I get this question a lot:
"How many calories should I eat to lose weight?"
Most people assume that the fewer calories they eat, the faster they'll lose weight.
Theoretically, it works, but the state your body enters after a few days of eating so few calories leaves your body craving more food.
Your body fights back when you cut your calories too hard. You also live in a society where food is readily accessible, so you have to rely on your sheer willpower to adhere to your diet.
As much as I would like to believe that your willpower could get you through it, I've experienced it myself. I failed because a 1200 calorie diet is not sustainable.
So how many calories should you eat to lose weight?
Read on to find out!
What Is a Calorie Deficit?
First thing's first, let me accurately define a calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit is when you consume fewer calories than your total daily energy expenditure.
Your body burns a certain number of calories per day to perform vital tasks like digesting food, using your brain, moving your body, and repairing cells.
If you feed your body too many calories, which are thermodynamic units of energy, your body stores the extra energy to use later. This energy storage is adipose tissue or body fat.
If you don't feed your body enough calories, your body uses the stored energy to function.
A good approximation of how many calories you burn each day is to multiply your body weight, in pounds, by the number 15.
For example, a 200-pound person needs about 3000 calories to function because 200 x 15 = 3000.
A pound of body fat equals about 3500 calories, so aiming to lose about a pound or two of body fat per week is a sustainable goal.
The number 15 assumes you get some kind of activity in daily. If you work an office job and don't move around much throughout the day, use the number 14.
How Many Calories to Lose Weight
To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit that is both effective and realistic.
I recommend a calorie deficit anywhere from 1700-2100 calories per day. This calorie range works for most people.
You need the calorie deficit to be realistic. If it is not, your body will fight against your dieting endeavors.
Your hunger will spike, your cravings will skyrocket, you probably won't sleep well, and your energy levels will plunder.
Furthermore, as I mentioned previously, you will be left with nothing but your willpower to maintain your diet.
When our ancestors went through periods of starvation, they didn't have to rely on their willpower to say no to food because it wasn't available.
If you are reading this on a computer or smartphone, you almost certainly have access to food.
By the way, a 1200 calorie diet is quite close to a starvation level calorie intake. After a couple of days, your body will fight back.
I have experienced this myself, even cutting my calories to about 1500 calories daily. Trust me when I say that you will not successfully follow a 1200 calorie diet for long.
Weight Loss Calculator
If you would like a calculation to use, multiply your body weight, in pounds, by the number 10 or 11.
The result is the number of calories you should eat daily for a moderately aggressive calorie deficit.
Moderately aggressive means that you are eating enough calories to be able to adhere to the diet for a couple of months. Still, it is low enough to get you quick results.
If you weigh more than 200 pounds, use the number 10. If you weigh less than 200 pounds, use the number 11.
The reason is that the less body fat you carry, the harder a calorie deficit is to sustain. Contrarily, the more body fat you carry, the easier a calorie deficit is to maintain.
In fact, if you weigh 240 pounds or more, I suggest you simply eat 2400 calories as a calorie deficit. There is little value in eating more than 2400 calories if these are your cutting calories.
- A 220-pound person would eat 2200 calories because 220 x 10 = 2200.
- A 260-pound person would simply eat 2400 calories.
- A 170-pound person would eat 1870 calories because 170 x 11 = 1870.
Alternatively, you can use this calorie calculator to determine how many calories you should eat per day.
I suggest you set your activity level to moderate and follow the standard weight-loss option.
DO NOT FOLLOW THE EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS RECOMMENDATION!
Final Thoughts on Calories for Weight Loss
The best way to lose weight is to simplify your plan to make it easy to follow daily.
Don't complicate things. Make a plan and stick to it for a few months. That action plan will be far more effective than finding the perfect amount of calories to eat.
If you want the stupidly simple method, eat 2000 calories per day and eat 150 grams of protein per day. It doesn't get much more straightforward than that.
If you want to know what foods you should eat, check out my list of sixty healthy foods to eat!
Of course, I highly recommend that you incorporate strength training into your weekly routine because building muscle mass can increase your metabolic rate.
To learn more about strength training, building lean muscle mass, and implementing effective cardio, check out the Axle Fit Course.