How Many Calories Should You Eat to Lose Weight?

Eating the right foods and in the right amounts is important. Here’s a guide to how many calories you should eat a day to lose weight safely and effectively.

Man eating a burger.

January 27, 2022

How To Watch Your Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

If you’re looking to lose weight and keep it off, you know that eating the right foods and in the right amounts are crucial to your success. However, knowing exactly how many calories you should eat each day can be confusing. To help clear up some of the confusion around calorie intake, here’s a guide to how many calories you should eat to lose weight safely and effectively, whether you’re trying to burn fat or build muscle mass.

Understanding the Basics

Calories refers to a unit of energy found in food that can be used by your body for many functions. When you're trying to lose weight, it's tempting—and easy—to cut back on calories, but there's more to weight loss than simply cutting out excess food. How many calories you should eat each day depends on your age, sex, and height; it also depends on your activity level. And even if you're not looking to lose weight right now, eating too few calories can cause problems like anemia and muscle wasting so it’s still important to have a handle on how many calories you need each day.

Average Adult Calorie Requirements

The average adult requires around 2,000 calories a day. If you are healthy and physically active, your calorie needs may be higher, whereas people who are ill or overweight will likely need fewer calories per day. It’s worth noting that if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s very difficult (and potentially unhealthy) to significantly lower your calorie intake – most people just end up eating fewer calories as time goes on naturally as they adjust their diet in response to weight loss.

Your calorie needs will depend on your weight, height, age and gender. Your individual calorie requirements are known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and will be different from others of a similar size, age and sex. The good news is that you don’t need to know exactly how many calories you should eat – instead, it’s more important that you eat a balanced diet, which includes plenty of fruits and vegetables alongside proteins and carbohydrates.

The Perfect Body Weight Formula

If you’re looking for a formula for weight loss, there are plenty of apps, diet plans and calculators that claim to offer one. However, these formulas typically make up numbers based on your body weight and age — two factors which aren’t good indicators of how many calories you should eat every day. Instead, our best advice is to determine what an average calorie intake looks like for someone who has a body type similar to yours. Then use that number as a general guide when starting out with your new diet or exercise routine. For example, if you have a larger build: aim for 1,600-2,200 calories per day if you want to lose weight.

3,500 calories equals 1 pound

Simply put, 3,500 calories equals 1 pound. In other words, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less than your body uses each day. To maintain a healthy weight—and avoid gaining it back after losing it—you should aim for a 1,500-calorie deficit each day. This could mean eating fewer calories or burning more through exercise; either way will work, but burning more is preferable since it's impossible (or extremely difficult) to out-eat an unhealthy diet. 

Burn More Calories Than You Consume

Let’s say you consume 2,000 calories per day and want to lose weight. To reach that goal in one week, you would need to create a 500-calorie deficit every single day of that week. Since 500 calories = one pound, that means you would have to burn 500 extra calories every single day of that week. For example:

2,000 calories – 500 calorie deficit = 1 pound lost in 7 days = 3500/7 = 500 calorie deficit per day needed.

Macro Counting

If you want a simple and easy way to lose weight, try counting your macros. It’s possible that you may have heard of macro counting before, but if not, it simply refers to keeping track of how many grams of protein, fat and carbs you consume each day. This is different from traditional calorie counting—where you look at how many calories are in food—because with macro counting, your total caloric intake isn't as important as where those calories come from. For example, 500 calories from lean protein sources like chicken breast or steak would do a lot more for weight loss than 500 calories worth of carbohydrates like pasta or potatoes. Because when it comes down to it, what really matters most for getting results is your diet.

Diet Plans That Work

Any weight-loss diet that gives you fewer than 1,200 calories per day isn’t going to work for most people. Because when the body is given too few calories it goes into starvation mode and slows down your metabolism in an effort to conserve energy. In fact, if you want to lose weight, your best bet is to not eat less but instead consume fewer calories from fat and carbs and more from protein. By restricting yourself to 500 or 600 calories a day, you’ll likely lose a pound or two a week (which amounts to about one pound of fat), though getting closer to 1,000 daily calories should lead to faster results as long as they come primarily from healthy sources.

Lose Weight with Alfie

With Alfie, your health coach will help you determine which foods you should eat to meet your weight loss goals and how to balance that with your daily activity levels. Lifestyle changes like these, combined with medication and community based competition, can help you lose 15% of your weight in under one year. Check if you're eligible today! 

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