Your ideal calorie intake for weight loss is more than just guesswork. There are a number of ways to work out how much you need to eat each day to lose weight.
The Energy Equation
If you put more in than you burn off you’ll gain weight.The physics of weight loss are simple. If you put the same amount of energy into your body that you burn off, your weight will stay the same.
If you put less in than you burn off you’ll lose weight.
You can imbalance that equation by eating less and/or burning more calories through exercise.
So What’s Your Ideal Calorie Intake for Weight Loss…?
So, create a negative energy balance of 500 calories a day through eating less and/or exercising more and theoretically you’ll lose 1lb a week, as a pound of fat contains 3,500 calories (oh, if only it were that simple!).The amount of energy your body burns each day is determined by your resting metabolic rate together with any exercise and other physical activities undertaken.
Lean tissue, muscles mainly, burns most of the energy that your body expends each day at rest – your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Around 14 calories per pound at rest.
Your daily calorie requirements will be determined by your RMR and the calories burned by any exercise that you do.
Your RMR will account for around 70-80% of the calories you burn each day.
As men generally have more muscle than women they generally have greater energy requirements – they burn more energy and need to eat more each day to maintain their weight.
By working out how much lean tissue you have you can determine how many calories your body burns each day and what your calorie intake for weight loss is.
The simplest and most convenient way to do this is by using a body fat monitor, widely available on the internet.
Here’s an example.
A person with 100lbs of lean tissue will burn around 1,400 calories a day. Add on some activity calories, say 500 calories and that makes 1,900 calories. Eat 500 calories a day less and that’s 1lb of weight lost over the course of a week.
A calorie intake for weight loss of 1,400 calories
A person with 200lbs of lean tissue will burn around 2,800 calories a day. Add on 700 calories for exercise and that’s 3,500 calories. Eat 1,000 calories a day less and that’s 2lbs a week lost.
A calorie intake for weight loss of 1,500 calories.
Now, 1,000 calories a day is the absolute minimum that anyone should eat each day on a diet lasting more than a few weeks. 1,200 calories a day for the average woman and 1,400 calories for the average man is the healthy minimum for a long term weight loss programme.
A safe, healthy weight loss target is 1-2lbs a week. That’s about as much body fat as most people can burn each week.
Therefore a person with less muscle and doing less exercise will burn less than someone with more muscle who exercises regularly.
Set a Realistic Target…
Be realistic about how much weight you’ll be able to lose each month.
We had a client who was 5’2″, weighed 147lbs and wanted to weigh 110lbs. She was 50 and had a body fat percentage of 36%. She was fairly sedentary and was burning around 1,800 calories a day.
Now, she fully expected to lose 4lbs a week!
Do the math. She would need to have burned around 14,000 calories a week less than she was eating to lose that.
She was only burning 12,600 calories a week as it was!
It normally takes years to gain weight and it’s not going to come off over night.
Eat a bit less and exercise a bit more each day and you can comfortably lose a pound or so each week. That’s over 52lbs in a year!
As a guide, women should aim for 1,200-1,500 calories a day, men 1,400-1,800 a day to lose 1-2lbs a week. Use our calorie calculator for a more accurate estimate.
But don’t get obsessed with calorie counting!