No matter how many different ways people try to lose weight – from drinking gallons of ice water to wrapping themselves in plastic wrap – success comes down to two factors: calories consumed and calories burned. In order to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than your body uses each day to shave off a little bit of weight each week. Sure, there are other factors like your health, exercise, etc, but when it comes to food…this is the KEY! It’s not rocket science. In fact, the concept is quite simple. However, individuals have different calorie requirements, which can make it tricky to figure out your magic number for weight loss.
Step 1 – How to Calculate Calories for Weight Loss
One way to figure out how many calories you need to consume for successful weight loss, use the Percent Rule. Figure out how many calories you currently consume each day – be honest. Use a site like Calorie King or My Fitness Pal and look up the calorie counts. Take that number and multiply it by 10% – 20% to find out how many calories to shave from your diet daily (the percentage would depend on your needs). For example, if you consume 1,800 calories a day and you use 20%, you would need to eat 360 fewer calories each day or 1,440 fewer calories per week.
You need to know your calorie maintenance number (how many calories are keeping you at your current weight) and your calorie deficit goal (your maintenance number – 20%). If you keep eating the amount of calories that it takes to maintain your weight…how will you lose weight?
As you lose weight, you can re-adjust this number because the maintenance number will be smaller. Slowly you can reduce or change your calorie intake. I suggest you adjust for every 5-10 pounds of weight loss as well as goals like muscle gain.
There are 3,500 calories in each pound of fat, meaning you must lose 3,500 through exercise or cutting calories in order to lose a pound. As you can see from the above equation, it’s very difficult to lose a pound a week through diet alone. For this reason, a combination of diet and exercise works best.
|Sample Calorie Maintenance Levels||20% Caloric Deficit|
|2000 calories per day||400 calories below maintenance.|
(1600 calories per day)
|3000 calories per day||600 calories below maintenance.|
(2400 calories per day)
|4000 calories per day||800 calories below maintenance.|
(3200 calories per day)
There are other methods of determining who much you should eat per day, like counting macros or Weight Watchers’ point system, but starting with calories is the easiest for most people.
Step 2 – Don’t forget Carbs, Fats and Protein
For better results, you should also have a goal in mind in terms of carbs, fats and protein. You may also want to think about how many sugar or fiber carbs you eat as well. Here are some sites with calculators that can help you make some decisions.
Examples of nutrient splits: these are just examples…
Very Common: 30-50% carbs 25-35% protein 25-35% fat
High carb: 50% carbs 35% protein 15% fat
Low Carb: 20% carbs 35% fat 45% protein
High Fat Low Carb/Keto: 15% carb 55% fat 30% protein
How Many Calories for Weight Maintenance?
Let’s say you’ve already met your weight-loss goal or you merely want to change your lifestyle and eating habits in order to prevent future weight gain. How many calories should you eat? While there are numerous complicated calculators and formulas that will help you arrive at the perfect number of calories for weight maintenance, it’s impossible for a mathematic equation to factor in all of your individual traits and factors that affect the amount of calories you need to consume. The best way to find your maintenance number is to pay attention and track your calories (food journal). Strive to eat the same amount of calories each day and weigh yourself each week. If the number on the scale changes, adjust your calories accordingly. Be honest with yourself. If you are willing to own up to cheat meals and off the mark eating, your will easily see how eating badly can affect you being able to maintain weight loss.
Calories: How Low Is Too Low?
If you eat too few calories, you metabolic processes could slow down, resulting in a sluggish or slow metabolism and less energy. Most adult women should never consume fewer than 1,100 calories per day, unless they are under a doctor’s care. Even 1200 is too few calories for many people, especially if they are exercising. Doing so can wreak havoc on your body and will result in significant weight gain once you lift the caloric restriction.
To lose weight, focus on consuming fewer calories than your body burns and eating a balanced diet. You can do this through a combination of eating fewer calories and increasing your activity level in an effort to burn more calories. Pay attention to what you are eating so that you’re not getting all carbs and no protein or all protein and no healthy fats. Be smart about any changes you make and talk with you doctor and/or a nutritionist to make sure that your choices are truly healthy. Don’t make huge, sudden drastic changes and huge cuts to the amount of food you’re eating in an effort to starve off the pounds. Balance is key to healthy and successful weight loss.