How to Calculate How Many Calories to Eat to Lose Weight

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You must create a deficit in calorie intake in order to lose weight. It is not difficult to calculate how many calories a day you require to lose weight. Basically, you need to do some simple math equations. There are many calorie calculators that can be found on the World Wide Web as well, if you do not trust your math abilities.

Things You'll Need

  • Calculator or pen and paper
  • Scale to weigh yourself

The Caloric Effect

  • A calorie is basically a measure of heat energy. When the food you have eaten is burned, it then releases a certain amount of heat, or energy. The amount of energy it releases depends on the type of food consumed. The more calories that are in a particular food, then the more energy will be released as it is burned. 3500 calories is equal to one pound.

  • If you want to lose approximately one pound per week, then reduce your calorie intake by approximately 500 calories a day. You may also choose to exercise to burn off those 500 calories a day.

  • The minimum daily caloric intake differs for each individual, since everyone has a different body composition and activity level. Some guidelines have been set by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). They recommend no fewer than 1200 calories per day for women and no fewer than 1800 calories per day for men.

  • Tom Venuto, one of the worlds best bodybuilders and fitness models and author of Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle, writes that you must give up on the entire concept of dieting on very low calories to lose weight.

The Harris-Benedict Formula

  • This formula uses the factors of height, weight, age and sex to determine BMR (basal metabolic rate), making it an accurate calculation in determining your calorie needs. This equation is quite accurate in all but the extremely muscular or extremely obese individual.

    Your BMR is the amount of calories your body burns for all of your daily bodily functions, including digestion, temperature control, circulation, respiration, cell reconstruction and every other metabolic process carried on by your body every day. It does not include exercise.

    Calculate your BMR with the following formula

    Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kilograms) + (5 x height in centimeters) - (6.8 x age in years)
    Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kilograms) + (1.8 x height in centimeters) - (4.7 x age in years)

    Note: 1 inch equals 2.54 cm

         1 kg equals 2.2 pounds
  • Once you know your BMR, calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) by multiplying your BMR by one of the following activity factors.

    Sedentary equals BMR times 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
    Lightly active equals a BMR times 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1 to 3 days per week)
    Moderately active equals BMR times 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3 to 5 days per week)
    Very active equals BMR times 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6 to 7 days per week)
    Extremely active equals BMR times 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports and physical job or two times a day training, marathon, football camp, contests).

  • The result of this formula gives you the number of calories that you can eat every day to maintain your current weight. In order to lose weight, you'll need to eat fewer calories than your resulting TDEE.

    An example for a 30-year-old woman weighing 176 pounds and 5'6" tall and moderately active would be:

    655+ (9.6 x 80) + (1.8 x 168) - (4.7 x 30)
    665+768+302-141 = 1594 calories per day.

    Now multiply the BMR of 1594 by an activity factor to discover TDEE:

    She needs 1594 x 1.55 = 2470.7 calories per day to maintain her previous weight.

Tips & Warnings

  • A healthy way to begin your weight loss plan is to start with the calories required if you were just 5 or 10 pounds less than you are now. For example, if you currently weigh 250 pounds, then estimate the calorie needs for 240 pounds. Restricting yourself too harshly makes it more difficult for you to maintain a weight loss plan. A sensible plan reduces your calorie intake while at the same time keeping it sufficient for your body's requirements. As you become more active, you will burn more calories still. It's just easier for you to become more active than it is to do without more food in order to achieve the same reduction in calories. It really is better for your health to burn the fat than to starve it.
  • When calorie intake is too low, then muscle mass is broken down for energy, your metabolic rate begins to drop after 3 days of eating very low calories, and you risk nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, irritability and sluggishness. Also, you set yourself up to regain the fat if you suddenly begin eating again as you had previously. Try not to lower your calorie intake by more than 1000 calories below maintenance. You should attempt to lower your calories gradually because a sudden drop can cause a slowing of your metabolism. A healthy weight loss goal is to lose no more than 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. Losing more than 2 pounds per week may make it difficult to keep the weight off permanently. You should never cut back to fewer than 1200 daily calories without the supervision of your health care provider. Before starting any weight loss plan or nutritional plan to lose weight, it is recommended that you consult your physician.

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