Finally, the greatest question in the universe regarding dieting has come:
“How many calories should i eat to lose weight?“
It’s a fact that most people learning how to count calories, are going in the right direction with their fat loss efforts. Instead of relying on nonsense diets, they start counting their caloric intake. Example of nonsense diets:
- Low carbohydrate diets
- Juicing for weight loss
- Low fat diets
- Insulin: glucagon ratios,
- Special 1 week carrot diet
- and many more
The reality is that your body will NOT use the body fat he stored unless you burn more calories than you are eating.
This means your caloric intake should go down and/or your activity levels should go up.
Most of the time, when the question “how many calories per day should I eat to lose weight?” arises, the usual answer you can find in common dieting books is some invented formula or “magic bullet”.
The main reason why these diets work is because they trick you into eating less food. Fundamentally, you will eat less, your energy intake will go down, and you will lose fat.
Sadly, most formulas don’t even work because every body is fundamentally different.
Our lifestyle is different, our activity levels are different, our energy metabolism is different, age, sex, and many other variables that even the most complex formula can’t take into account.
Should a 200 pounds athletic male eat the same calories as a 155 pounds female with no fitness background?
The logical and practical answer is no.
The fundamental rule
- If calorie intake > calorie expenditure => weight gain
- If calorie Intake = calorie expenditure => weight maintenance
- If calorie intake < calorie expenditure => weight loss
These are the main points you should take into account when you count calories.
When you start counting calories, include everything, even small snacks.
When you track calories, just take into account TOTAL CALORIC INTAKE and ditch the whole marconutrient % ratios or how many grams of protein, carbohydrate, fats you get.
Your body only cares about calories!
Tracking every single day is not mandatory. After a while, you develop eye tracking which will make it easier for you
Don’t change your caloric intake too frequently because your body needs some time to show significant fat loss.
In case you don’t see progress, I suggest you to wait 1-2 weeks before readjusting the calories you eat.
Before we dive straight into formulas, here is the basic terminology that will help you understand how to count calories in food:
- TEF aka thermic effect of feeding, refers to calories your body consumes through heat. Meal frequency doesn’t matter here.
- BMR aka basal metabolic rate refers to how many calories you should eat in order to maintain your bodyweight in case you were in comatose
- NEAT aka non-exercise associated thermogenesis refers to daily calorie expenditure other than exercise
- EAT aka exercise associated thermogenesis refers to how many calories you consume when you exercise
- TEE aka total energy expenditure – self explanatory
- RMR refers to resting metabolic rate which equals BMR
Let’s take a look at the most popular calorie tracking formulas and websites, and what is the best way to find your starting point.
As a side note, these formulas are more accurate if you are over 18 years old. In case you are under that age, your body expends more energy because it uses it for growth.
More Complex Calorie Estimation Formulas
Mifflin St. Jeor – overestimates caloric needs in overweight
- Women : BMR=[9,99x(kg) WEIGHT] + [6,25x (cm) HEIGHT] – [4,92x(years) AGE] – 161
- Men: BMR=[9,99x(kg) WEIGHT] + [6,25x (cm) HEIGHT] – [4,92x(years) AGE] +5
Harris Benedict Formula – created in 1919, quite inaccurate
- Women: BMR=655+[9,6x(kg) WEIGHT ] + [1,8x(cm) HEIGHT ] – [4,7x(years) AGE]
- Men: BMR=66+[13,7x(kg) WEIGHT ] + [5x(cm) HEIGHT ] – [6,76x(years) AGE]
Katch McArdle – If you know your BF% then this formula is quite accurate
- BMR =370+(21,6xLBM)
- LBM=[KG x (100-BF (bodyfat) %)] / 100
These formulas calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate). If you want to find your total caloric intake, you should multiply the results with an activity variable.
- 1,2 = If you are a sedentary person (you have a desk job)
- 1,3-1,4 = You are lightly active (1-3 times a week exercise and light activity)
- 1,5-1,6 = If you are moderately active (3-5 times a week exercise and moderate daily activity)
- 1,7-1,8 = Very active (3-6 times a week exercise and demanding daily activity)
- 1,9-2,2 = Active to the extreme level (very hard physical job or endurance athlete)
How Accurate Are These Caloric Formulas ?
They are created just to get you past that hard starting point.
Not everybody likes math, and not everybody likes to use complicated formulas to find out what they need to do.
The approach I usually use for me and my clients is always a flexible one just like I always treated dieting and training.
I will detail my personal caloric counting strategy which is faster, easier, and gave me great results.
Simple Calorie Estimation Formula
The easiest way to get your approximate maintenance calories is take your weight (lb) and multiply it by 14-16 times.
No Bs Formula: 14-16 calories/lb.
Why 14-16 calories/lb ?
RMR estimates start from 10 for women and 11 for men (10-11 calories/lb)
TEF – accounts for approximately 10% of total caloric intake => +1 calories/lb for women and men
EAT – accounts for approximately 30% of the RMR cal/lb which => +3-4 calories/lb
Total: 14-16 calories/lb
NOTE: If you are not physically active, I would use the 14 calories/ lb as a starting point.
Applying What You’ve Learned
This is a little exercise to see each formula in action. so we will estimate caloric requirements for a 25 year old male at 200 lb (90kg), 6 feet height (185 cm) with sedentary lifestyle, sitting around 20% body fat.
Mifflin St. Jeor Formula
899+1156+123+5=2183 x 1.2 = 2619
Harris Benedict Formula
66+1233+900-169= 2030 x 1.2 = 2436
Katch McArdle Formula
370 + 1555 = 1925 x 1.2 = 2310
Simple Calorie Estimation Formula
200 lb x 14 calories/lb = 2800
The estimation range is 2310 – 2800 calories/day for maintenance. This means the calories he needs to eat in order to maintain are somewhere between those numbers.
I always like to take the middle approach which is both safe and viable in the long term.
What I experienced working, is cutting 20% of these estimated calories. Subtract 20% and try that number. In our case:
- 2800 calories/day x 0.20 = 560
- 2800 calories/day – 560 = 2240
In this case, the answer to your question “how many calories should I eat to lose weight?”, would be:
Estimate your maintenance calories (as explained) and substract 20% from there.
What you should look for is ~1-2 lb of true fat loss per week. This is the sweet spot which also allows you to keep as much muscle mass as you can while dieting.
What If Fat Loss Stops?
Simple: just lower your caloric intake by 20% more from that lowered value and diet for 1 more week.
Continuing with the example I started, we will have:
- 2240 x 20% = 448
- 2240 – 448 = 1792
Now you should know how many calories per day you should eat in order to lose weight and the single thing that remains for you to do now is to start applying what you’ve learnt.
If this article helped you, share it even with one friend to help him lose weight.
That being said, what is the most unusual thing you tried before in order to lose weight?
PS: Now you can eat your bowl of cereals any time of the day, as long as you check your calories. Bon appetit.