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How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight

Sep 28, 2009

When starting a diet, the first question that everyone usually asks is, “How many calories should I eat to lose weight?” The good news is that the answer to this question is not a difficult one. A simple calculation can tell help you determine how many calories you need each day in order to lose weight, and you don’t need to drastically reduce your calorie intake in order to shed pounds. 

Determine Your BMI

First, you must determine how many calories you need in order to maintain your current weight. The Harris-Benedict principle allows you to access your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR will tell you the amount of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight; basically, the amount of energy your body needs to perform daily functions, like breathing and keeping your heart beating. In order to lose weight, you will need to cut out or burn off those extra calories your body doesn’t need to perform these functions. Your BMR is also affected by your height, weight, age and sex.

Calculate your BMR with this formula:

Women: 655 + (4.3x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Men: 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

It is important to note that these equations are relevant for adults only, and do not take into account the muscle to fat ratio. Therefore, this equation is very accurate for most, with the exception of those that are very muscular (caloric needs will be underestimated) and those that are very obese (calorie needs will be overestimated).

Calculate Your Activity Level

Once you have determined your BMR, you must then calculate your activity level. If you are sedentary, remaining inactive with little to no exercise for most of the day, multiply your BMR by 20 percent. If you perform light activity, multiply your BMR by 30 percent. For active individuals exercising most days, multiply your BMR by 40%, and for those that are very active, multiply your BMR by 50%. Add this number to your BMR, and you now know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

Determine How Many Calories to Consume to Lose Weight

In order to lose weight, your calorie intake must be less than what it is to maintain your current weight. A healthy weekly goal is to lose a half a pound to two pounds per week. Keep in mind that 3,500 calories is equal to one pound. So, for example, if you wanted to lose one pound a week, you would need to cut 3,500 calories per week or 500 calories per day, ideally through a combination of diet and exercise. Never cut back to less than 1,200 calories per day without medical supervision.

A food diary is a great tool that will help to keep you honest and on track with how many calories you are consuming. Use Fitday's online journal to track what you eat on a daily basis. Remember that weight loss will vary from week to week, especially if you are working out and gaining muscle. Small changes will add up over time and provide you with the important long term results.

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