How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight? | Ask The Fitness Nerd
Posted Dec 24 2008 8:53am
Looking to lose weight, but not sure how many calories you should eat to achieve your goal? It’s actually not that hard if you know what to do.
Dear Fitness Nerd,
My New Year’s Resolution this year is to lose some weight. Not a lot — about 10-15 lbs. I don’t want to try diet pills or any thing like that. I’d prefer to do it by getting my diet in order, believe it or not. However, I am a little unclear on how I should determine how many calories I should eat to lose weight. I know I’m not supposed to go under 1,000 calories, but how many should I eat? Can you help? Thanks! –Madison H. (San Jose, CA.)
Great question, Madison. How many calories you should eat to maintain, gain or lose weight is one of those fitness and nutrition fundamentals that is pretty easy to figure out, once you know how to go at it.
The simple answer is that most females can lose weight by reducing their calories to around 1500 a day and males, to around 2000 calories a day.
But this isn’t a very scientific, nor particularly effective, method of determining how many calories you should eat each day to lose weight. Taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t take into account a person’s weight, height, age and activity levels which can all impact how many calories you should eat each day. And taking this approach can also cost you muscle, which you always want to try to spare.
A much better approach is to calculate your own specific calorie requirements, and use that to determine how many calories you should consume to lose weight.
Calorie In, Calorie Out: The Key To Weight Loss
While there are all kind of theories out there about tactics to lose weight that don’t necessarily involve calorie-counting (for example, changing your carbohydrate, protein and fat intake ratios like on the South Beach or Ketogenic diets), at the end of the day, the best place to always start is with calorie-in, calorie-out.
Yes, changing your macro-nutrient mix can help for some people, but this violates the 80-20 rule: Focus 80% of your effort on the 20% of tactics that get you the best results. Once you’ve done that, you can try other approaches to shave off those last few pounds. For most people, controlling how many calories they eat will produce 80% of their weight loss results.
The good news is that figuring out how many calories you should eat to lose weight isn’t terribly hard — all you’ll need is bathroom scale, a pen, piece of paper and a connection to the Internet. By the time you are done, you’ll have a pretty good idea of exactly how many calories you should be eating each day to hit your weight loss and fat loss goals.
However, before we get started, it’s important to understand a couple of terms, including what a calorie is, something called your Basal Metabolic Rate (or BMR or “resting metabolic rate”) and your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE.) This will help you make more sense of the discussion going forward.