How many calories should I eat per day? That depends on whether you want to maintain, gain, or lose weight.
Managing your calorie intake is a basic and easy way to lose weight and reach your goal weight.
To figure out your daily calorie needs for your weight loss, you can use a calorie calculator or more specifically, a weight loss calculator.
A weight loss calculator like the one below helps you determine the daily calorie needs. It simply tells you how many calories you need to eat per day to lose weight. It accounts for your current weight, weight loss goal, your physical activity level, and personal factors.
The calorie calculator below is designed to calculate calories using a highly scientific formula known as the Mifflin St Jeor equation. It’s based on a number of studies and known to provide a rather precise estimate of how many calories you need to eat to reach your weight loss goal.
Before diving into your target caloric intake, let’s define what is calories.
What is a calorie?
A calorie is a unit of energy. They measure the energy found in foods and drinks.
Your body needs and uses a certain amount of calories to function. So you take in calories from your food intake and use them to fuel its bodily functions. To drop pounds, your caloric intake needs to be fewer than what your body uses in a day. It’s called a calorie deficiency.
When it’s the other way around where you eat more than you need, you create a calorie surplus and leads to weight gain.
This is why calorie counting and portion control is essentials to weight maintenance and management.
How Many Calories Should I Be Having?
If you are trying to drop pounds, you need to set a daily calorie budget based on your current and goal body weight. One easy way to do this is to use a ‘lose weight calorie calculator’.
It first calculates your resting metabolic rate or BMR, short for Basal Metabolic Rate based on personal factors such as your age, sex, and height. It’s your daily calorie needs for basic functions.
The scientifically formulated equation, the Mifflin-St. Jeor method then incorporates your activity level. This is because you need additional calories to fuel your activity such as walking and exercising.
Once you enter your activity level, you get a number that you need to maintain your current weight. For many women, this falls around 2,000 calories per day. For men, it’s said to be around 2,500 calories.
But again, this differs from person to person. This is because everyone has a unique body composition that’s different from everyone else. These cause the base count to differ individually.
Now that you have your base figure to maintain your weight, you need to adjust it for your weight loss goal.
To drop pounds, you need to eat less than your base calories. So exactly how many to subtract is based on your goal and how fast you want to drop your weight.
Whether you want to lose 2 pounds a week or 5 pounds a week, your daily caloric intake should reflect that goal.
How Many Calories Should I Eat in a Day to Lose 2 Pounds a Week?
1 pound of weight equals about 3,500 calories. So to lose 2 pounds per week, you need to cut calories upwards of 7,000 a week or 1,000 a day from your regular diet.
So let’s say you normally need 2,200 calories a day to maintain your current weight. To drop 2 lbs in a week, you’ll need to create a 1,000-calorie deficit a day, leaving you about 1,200 calories to eat.
Generally speaking, this 1200-calorie budget is the minimum you need in a day regardless of any diet you are on. Your body needs the amount minimally for its basic bodily functions and falling below isn’t healthy or sustainable.
Now that you know your calorie target, you need effective ways to meet it.
Luckily, you don’t need to starve yourself to hit your calorie goal to slim down and improve your health. There are many ways to cut the number of calories you eat in a healthy, sustainable way.
It’s also worth noting that calorie deific does not all have to come from eating. A moderately active lifestyle can contribute to increased calorie-burning and lead to better calorie management.
All in all, commit to making lifestyle changes you can stick to permanently that’ll lead to weight loss without starvation and deprivation.
Here are 5 easy and tiny steps you can take to manage calories and lose weight.
5 Easy Ways to Cut Calories
1. Drink plenty of water
One really simple trick to managing your calorie intake is to drink water. It not only brings the feeling of fullness and reduces hunger but also boosts your metabolism.
One study found that drinking just 17 oz of water can actually increase your metabolism by 30% (1). What’s more, another 12-week study found drinking water 30 minutes before your meal helped participants lose 44% more weight than those who didn’t. (2).
Whether it’s through the metabolism-boosting effects or hunger suppressing, drinking water has shown to contribute to your calorie deficit (2).
Especially if controlling portion size is your area of struggle, make this a habit and add to your meal plan strategy.
If you find water boring to drink, you may also add a slice of lime or lemon to your water as they are believed to also help increase metabolism (3).
Black coffee and green tea are other healthy options that lead to slashing calories.
2. Exercise Regularly
Just because you have to cut calories, it doesn’t mean that you have to cut it all with your diet alone.
You can reduce the number of calories you net by burning more calories with exercise.
If your daily calorie target is 1200, you can meet it by taking in 1500 from your meals and burn 300 with exercise.
While many people assume you have to exercise for hours to burn that many calories, it’s far from the truth.
The fact is, it doesn’t take much to get started.
There are many kinds of fitness activities you can do just for 30 minutes to burn a few hundred calories a day.
Here are some of the exercises you can do to burn 300 calories, according to Harvard Medical School (4).
- Rollerblading: 35 minutes
- Tennis: 35 minutes
- Biking 12-14 mph: 30 minutes
- Running 10-minute mile: 24 minutes
- Jumping rope: 24 minutes
Exercise not only helps with weight loss, but it also has tons of other health benefits including longer life and lower risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. It also prevents muscle loss and helps increase your muscle mass, especially if you perform resistance training regularly.
