Losing weight without considering calories consumption is like driving without stepping on the gas: you can’t do anything. Losing those pesky pounds always goes back to calories, but how do you know how many calories to eat to lose weight? The answer will depend on the person.
To reduce the number on the weight scale, you have to eat fewer calories than usual. It seems to be a simple formula, but it does not mean that it is an easy formula to follow. Weight loss results can be thwarted by cutting too much in the calorie department, cutting too little, or simply not cutting in the right places. That’s why we talked to Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios to clear things up.
How to calculate how many calories you should eat to lose weight
Everyone needs different calories every day, so don’t expect your sweet spot to match your exercise partner or your best friend.
It’s special for you and yourself, because we all have our own Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). According to Healthline, this number can be obtained by using the Harris Benedict formula. The formula is divided by gender.
- Women: 655 + (9.6 × weight in kg) + (1.8 × height in cm) – (4.7 × age in years)
- Men: 66 + (13.7 × weight in kg) + (5 × height in cm) – (6.8 × age in years)
To be more accurate, you should multiply your BMR by another number based on your level of activity. So multiply by:
- 1.2 if you are sedentary (little to no exercise)
- 1.375 if you’re lightly 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?
If you subtract 500 calories a day (or 3500 calories a week) from that number, you can lose a pound of fat a week, White said.
For example, if you’re a woman with a BMR of 1500 and you’re a moderately active woman, that’s 2325 calories a day. As White said, to lose a single digit on your weight scale, you need to lose 500 calories from your total calories. That means 1825 calories a day.
Could you eat too few calories to lose weight?
But don’t let your calories fall below 8400 a week. That’s about 1200 calories a day, which, according to White, has 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 binge eat,” he says, something he refers to as starvation mode.
A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine explores this further, because in this study, people on a strict low calorie diet can’t lose weight for a long time, because their body produces an excess of cortisol, a hormone that allows your body to store fat, especially abdominal fat.
Don’t let your diet backfire. Pay attention to and follow BMR guidelines to help you get the right amount of calories every day.