How many calories do I need to lose weight | calorie deficit
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If you want to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat.
That’s the basics.
But there are different ways of doing it.
And some are more effective than others.
So in this blog, I will teach you how you can lose weight through a calorie deficit and keep it off.
I’ll show you how you can calculate how many calories you need to lose weight and how you can do it in a way that will keep you motivated without feeling hungry.
I’ll take myself as an example.
If you do it the wrong way, you will lose motivation, get frustrated very fast, and feel hungry all the time.
It can even damage your body.
When you do it the right way, you’ll lose weight, stay motivated, don’t give up and succeed.
So let’s start this.
1. How many calories do I need to burn to lose weight
On average, a woman needs 2000 Calories a day, and a man needs 2500 Calories a day to maintain their weight.
This number is for average, non-active people.
This amount depends on your height, your weight, age, and physical activity.
So heavier people need more calories to maintain their weight than lighter people at the same height and age.
However, it depends on where the weight comes from. If your weight mainly comes from fat, you’ll burn less then when your weight comes from muscles. That is because muscles use more energy to maintain than fat does. You’ll have to keep this in mind with your calculations.
Also, younger people use more energy because their body is growing.
Professional athletes train multiple times a day and therefore, use more calories than a single mom.
It means that it depends on your situation how many calories you’ll have to burn to lose weight.
You have to consume fewer calories than you use on average.
Fortunately, you can easily calculate the number of calories you have to burn to lose weight through the following calculator:
If you know how many calories you need in your specific situation, you can start a plan to start burning more calories then you use, without feeling hungry or increasing cravings.
I’ll take myself as an example:
- Gender: Male
- Age: 33
- Height: 197cm
- Weight: 87 kilograms
- Activity level: Moderate
If I put it in the calculator, it says I need 3001 calories to maintain my weight, 2501 calories to lose one pound a week and 2001 calories to lose 2 pounds a week.
When I use myfitnesspal, it says that I need 2561 calories to burn 1 pound a week. You can see that the number also depends on the calculator. It’s not an exact science.
So let’s calculate the best distribution for these calories.
2. How do I divide my calories between carbohydrates, protein, and fat
It’s recommended to distribute your calories between carbs, protein, and fat in the following way.
- Carbohydrates: 55% of calories
- Protein: 15% of calories
- Fat: 30% of calories
So now we have to calculate the number of calories for the carbohydrates, fat, and protein based on the 3001 calories I need:
- Carbohydrates: 1650 calories
- Protein: 450 calories
- Fat: 900 calories
One gram of carbs contains four calories, 1 gram of protein contains four calories, and 1 gram of fat contains nine calories.
So this will bring the number of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that I need to maintain my weight to:
- Carbohydrates: 412 gram
- Protein: 112,5 gram
- Fat: 100 gram
As you can see, it doesn’t fit in a low carb or keto diet.
That’s because these diets are too restricted for most people.
If you’re not allowed to drink soda for the rest of your life, you will get frustrated eventually and give up.
Also, eating too little will cause you to feel hungry always, which will demotivate you eventually.
It’s even dangerous to eat too little.
That’s why I don’t recommend a low carb or keto diet. But if it works for you, you should go for it. Many people can follow these diets and succeed. It’s just not for me.
It’s important to follow a method that works for you for the rest of your life.
Despite what people think, carbohydrates are not bad for you. Sugar is, but not all carbs are made out of sugar.
3. How to lose weight using a calorie deficit
So let’s take an average, overweight woman:
- Gender: Female
- Age: 40
- Height: 5ft 1 inch
- Weight: 220 pounds
- Activity level: sedentary lifestyle
To maintain weight, this woman needs to eat 1926 calories a day.
To lose one pound a week, she should eat about 1426 calories.
Just remember that this is only an indication. Don’t be too strict to this number and don’t panic when you go over it sometimes. It’s just a way to give you an idea what a healthy amount of food for each day is.
Giving the fact that she managed to weight 100 kilograms, I think it’s safe to say that she consumes more than the recommended 1924calories a day right now.
So it makes no sense to start the calories deficit at 1426 calories a day. It is very likely that this calorie deficit is more than the 500 calories it shows here. It’s more likely that she is at a calorie deficit of 800 calories.
That is a 30% reduction.
No wonder people get hungry when they eat only 1500 calories. Your body is used to eat much more than that. It will induce hunger and cravings, especially in the first few weeks.
These are the most stressful weeks.
It will make you feel hungry and cranky, and it will result in inevitable failure.
It’s much better for her to start eating healthier and increase her activity level.
If she increases here activity level to a slightly active lifestyle, she suddenly needs 2207 calories a day to maintain her weight and 1707 to lose 1 pound a week.
This way, if she eats 2000 calories a day, she has a deficit of almost 200 calories a day.
And if you eat healthier, with more vegetable and less junk food, you will still feel full even though you eat less.
Also, don’t cut out any food entirely because that’s not sustainable. If you’re used to visiting McDonalds 3 times a week, reduce it to 1 time a week and eat clean the rest of the days.
It’s too depressing, not to be able to do something ever again.
We want to do what we’re not allowed to do.
