How many calories do you need to eat to start losing weight?
Of course, eating a healthy balanced diet is key to weight loss as well as your health and happiness...
However, if you are consuming more calories than your body is burning then losing weight will be an impossible feat. Before we get into how to work out how many calories you should be aiming for to lose weight, check out this video to see how you can drink wine and still lose weight!
So how many calories should you be eating to be able to lose weight?
The technical bit made easy...
Step 1 = calculate your BMR (this is your ‘basal metabolic rate’ and means how many calories a day your body burns just to stay alive. I.e. your body would burn this many calories even if you lay in bed all day!)
To do this there is a formula called the Mifflin St Jeor Equation and it looks like this:
For women: BMR = (10 x your weight in KG) + (6.25 x your height in cm) – (5 x your age) – 161
For men: BMR = (10 x your weight in kg) + (6.25 x your height in cm) – (5 x your age) + 5
How to do it: Grab a calculator and do the sums for each equation in brackets and then do the whole final equation using the answers.
I will use me for an example;
I am female!
My weight is 64.3kg so first bit is 10 x 64.3 = 643
My height is 72cm so the second bit is 6.25 x 172 = 1075
My age is 37 so the third bit is 5 x 37 = 185
So the whole final equation is 643 + 1075 – 185 – 161 = 1372 (my BMR is 1372)
Step 2 = calculate your TDEE (this is your ‘total daily energy expenditure’ which gives you the total amount of calories you are likely to burn each day based on your level of activity as well as just being alive.)
To do this first select your general activity level from the list below and then multiply your BMR by the corresponding number:
Sedentary (sit most of time with little or no exercise). BMR x 1.2
Lightly active (move a bit more, light exercise 1-3x a week). BMR 1.375
Moderately active (exercise on moderate level 3-5x a week). BMR 1.55
Very active (more intense exercise 6-7x a week). BMR 1.725
Extremely active (intense exercising twice a day or once and physical job). BMR 1.9
This is a bit general so feel free to adjust the number you multiply it by to match your lifestyle, such as going for 1.6 if you believe you are a little more than moderately active. Using me as an example again, I work many hours a day at a desk (very sedentary), but aim to get out to walk for 30 mins at lunchtime and on average I exercise intensely about 3x per week and lightly/moderately 3x per week. Therefore, I would put me at about ‘moderately active’ so multiply my BMR by 1.55.
1372 (my BMR) x 1.55 = TDEE of 2,126.6 calories per day
So to remain as I am should be eating around 2,126.6 calories a day.
Step 3 = Set yourself a calorie deficit to lose weight at a reasonable rate that will be enjoyable to do and also maintain as much muscle mass as possible (to keep you looking toned and your metabolic rate higher).
A daily 500 calorie deficit from your TDEE will achieve around 1lb a week weight loss. HOWEVER, it is really important to note here that most of us eat MORE than our TDEE calories, and so setting yourself on a plan that is in a deficit to this number often means that you lose more like 2lb a week. In fact, with many of my clients, their diet was previously so out of wack that they end up losing 5-6lb a week! This happens for a good period of time whilst their body suddenly adjusts to a good balance of tasty healthy foods and flushes everything out, including dropping lots of excess water weight.
Using me as an example again;
2,126.6 (TDEE cals) – 500 = 1626.6 calories. Therefore, this is roughly how many calories a day I should be eating to lose weight.
How to track your calories
The fastest and easiest route to track how many calories you are eating is to use the MyfitnessPal,
where you log everything that you eat and drink and it lets you know how many calories, carbs, fat and protein you are consuming. You can do it on your computer (https://www.myfitnesspal.com/) and on your phone using their app.
Is calorie counting necessary???
Okay so after all of that, I throw this out there! Well I believe that there is a time and a place for it and it all depends of your goals and ways as a person. For example, a physique athlete must know and track every single morsel that goes in at all times (apart from a little less rigidity in off season), full stop.
However, for someone like you and me whom wants to have a fit mind & body without anything too extreme, then I do not advise long-term calorie counting and excessive food measuring.
The reason for this is that it can create obsessive thinking, panic when going out for meals and it is not sustainable for the rest of your life… Although, I do believe that it can be very helpful to temporarily track what you are currently eating and then compare it to your TDEE and calculated weight loss daily calorie totals. This can reveal why you have the results you have now, so that you can start to make changes in your diet that will get you the results that you are after. It is also great to continue to track for a period of time, whilst you are getting to 'know' how much makes up the right portion sizes and getting into a rhythm with it all.
You can also use tracking to play around with food swaps and planning out a more supportive meal plan for yourself if you are not getting the results you want, and also great for getting back n track f you seem to be stalled or going backwards with your weight loss efforts and not sure why.
I do not do calorie counting or tracking with my clients. Instead, they enjoy a flexible food plan that they learn how to work around their life (not their life around it!) for long-term fabulous results.
What have you been doing? What works for you? I’d love to hear from you ;)