Health Tips/ Nutrition Tips/ Weight loss

How Much do You Need to Eat to Lose Weight?

How many calories should you consume to lose weight?

In another post I told you that you need to keep a food journal in order to lose weight and I provided you with links to a number of free online journals (including some journals with nifty iPhone/iPod Touch companion apps). And since you ‘re completely awesomesauce you ‘ve been doing that right?

Then I got to thinking … I forgot to tell you HOW MUCH to eat. It ‘s wonderful to know what you ‘re eating, but writing and recording all of the foods you ‘re eating doesn ‘t make you lose weight if the foods you ‘re eating have too many or too few calories.

When it comes to losing weight there ‘s a magic number of calories you need to consume. Eat too many and you gain weight, eat too few and you gain weight. Yes ” that seems counter intuitive doesn ‘t it? If you eat too few calories you gain weight. Why? It ‘s a rather complicated process, the main idea is that the body adapts to that and your metabolism slows down, your body stores calories in the form of fat because it thinks it ‘s starving and it has no idea when it ‘s going to get more calories.

So how do you know what your body ‘s magic number is?
To lose weight you need to consume less calories than your body’s basic needs, but not too many less. You should strive to lose weight slowly and not consume less than 85% of your daily equilibrium calorie needs. This is to avoid illness, and because if you eat less than this, your body goes into starvation mode, your metabolism slows down, and your rate of weight loss decreases.

The best approach to estimating how fast you should be losing weight is:

  • decide how much exercise you realistically intend to do per week;
  • estimate your equilibrium daily calorie requirement at that level of exercise, given your current bodyweight;
  • work out how many calories a day you need to eat to lose weight without consuming less than 85% of your daily needs or losing more than 500g a week.

You can do this calculation here.

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  • fitcheerldr (Janice Smith)
    January 24, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Another great post! How Much do You Need to Eat to Lose Weight?

  • Help Future
    January 28, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Very nice,..
    I was just browsing for relevant blog posts for my project research and I happened to discover yours. Thanks for the excellent information!


  • Tamona
    February 25, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Now this makes sense. I spend the bulk of my day sitting so if I consume less calories (since I don’t eat much) then that will help me get where I want to be. Thank you…you make me happy I tweet!

  • Kris
    July 13, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Not too much. Not too little.
    I’ve proven that to myself both ways.
    I’m not particularly heavy, but have some love in my midsection – wouldn’t mind losing a bit of the jiggles.
    That said, i don’t lose “pounds” easily – its the darndest thing. Inches? Yep. Strength improvement? Yep. Endurance? Yep. Pounds? Nope.
    I’m SLIGHTLY cutting back my portions and cutting out some nuts and goodies every once in a while. Water is big for me. And eating ENOUGH is important for me. And. And. And.

    • Duncan Babbage
      January 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Genuine question: if you’re loosing inches and gaining strength, why would you care what you weigh?

      • Janice
        January 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm

        I totally agree with you Duncan! Better yet, why care about losing inches? Let’s focus on increasing strength, balance, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance and overall quality of life! I originally posted that quite a while ago and since then my philosophy about health & exercise has changed. Good catch!

  • findfamilyfitness
    September 30, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    AH, this is fast becoming my biggest problem. I am not eating enough! I’m eating the base calories that MyFitnessPal tells me to eat, but I’m having a REALLY hard eating up my exercise calories! Do i REALLY have to freak out and eat thiose?

    • Janice - Fitness Cheerleader
      September 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      @findfamilyfitnessfitfamilyfun I think it really depends on how big a deficit is being created by your workouts and how often you do it. Fo instance, if your workout creates a 500 calorie deficit every single day and you aren’t losing any weight, then yes, I would consider making it up. You very well could be going into starvation mode or burning muscle for the energy your body needs for basic functioning.

      • findfamilyfitness
        September 30, 2011 at 10:13 pm

        @Janice – Fitness Cheerleaderfitfamilyfun Thanks. For the past few days, I’ve been under 1100 calories, (that was a super workout day!) and 700. Today I am only under 60 or so. I’ll be meeting with the new nutrionist on Monday night.. she’ll help me figure it out!

  • Functional Fitness
    November 14, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Great post! It is such a fine line between too many calories, too few calories, consuming less that you burn to create a caloric deficit (remember there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat so that’s a deficit of 500 calories/ day EACH DAY of the week – it’s about consistency).

    But just a reminder of what we’re up against… I listened to a great podcast (The Rudd Report) which explained that food producers manufacture enough food to account for 3,900 calories/ day PER PERSON. This is what they manufacture regardless of the consumer (age, gender, height, activity level)… 3,900 PER PERSON!! This is what they base their marketing campaigns on. They have to sell this amount at all costs. And let’s not forget the premise of business is to increase the volume of sales each year (and in this case, volume is calories).

    Thanks @fitcheerldr for the valuable info. Knowledge is power… so STAY STRONG!

  • Amelle
    November 16, 2011 at 1:19 am

    I find that for me, around 1200 calories works really well for weight loss, but i don’t obsess about calorie counting. Instead i try to fill up on salads and veg and add other things in moderation. However, if I know I have over eaten, I will just do extra exercise to burn the excess calories.
    You are so right about about the body thinking it is in starvation mode when you don’t have enough calories – it is all about balance.

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