Also, people want to lose weight as fast as they can.
Unfortunately, this is not possible without feeling unhappy.
And since being unhappy is the main reason for people to give up and start binge-eating, this is something you have to avoid to succeed.
Losing weight is a lifelong journey, so don’t try to rush it.
Instead, try to reduce your bad habits and at the same time, improve your good practices.
That will give you the best chance to maintain this lifestyle and lose weight permanently.
Slowly but steady is the key here.
Being more active improves your physical fitness and will make your life much more comfortable.
Successful weight loss comes with increasing happiness, physical fitness, and healthy eating habits.
4. Track what you eat
When you know how many calories you need every day, it’s time to track what you eat.
The best way to do this is by using myfitnesspal.
For this to work, you have to know exactly how much you put into your mouth. Therefore I recommend buying a food scale that shows you how much your food weighs, which is essential for precise tracking of your calories.
It’s an easy tool that helps you track what you eat. It tells you by approximation how many carbs, protein, and fat your foods contain. Users add these numbers so they might be off slightly.
Just use it as an indication and train yourself to recognize healthy and unhealthy foods. That will help you make smarter and healthier decisions.
It will also help you to withstand the cravings you might have because you know how unhealthy they are and what they do to your weight loss journey.
Tracking your food will help you achieve your calorie deficit without feeling hungry. It helps you to pick healthy, filling meals, and reduce the number of empty calories you consume.
Below, you can see one of my food journals. It’s one of my healthier days as you can see on the calorie deficit I’m on that day. But my breakfast, lunch, and snacks are the same every weekday. The only meal that differs throughout the week is my dinner.
As you can see, I don’t drink sugary drinks or eat junk food during the week.
My weekdays are a little unhealthier, but even there I’ll stay around my 3000 daily calorie need.
That way, I make sure I don’t gain weight. Also, eating less during the week gives me some room to eat a little unhealthier during the weekend, so I can still enjoy my life.
The deficit is extensive because I’ve built it up for a long time, so it doesn’t make me hungry. That’s why don’t feel cravings for food.
If you’re starting, you should build your deficit slowly.
5. Slowly build your calorie deficit
Research shows that a 20-30% calorie restriction without malnutrition is the most effective way to lose weight and improve your metabolism.
It reduces type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular risks, and improves your immune system.
So no overweight person should eat only 1000-1200 calories a day, like many people think would help. This amount is too small and will undoubtedly help you fail.
When you cut out those 30% overnight, your body will start to protest.
I wouldn’t go lower than 20% because I believe this is more sustainable in the long hall.
You can also calculate your target weight and the number of calories you need to maintain this weight. When you stick to this number, you will eventually reach your target weight. It will take a long time, but it’s doable.
The good thing is that you’ll never have to change anything. If you’re at a 1600 calorie deficit, you have to adjust it when you’ve reached your target weight, which will result in gaining weight at first. That can be very demotivating.
Your body is accustomed to receiving a certain amount of energy every day. If you cut out 30%, you will feel hungry because it thinks it lacks the necessary power.
Feeling hungry is one of the main reasons why people give up on their good habits.
So instead of cutting out 20% of your calorie intake overnight, it’s much better to decrease it slowly.
If we take the example from earlier, she needs 2207 calories a day to remain here weight when she is slightly active. 2297 x 0,8= 1756 calories a day. That is where you should end up when you want to lose weight fast.
But instead of cutting down directly to 1756 calories, it’s better to start at 2000 calories and slowly work your way down when the weight loss slows down.
This way, you have some room left to adjust.
You can also easily stay at 2000 calories a day and keep increasing your activity level.
It depends on your situation and on what you want to achieve.
The weight loss might be slower, but more sustainable, and it will be less likely that you will become demotivated over time.
Just don’t expect to see results within a few weeks.
The most significant risk for failing your weight loss journey is that you set unrealistic goals and are impatient. Don’t expect to lose the weight that you’ve gained in years within a few months.
It’s a lifelong process.
Unfortunately, just being on a calorie deficit doesn’t make you feel fitter and healthier. It might not even improve your happiness in life.
If you want to feel happier with your body, you should combine your calorie deficit with exercising.
Exercising has shown to improves the use of stored fat by your body, which helps you with your weight loss and improves the overall quality of your body.
Stress, mental problem, and general unhappiness are factors that also increase the risk of failing your weight loss journey.
6. Add regular exercise to increase your calorie deficit
Eating less is not the only way to get into a calorie deficit. You can also increase the number of calories you burn by exercising more.
Turning daily activities into exercise can burn almost 500 calories each day extra.
It will help you to lose weight and keep losing it.
Buying an activity tracker can help you burn more calories every day and also keep you motivated to push even harder the next day. It can be the little push you need to reach your goal.
7. How fast should you see weight loss result7
In your body, glycogen is stored in your liver, muscles, and fat cells to provide fast energy when needed.
One part of glycogen is bound to 4 parts of water. When you’re on a calorie deficit, your body starts to use this glycogen for energy.
Because of this, your body will release a lot of water as well, because it’s not needed anymore.