Aim 3 to 4 times per week of exercises to burn close to 1,000 calories per week.
As with any new fitness regimen, be sure to consult with your healthcare professional to see if the exercise is right for your fitness needs.
3. Eat protein
If you are looking to cut the number of calories you take from your diet, eat more protein.
Protein is one of the most important “macronutrients” that can help you burn extra calories. It’s quite possibly the easiest and simplest way to lose weight effortlessly.
According to studies, eating protein is effective in increasing your metabolic rate and curb your appetite. (5).
That’s because protein requires more energy to digest.
In fact, 20-30% of the total calories eaten goes to digesting it. This is significant since carbohydrates take only 5-10%, and fat takes 0-3% of its energy for digestion (6).
What this means is that if you eat 100 calories of protein, your body uses 30 calories to digest and absorb the protein. This leaves your body with 70 calories from the protein for energy.
This naturally makes a high-protein diet a less calorie-absorbing diet for your body.
But that’s not all there is to protein.
Protein is also the most filling macronutrients out of the three: fats, carbs, and protein. One study showed people who increased their protein from 15% to 30% saw a significant decrease in their total daily calorie intake. They ate 441 fewer calories per day (7).
Another study showed people who consumed 25% of their calories from protein reduced their food craving by 60 percent and cut their desire for late-night snacking by 50 percent (8).
So, how much protein should you eat?
10 to 30 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from protein, and for weight loss, it should be close to 30%.
4. Eat less simple carbs
While eating more protein can help with your calorie management and weight loss, eating a diet high in carbs can cause you to gain weight.
On the flip side, reducing your carbs is one effective way to reduce the number of calories you eat and lose weight. According to research, a diet low in carbs helps you curb appetite and cut calories. (9).
While your ultimate goal is calorie management, the trick here is to restrict your carbs. This is because restricting your carbs is shown to be 3 to 4 times more effective for weight loss than a calorie-controlled diet (10).
With that said, not all carbs are created equal. There are simple carbs and complex carbs.
While simple carbs tend to be heavy calorie foods. They are the pastries, pasta, sugars, and fast foods that provide empty calories void of nutrients.
Complex carbs are whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. They come with an ample amount of essential vitamins and minerals without hefty calories. They are valuable sources of good-for-you nutrients and you want to eat them in abundance.
For example, eat a diet rich in vegetables like dark greens and fruits with lots of fiber. Fill your menu with lots of plant-based foods and avoid simple carbs like processed foods.
If you adapt to a diet focused on nutrition and better macro balance, not only you’ll lose weight but also improve your health tremendously. Counting calories will become less important in losing weight.
5. Cut sugary drinks
Sugary drinks including soda, fruit juices, lemonade, as well as energy drinks are the easiest way to bust your daily calorie intake.
If you want to lose weight, it’s also one of the first lifestyles you’d want to change. Fruit juices whether from concentrate or not can on average add 150 calories, without giving you much satisfaction.
According to Harvard, drinks high in sugar are the single largest source of added sugar and calories. While each drink comes with hefty calories, they are void of nutrients. If you were to drink a can of those sugary drinks per day without cutting calories elsewhere, you are bound to gain weight up to 5 lbs in a year.
Beyond the weight, regularly drinking these high-sugar drinks can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and chronic diseases.
Sufficient calorie-control is essential in your weight loss. And more often than not, you have to aim to eat fewer calories per day to create a calorie deficit you need to lose weight.
Whether your calorie budget is 1200 or 1500 calories per day, you need sustainable ways to consume fewer calories without starving yourself and depriving yourself of essential dietary intake.
Simple changes in dietary habits like eating more protein and fiber and reducing simple carbs and sugary drinks are proven effective. Not just that, they require minimum efforts and lead you to better health and well-being.
They teach how to satisfy cravings the healthy way and plate your foods for better weight management.
Also, one thing you want to always remember is calorie deficit isn’t just about eating. Exercise contributes to burning calories and adds to sustainable weight management.
- Boschmann, Michael, et al. “Water-Induced Thermogenesis.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14671205.
- Dennis, Elizabeth A, et al. “Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss during a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-Aged and Older Adults.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661958.
- Kramer, Jillian. “The Truth About Drinking Lemon Water For Weight Loss.” Women’s Health, Women’s Health, 11 June 2019, www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/a19895199/lemon-water-weight-loss/.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities.htm.
- Westerterp-Plantenga, Margriet S. “Protein Intake and Energy Balance.” Regulatory Peptides, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 Aug. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18448177.
- “Research Review: A Calorie Isn’t a Calorie.” Precision Nutrition, 26 Sept. 2019, www.precisionnutrition.com/digesting-whole-vs-processed-foods.
- To be added
- Leidy, Heather J, et al. “The Effects of Consuming Frequent, Higher Protein Meals on Appetite and Satiety during Weight Loss in Overweight/Obese Men.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847729.
- Hession, M., et al. “Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials of Low‐Carbohydrate vs. Low‐Fat/Low‐Calorie Diets in the Management of Obesity and Its Comorbidities.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 12 Aug. 2008, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00518.x.
- Brehm, Bonnie J, et al. “A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Healthy Women.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12679447.