Losing weight without considering calorie intake is like driving a car without pressing the accelerator: it won’t get anywhere. Shedding those annoying pounds always returns to calories, but how do you know how many calories to eat to lose weight? The answer will depend on the person.
To lower the number on the scale, you must take less than usual. But just because this seems like a simple formula does not mean it is easy to follow. Weight loss results can be frustrated by cutting too much in the calorie department, cutting too little or just not cutting in the right places. That’s why we talked to Jim White, RD, ACSM and the owner of Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios to clarify things.
How to calculate how many calories you should eat to lose weight begins with knowing your BMR.
Daily calorie needs are different for each person, so don’t expect your ideal point to match that of your training partner or your best friend.
It is particular for you and only for you, and that is because we all have our own Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) . According to White, this number can be found with a simple equation:
(10 x its weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x its height in centimeters) – (5 x its age in years) – 161.
For greater accuracy, you must multiply your BMR by another number that is based on your activity level. Then multiply by:
- 1.2 if it is sedentary (little or no exercise)
- 1,375 if you are slightly active (exercise 1-3 days a week)
- 1.55 if you are moderately active (exercise 3-5 days a week)
- 1,725 if you are very active (exercise 6-7 days a week)
How many calories do you need to cut to lose weight?
Depending on where you are there, White says you could lose a pound of body fat a week if you subtract 500 calories per day (or 3,500 calories per week) from this number.
For example, if you are a woman whose BMR is 2,000 and you are moderately active, that is 21,700 throughout the week. To place a digit on the scale, you will need to eliminate 500 calories per day, as White suggests, and eat a weekly dose of 21,200 instead.
But that doesn’t mean you should drink soda and eat brownies regularly as long as you fall below this calorie limit. All calories are not the same, and a study in JAMA found that people who ate a low carb diet lost more weight than those who ate the same calories on a low fat diet. So consider eating healthier fats and make sure that the calories you consume not only add to your weekly goal, but also favor your body in other ways.
Could I eat too few calories to lose weight?
However, be careful not to let your number fall below 8,400 per week. This equates to only 1,200 calories a day and, according to White, can have the opposite effect on your weight.
“When you’re not eating enough calories, your metabolism can slow down, you don’t have enough energy for workouts and you’re more likely to eat too much,” he says, something he refers to as a starvation mode.
A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine only deepens this because people who follow severe low-calorie diets did not lose weight in the long term because their body produced an excess of cortisol, a hormone that tells their body to store fat, especially in The abdomen.
Don’t let your diet be counterproductive that way; consider. Be careful with excessive carbohydrate cutting, too, with our guidelines on How many carbohydrates should you eat a day to lose weight?