How many calories should I eat to lose weight?
The number of calories you should eat to lose weight depends on several factors, including your age, gender, weight, height, and physical activity level. In general, to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you consume.
Losing weight is a common goal for many people, but it can be challenging to know how many calories to eat and what macronutrient breakdown to aim for. In this post, we’ll discuss how to calculate your calorie needs and macronutrient breakdown for losing weight.
Calculating your calorie needs
The first step in determining how many calories to eat to lose weight is to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories your body needs at rest to maintain basic bodily functions like breathing, circulation, and maintaining body temperature.
The Mifflin-St. Jeor equation is a commonly used formula for calculating BMR:
- BMR for women = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) – 161
- BMR for men = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) + 5
Once you have calculated your BMR, you can use an activity factor to determine your baseline calorie needs. This factor takes into account your daily activity level, including exercise and non-exercise physical activity.
Here are the activity factors you can use based on your activity level:
- Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
- Lightly active (light exercise or sports 1-3 days a week): BMR x 1.375
- Moderately active (moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days a week): BMR x 1.55
- Very active (hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
- Extra active (very hard exercise or sports, physical job, training twice a day): BMR x 1.9
For example, if you are a sedentary woman with a BMR of 1500 calories, your baseline calorie needs would be 1500 x 1.2 = 1800 calories per day.
Creating a calorie deficit
To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than you burn. A safe and effective rate of weight loss is around 1-2 pounds per week, which requires a calorie deficit of about 500-1000 calories per day.
To achieve this deficit, you can reduce your calorie intake, increase your physical activity, or do a combination of both. A good starting point is to aim for a calorie deficit of 500-750 calories per day. This can be achieved by reducing your calorie intake by 250-500 calories per day and increasing your physical activity to burn an additional 250-500 calories per day.
Macronutrient breakdown for losing weight
When it comes to macronutrient breakdown for losing weight, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, a general guideline is to aim for a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that meets your individual needs and preferences.
Here is an example nutrition plan using macros for a sedentary woman with a BMR of 1500 calories and a protein intake of 1 gram per pound of body weight:
Calculate Total Calorie Needs: The first step in creating a nutrition plan is to determine the Total Calorie Needs of the individual. This can be done by calculating the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and multiplying it by an activity factor that represents the level of physical activity. For a sedentary woman with a BMR of 1500 calories, the activity factor is 1.2. So, the Total Calorie Needs will be 1500 x 1.2 = 1800 calories per day.
Determine Macro Breakdown: Once the Total Calorie Needs are determined, the next step is to determine the macro breakdown. The three macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The recommended breakdown for losing weight is a high protein, moderate fat, and moderate carbohydrate diet. Here’s how to determine the macro breakdown:
Protein: The recommended protein intake for a sedentary person is around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. In this example, assuming the woman weighs 130 pounds, her protein intake would be 130 grams per day. As protein contains 4 calories per gram, this translates to 520 calories from protein per day (130 grams x 4 calories per gram).
Fat: The recommended fat intake for a weight loss diet is 20-30% of total calorie intake. In this example, assuming a 25% fat intake, this would be 450 calories from fat per day (25% x 1800 calories per day). As fat contains 9 calories per gram, this translates to approximately 50 grams of fat per day.
Carbohydrates: The remaining calories should come from carbohydrates. The recommended carbohydrate intake for a weight loss diet is around 45-55% of total calorie intake. In this example, assuming a 45% carbohydrate intake, this would be 810 calories from carbohydrates per day (45% x 1800 calories per day). As carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, this translates to approximately 202.5 grams of carbohydrates per day.
- Breakdown of Macronutrients: Based on the above macro breakdown, the following is the breakdown of macronutrients for a sedentary woman with a BMR of 1500 calories and a protein intake of 1 gram per pound of body weight:
- Protein: 130 grams per day (520 calories)
- Fat: 50 grams per day (450 calories)
- Carbohydrates: 202.5 grams per day (810 calories)
- Example Meal Plan: Based on the above macronutrient breakdown, here’s an example meal plan for a sedentary woman with a BMR of 1500 calories:
- Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs (14 grams protein, 10 grams fat) with 1 slice of whole wheat toast (12 grams carbohydrates)
- Mid-morning snack: Greek yogurt (17 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrates)
- Lunch: Grilled chicken breast (28 grams protein, 5 grams fat) with mixed vegetables (10 grams carbohydrates) and quinoa (20 grams carbohydrates)
- Afternoon snack: Apple with almond butter (4 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrates)
- Dinner: Baked salmon (28 grams protein, 15 grams fat) with roasted sweet potatoes (27 grams carbohydrates) and steamed broccoli (5 grams carbohydrates)
- Evening snack: 1/2 cup of cottage cheese (14 grams protein)
This example meal plan provides approximately 130 grams of protein, 50 grams of fat, and 202.5 grams of carbohydrates, which meets the recommended macro breakdown for a weight loss diet. It also provides a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including lean protein sources, healthy fats, whole grains, and vegetables. Additionally, it includes healthy snack options to help control hunger and prevent overeating.
It’s important to note that this is just an example meal plan and may not be appropriate for everyone.
The important thing is to stay consistent with your nutrition and track your calories with a food journal App like MyFitnessPal or take pictures of your meals to keep yourself accountable.