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How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day to Lose Weight?

“How many calories should I eat?” That’s the question that have led you to this article. Whether you want to gain weight or lose weight, you will get appropriate solution in the following article.

How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day to Lose Weight?

First, let me tell you, it’s not possible to “eat calories”. We eat food! The food undergoes digestion and metabolism in our body to generate energy, which is stored or consumed by the body for its general functioning. Calorie is the earliest known unit of energy and hence, the general (mis)conception regarding “eating calories” which actually signifies energy intake. However, we will understand it as said the world over, and try to answer the question:

How Many Calories Should I Eat?

The best answer to the question is that it’s relative! But, if you insist on numbers, it’s said that the average requirement for a woman is to consume 1500 calories a day and that for a man, it’s 2000 calories a day. But, this is an unsatisfactory answer. This is completely based on the law of averages, and for those on the extremes, this data is irrelevant.

The simplest answer is, it depends! It actually depends on a few factors. If you’re query is “how many calories should I eat a day?”, then there has to be a purpose for such a question to be put forth. Here, the possible purposes might be to lose weight, gain weight or during convalescence. In such a case, factors like, “how much physically active are you?”, or “what is the percentage of fat in your body?” and “what is your current weight?”, come into picture. It is also possible that you may be absolutely fit and wish to avoid gaining or losing weight.

Most of us have no idea how many calories our body needs just to exist. Before answering the question, “how many calories should I eat”, here is some important information about what a calorie is.

What are Calories?

A healthy diet which consists of all the necessary nutrients, can provide you sufficient calories required by your body for normal metabolism. Calories need to be taken into consideration while thinking about health, fitness, weight, etc, if you want to keep yourself fit and active. Calorie is a unit of energy. Calories are wrongly considered as enemies, as if they are responsible for the excess weight. Calories are nothing but ENERGY that fuel your body, much like gasoline fuels your car. Adequate number of calories are essential for proper working of the lungs, normal beating of the heart, prompt functioning of the brain, efficient processing of the food, etc.

Calorie Count

By definition, “a calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.” The number of calories required to maintain health, may vary from person to person, owing to various factors. But in general, it can be estimated that an adult body requires at least 1000 to 1400 calories to have sufficient energy for the proper functioning of important organs like the brain, heart, and lungs. This minimum number of calories which you need to survive, is known as your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Resting metabolic rate varies greatly, depending upon age, sex, weight and muscle mass. For day-to-day activities, you need more number of calories than your resting metabolic rate (RMR). This extra energy required can be about 400 to 600 additional calories per day. These numbers are general averages and a dietitian can help you determine exactly how many calories your body needs. You may get an exact answer for your question ” how many calories should I eat ” after the physical examination of your body. Dietitians usually recommend an increase or decrease of about 500 calories per day according to the need. There are 3500 calories in one pound. Five hundred calories a day amounts to one pound per week. The amount of calories required by a person to be fit and active, may vary according to the basal metabolic rate and the body mass index.

Calories and Weight Gain

Each day, if you consume more number of calories than those required by your body, you will eventually gain weight. An excess of 3500 calories is required to gain 1 lb of fat. For example, if your body needs 2000 calories a day to maintain its current weight and every day you consume 2500, in one week you would gain 1 lb.

Calories and Weight Loss

Obesity is a constant concern today as maximum percentage of the population consumes extra calories, than the amount actually required by the body. If these extra calories are not burnt with proper exercises, they are converted into fats. This leads to increase in weight and other health problems. People who are facing the problem of obesity, are always in search of weight loss diets. As seen above, if you reduce 500 calories from your daily diet, you can lose one pound per week. Both losing and gaining weight is not easy. There are no shortcuts, you should have patience. Consistency in exercising, control over mind while following a balanced diet, lifestyle changes are expected from you.

How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight?

How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day to Lose Weight?

