanding the concept of a caloric deficit. It is important to gradually cut calories while ensuring you maintain muscle mass and prioritize your overall health. Calculating your calorie intake based on your basal metabolic rate and activity level can provide a starting point. Aim for a moderate caloric restriction of 100 to 200 calories, ensuring you do not go below your BMR or dip below 1200 calories per day. Focus on consuming sufficient protein, consider incorporating strength training, and monitor various markers of progress beyond just the scale. Remember, sustainable and safe weight loss is key to long-term success.
Is 1200 calories a day good for weight loss?
Consuming 1200 calories a day can be effective for weight loss, but it is important to consider individual factors such as height, weight, activity level, and overall health. Consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian is recommended to determine the appropriate calorie intake for your specific needs.
How do I calculate calories to lose weight?
To calculate calories for weight loss, start by determining your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which represents the calories needed for basic bodily functions. Then, factor in your activity level using a multiplier. Subtracting a moderate calorie deficit from this total can help you achieve gradual and sustainable weight loss. Online calculators and professional guidance can assist in this process.
How many calories are in 1 kg?
One kilogram of body weight is approximately equivalent to 7700 calories. This means that to lose 1 kg of weight, you generally need to create a calorie deficit of 7700 calories through a combination of diet and exercise. However, individual variations and factors may influence weight loss rates.