“How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight?”

In order to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns each day. A calorie is a unit that measures energy. Calories are usually used to measure the energy content of foods and beverages. The amount of calories your body requires each day is based on your basal metabolic rate, along with your level of physical activity. And what is basal metabolic rate, or resting metabolism? Essentially, it’s the energy your body requires to perform all the activities vital for life, like respiration and digestion.

How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight; cartoon image of woman running on treadmill on one side of balance and food on the other

This rate accounts for about 70% of your total calorie needs. So it’s pretty important to make sure you’re fueling your body properly. The younger and taller you are, the higher your basal metabolic rate. Men also tend to have a higher resting metabolism than women.

When it comes to the remaining 30% of your daily caloric expenditure, it’s mostly made up of your level of physical activity, which can vary from day to day. Basically, the more active you are, the higher your energy needs.

How Many Calories You Should Be Consuming

America’s top nutrition experts weighed in to cut through the most common calorie misconceptions and help you identify what you really need each day.

“Many people think eating fewer calories is better when trying to lose weight,” says Felicia Stoler, author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes. “However, unless you’re a woman under 5’3″, I wouldn’t recommend eating less than 1,600 calories per day.”

As Stoler points out, consuming too few calories can lead to a deficiency of essential nutrients and may even suppress the immune system.

“Eating less than your body needs can slow metabolism as the body begins to break down muscle for fuel,” says Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet. “Without adequate calories, you may experience low energy levels, excess hunger or changes in mood,” adds Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT, author of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure.

On the other hand, too many calories aren’t ideal, either. In addition to weight gain and an increase in fat storage, consuming more calories than your body needs can result in a variety of less than pleasant ailments.

“Eating too many calories, especially from fried or spicy foods, can lead to gastric reflux,” says Gans. “Those excess calories can result in feeling lethargic, weighed down, and sluggish,” adds Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT.

Caloric Intake Based on Your Activity Level

The perfect balance of calories will complement both your metabolic rate as well as your physical activity level.

  • Very Active: For those who are very active, a.k.a exercising vigorously for an hour or more per day, or who work in a highly physical job, the calorie needs for women range from 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day, whereas a very active man would need closer to 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day.
  • Moderately Active: For a moderately active individual who exercises for about 30 to 60 minutes a day, a woman, on average, would need 1,900 calories per day, while a male would require 2,500 calories.
  • Slightly Active: An individual who is slightly active, averaging between 5,000 to 8,000 steps per day, would require 1,800 calories for women and 2,200 calories for men.
  • Sedentary: For someone who is mostly sedentary, taking less than 5,000 steps per day, calorie needs fall as low as 1,600 for a woman and 1,800 for a man.

What to Eat to Reach Your Recommended Daily Calorie Count

What does a typical daily meal plan look like within these calorie ranges? Let’s take a look.

2,500 Calories Per Day

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter, 16-ounce latte with non-fat milk, 1 cup berries
  • Snack: 1 ounce of nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, walnuts etc.)
  • Lunch: 2 slices 100% whole-grain bread, 3 ounces of chicken breast, 1 ounce cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 2 cups tossed salad topped with ¼ avocado and 3 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack: Apple, 1 ounce part-skim cheese, 1 tablespoon nut butter, ½ cup unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • Dinner: 6 ounce salmon filet, 2 cups broccoli sautéed in one tablespoon oil and garlic, ½ baked (sweet or regular) potato, 5 ounce glass of wine

2,200 Calories Per Day

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter, 12-ounce latte with non-fat milk, 1 cup berries
  • Snack: 1 ounce of nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Lunch: 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 3 ounces of chicken or turkey breast, 1 ounce cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 2 cups tossed salad topped with ¼ avocado and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack: Apple, 1 ounce part-skim cheese
  • Dinner: 5 ounce salmon filet, 2 cups broccoli sautéed in ½ tablespoon oil, ½ baked (sweet or regular) potato

1,800 Calories Per Day

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 1 slice of 100% whole-grain toast, 1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter, latte or café au lait with 8 ounces of non-fat milk, 1 cup berries
  • Snack: 1 ounce of nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Lunch: 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 3 ounces of turkey breast, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 2 cups tossed salad topped with ¼ avocado, chopped walnuts and 1 ½ tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack: 1 medium apple
  • Dinner: 4 ounce salmon filet, 2 cups steamed broccoli, ½ baked sweet potato

1,600 Calories Per Day

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, 1 slice of 100% whole-grain toast, 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter, latte or café au lait with 8 ounces non-fat milk
  • Snack: 1 ounce of nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Lunch: 2 slices of 100% whole-grain toast, 3 ounces of turkey breast, ¼ avocado, 2 cups tossed salad topped with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack: 1 medium apple
  • Dinner: 4 ounce salmon filet, 2 cups steamed broccoli, ½ baked sweet potato

Drinking More Water Can Help To Lose Weight

One very simple trick to increase weight loss is to drink more water. This can increase the number of calories you burn for up to 90 minutes. Drinking about 2 liters of water per day can make you burn about 96 more calories per day. But when you drink water may be even more important. Because having it before meals can help reduce hunger and make you automatically eat fewer calories.

Drinking a half liter  of water a half hour before meals made people lose 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks.

When combined with a healthy diet, drinking more water (especially before meals) does appear to be helpful if you need to lose weight. Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and green tea are also excellent. The caffeine in them can help boost metabolism somewhat, at least in the short term .

Do Some Exercise and lose Weight

Exercise is very helpful to lose weight. When we eat fewer calories, our bodies compensate by making us burn less. This is why long-term calorie restriction can significantly reduce metabolism. Not only that, but it can also lead to loss of muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active, so this can reduce metabolism even further. Pretty much the only proven strategy to prevent this from happening is to exert your muscles by lifting weights.

This has been repeatedly shown to prevent muscle loss and prevent your metabolism from slowing down during long-term calorie restriction. Of course, we don’t want to just lose fat. We want to make sure that what is beneath also looks good. If you can’t get to a gym, then consider doing some body lose weight exercises. Doing some cardio like walking, swimming or jogging can also be important. Not so much for weight loss, but for optimal health and general wellbeing. Exercise also has a plethora of other benefits that go way beyond just weight loss. Such as a longer life, lower risk of disease, more energy and feeling better every day.

 

 

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