That is why you will lose weight very fast for the first few weeks. It’s mainly water and doesn’t say anything about actual long-lasting weight loss. After 2-3 weeks, this effect is worn out, and now the real weight loss begins.
When you know this will happen, it won’t discourage you anymore.
The most important thing is that you look at the actions you take to lose weight and not at the result. Results will come as long as you stay persistent.
If you’re doing your calorie deficit the right way by eating enough complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats, your body will start to burn fat and build muscle at the same time.
Especially eating carbs here is essential. When you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar level slowly rises. After a while, it slowly starts to go down again because your body starts to produce insulin. That is a signal for your body to start burning fat.
It is where the real weight loss happens.
When you know that 1 pound of fat contains about 3500 calories, you can imagine that it will take a long time to lose it, if you want to do it healthily without getting it back later.
That’s because not every calorie you burn is taken out of fat. It’s always a combination of fat and carbohydrates. The better you’re trained, the higher the percentage of fat your body uses for energy.
That’s why it’s essential to build muscles. Muscles burn a lot of calories, even when you’re resting.
Since muscles are denser than fat, you might even see your weight move up, instead of slowly going down further.
That’s why your scale can be a demotivating thing: It might say you didn’t lose weight even though you did burn fat and improved your health.
A much better measurement is either your body fat percentage or your pants size.
Some scales don’t just measure your weight, but also your body fat percentage and even the weight of your muscles. It gives you a better understanding of what is going on in your body.
About one or two months into the process, the metabolism of your body starts to change in the way it uses energy.
The Minnesota Starvation Experiment conducted in 1945 showed that when people are on a calorie deficit for a long time, their metabolism slowed down. That means that you burn fewer calories in rest. Your body turns into survival mode. That’s why you shouldn’t go too crazy about your calorie deficit.
That is also the reason that your weight loss slows down.
When functioning normally, your body generates heat. When you eat a lot less, your body doesn’t have to process the food or build the muscles. It means your body uses less energy and therefore, burns fewer calories.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way. If you eat more, your body doesn’t work harder.
Exercising, however, does increase your resting metabolism because now it has to repair your muscles, bones, and organs from the damage that is caused by exercise. This way, you’ll burn more calories and lose weight.
So you should see results very fast, but remember that things will slow down and your weight can even go up at first.
The best way to measure your progress is by looking at your fat percentage or your pants size.
8. Is it safe to eat 1200 calories a day?
Many people think that consuming 1200 calories a day is the magic way to lose weight. As we know now, it depends on your specific situation. If I would eat 1200 calories a day, I would be very hungry and cranky. I would get discouraged very quickly and give up.
It would also be unhealthy for me.
The calculator shows that a 5ft, 1 inch high 220 pound woman needs about 1462 calories to lose 1 pound a week. So even then, a 1200 calorie diet is to low to maintain for the long hall.
When you’re at a 1200 calorie diet, you won’t receive enough nutrients to sustain your body.
Since everybody needs at least 50 gram of protein a day, this already results in 200 calories that you have to get from protein.
If you’re below this, your body will burn muscles to get the protein it needs to keep your brain and organs healthy. Since muscles weigh a lot, it will result in weight loss, but not the kind you want. That’s why you shouldn’t only look at the number.
To see if you’re doing it right, you should have a weighing scale that also measures muscles mass and fat percentage. That way, you’ll know if you’re burning fat and your diet is working.
You would also have only 1000 calories left for fuel.
That’s not a lot.
What happens is that your body will reduce its energy usage to stay alive until more food is present.
Think about the following situation:
You find yourself in the desert with only one bottle of water.
What would you do?
Drink whenever you need to drink or save as much water as possible and drink way less then you should?
I think we would all choose the second option.
Your body does the same thing. When it doesn’t receive enough energy out of food, it will reduce its energy consumption to save it to when it’s needed.
It results in less weight loss after a few weeks and might even damage your muscles, organs, and brain. It can lead to serious health issues.
And because it will result in hunger and makes you cranky, you will give up eventually and gain weight rapidly after that.
Fortunately, there is a way to use a calorie deficit to lose weight and to keep it off.
The most important thing is not to go too crazy on your calorie deficit.
Don’t try to rush weight loss.
Do it the right way:
9. Should I count calories to lose weight
If you want to lose weight the right way without getting demotivated, you shouldn’t count calories all the time.
It’s an excellent way to get an idea of how much calories you’re consuming right now. It will give you a good indication of what you have to change.
But remember that counting calories are not very accurate. The calories on the packages are often wrong. That makes it challenging to do it correctly.
It can also discourage you because you think you’re doing everything right, but you might not see results yet.
Research shows that counting calories can even increase stress levels, which you don’t want.
That can make losing weight turn into an obsession which will turn into demotivation and failure.
Try to eat healthily and in moderation. One hundred calories a day extra won’t hurt you if this makes you happier.
Now I want to hear from you!
In the end, it’s about making the right choices when it comes to what you eat.
So what are you going to do to eat healthier and eat enough carbs, protein, and fats?
How many calories do you need and is this more then you thought you would?
Please leave a comment to let me know.
Let’s make the world healthy again!