The basic principle of losing weight, is to burn more calories than you eat. In other words, it’s essential to maintain a calorie deficit between calories consumed and calories burnt. This is similar to spending more than you earn. Now, to know how much calorie deficit is to be maintained, you must first know the calories in 1 lb of fat. There are approximately 3,500 calories in 1 lb fat. This means you need to burn 3,500 calories of energy to achieve a pound of fat loss. If you wish to lose weight, you must attempt it step-wise.

Step #1

First of all, you need to know how many calories, you must consume to support your body weight. For that you need to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is defined as the number of calories the body uses a day in performing basic, life-sustaining functions like keeping the heart beating, breathing, maintaining kidney and liver function, etc. One of the ways of calculating BMR is by the Harris-Benedict formula as given below:

For Men: BMR = 66 (13.7 x wt in kg) (5 x ht in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)

For Women: BMR = 65 (9.6 x wt in kg) (1.8 x ht in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)

Step #2

Next, you need to calculate the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). To calculate TDEE, multiply the BMR by a factor that corresponds to the level of activity you are involved in everyday. The following table gives the multiplication factors corresponding to the level of activity.

Amount of Exercise Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)
Very less or no exercise at all, mostly desk job TDEE = 1.2 x BMR
Somewhat active, exercise 1 to 3 times per week TDEE = 1.375 x BMR
Moderately active, exercise 3 to 5 Times Per Week TDEE = 1.55 x BMR
Heavy exercise, sports 6 to 7 times per week TDEE = 1.725 x BMR
Very heavy exercise, physical job, training twice a day TDEE = 1.9 x BMR

Now, for example if you come in the first category and your BMR is 2000, then the TDEE for you would be 2,400 calories per day. This means that you burn a total of 2,400 calories in a day of normal routine.

Step #3

Set a target for a small period. The target must be realistic and for a brief period only. Ideally, it should be to lose 1 to 2 lbs per week. If you choose to shed 1 lb of fat in a week, then you must create a deficit of 3,500 calories per week, or a deficit of 500 calories per day, i.e if you burn 2,400 calories a day, then you must restrict the calorie intake to not more than 1,900 calories.

Step #4

You can achieve the above deficit, either by reducing the daily intake or by increasing the TDEE, or using a combination of the two may be the best way for you. That is, by marginally dropping food intake and gradually increasing fat burning exercises. Trying to increase the physical activity and maintaining food intake is a highly advisable option, rather than dropping the food intake or choosing starvation. Another option is to consume negative calorie foods. The body spends more energy on digestion and the metabolism process of these foods, as compared to the energy generated as a byproduct of the process itself. In other words, it is an endothermic process.

Recommended Daily Calorie Intake

The following information about the daily calorie intake may provide you answer for your question, how many calories should I eat a day. The recommended calories per day for people in the age group between 19-50 years are almost the same. For women belonging to this age group, the recommended calorie intake is about 1,940 calories per day. Of course, this depends upon the age, lifestyle, health and activity level of the woman. The recommended calorie intake for men is about 2,550 calories per day while for children in the age group of 4 to 10 years, it is around 1,500 calories per day.

The daily calorie intake drastically increases in the age group 11-14, as the body undergoes some changes. The daily calorie intake of boys increases to a gigantic 2,220 calories per day and for the girls it increases to 1,845 calories per day. A similar increase is again observed for the age group of 15-19 where the daily calorie intake for boys is about 2,755 and for girls it is about 2,110.

If a pregnant woman asks me the question, ” how many calories should I eat while pregnant “, I would tell her that on an average, a pregnant woman needs to increase the amount she eats daily, by about 300 calories. Generally, it is noticed that a pregnant woman gains about 25 to 35 pounds by the time her due date rolls around.

If you ask me the question, ” how many calories should i eat for breakfast “, I would like to tell you that, for breakfast, you should eat about 20-25% of your total day’s caloric intake.

Through this article, I have tried to answer the question “how many calories should I eat”. Remember, you are supposed to incorporate healthy foods in your diet. Make sure that your food is packed with disease fighting nutrients to keep you healthy and young!

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