The debate of how many calories a person should eat to lose weight has raged on for years in weight loss circles. In reality, it’s not that hard to figure out. But much anything in life is worth going after – it takes some hard work, effort, and discipline to get results. If you’d like to know how many calories you should eat to lose weight continue reading.
The key to determining the number of calories to lose is to create a calorie deficit. Eating fewer calories will create a calories deficit. A calorie is simply a unit of energy provided by food. A calorie deficit means our body is burning more energy than it consumes.
To figure out how many calories to eat, depends on how much weight you want to lose in a given period of time. For example, if you want to lose one pound in a week you have to run a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day. That’s because one pound is equal to 3,500 calories. A deficit of 500 over a period of 7 days results in losing 3,500 calories. The math looks like this:
500 calorie deficit x 7 days = 3,500 calories.
Now that you know this information, you also need to know what is called you basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number that indicates how much energy your body uses if you stayed in bed all day. Once you know that you can accurately calculate how many calories you need to consume to create your desired deficit.
It is very costly to figure out your exact basal metabolic rate, but most people fall within a range based upon their sex and height. To know your basal metabolic rate, use our calculator (link opens in a new page).
There are two ways to create a calorie deficit: restrict caloric intake by eating less and burn more by exercising. Most people use a combination of the two. Experts say that a healthy weight loss number is 2-4 pounds per week. To create a deficit of two pounds per week a 5’5” female would have to create a 1,000 calorie deficit per day. That means she could restrict calories of 600 per day and burn an extra 400 via exercise or some combination thereof.
Let’s say her average BMR was 1,300 and she consumed 1,800 calories per day. That means she would be running a 500 surplus. She could lower her calories down to 1,300 and then burn 1,000 through exercise. A pretty tough feat indeed.
There simply isn’t one simple number to answer how many calories you should eat to lose weight because people’s diet, exercise level, and basal medabolic rate vary. The best advice is to use the mean BMR provided by the chart and then stick to a weight loss goal of 1-4 pounds per week. Never starve yourself, especially if you are exercising. Rememeber that it’s going to take time for the pounds to decrease.
Once you establish all of the pieces of data you need, then track the results. This way you can see if you need to tweak the number of calories taken in and burned. Try weighing yourself a couple of times per week to track your progress. Keep in mind that the more active you are and healthier you eat, your BMR will increase.