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How many calories should I eat a day to lose weight?

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How many calories should I eat a day to loose weight

How many calories should you eat per day to lose weight?

This guide will give you simple science backed answers to difficult weight loss questions.

Enter your details into the calculator to see how many calories on average you should eat per day to:

  • Maintain your current weight
  • Lose weight
  • Rapidly (but safely) lose weight

Enter your weight, height, sex, age and activity level.

If you know your fat percentage then include it, but don’t worry if you don’t know it.

How many calories to eat per day calculator

Are you overweight?

Find out now, with the easy to use
CaloriesBurnedHQ BMI calculator

How many calories should I eat per meal

Break down your daily calorie allowance across meals like this:

  • Breakfast: 15% – 20%
  • Lunch : 30% – 40%
  • Dinner : 30% – 40%
  • Snacks : 10% – 15%

Use this simple meal calorie calculator, just enter your daily calorie intake and see how it breaks down per meal.

Meal calories calculator

What you eat for breakfast is key to achieving you calorie goals during the rest of your day.

During the night, your body and blood sugar level have received a reset from not eating during the night. Breakfast gives you the opportunity to start the day the way you want to continue.

If you eat a breakfast high in sugar, your blood sugar level will spike. You will feel full and fresh with energy. Yet mid-morning these sugar levels will come crashing back down. It is this spike and following crash in blood-sugar level, that makes you ravenous mid to late morning.

So what should you eat for breakfast?

Avoid that bowel of high sugar processed cereal, or fruit high in sugar i.e. Most fruit apart from berries.

Choose a combination of foods to maximise your nutrient consumption.

Aim for foods:

  • High in natural fats, such as yogurt, cheese, eggs or avocado
  • High in natural slow releasing carbohydrates like whole meal bread
  • Low in sugar like berries

Natural fats and slow releasing carbohydrates help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Aim for your breakfast to use around 15% to 20% of your daily calorie allowance.

When choosing your lunch, ensure it’s about 25% protein.

Great healthy sources of protein include:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Lentils

Go for another 25% made from complex slow energy releasing carbohydrates like:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole meal bread
  • Sweet potatoes

Finish off the rest of your lunch plate with 50% vegetables.

Avoid high calorie toppings like croutons or bacon bits or going for the foot long sandwich.

Some ideas for a tasty low calorie lunch

  • Grilled chicken salad with an oil-based dressing
  • Mexican salad bowl with beans, salsa, corn and avocado
  • Six-inch sandwich

Your lunch should account for around 30% – 40% of your daily calorie intake

With your dinner, as like your lunch, you should divide your plate:

  • 50% vegetables
  • 25% protein
  • 25% starches

When choosing your starches, such as pasta, rice or potatoes, use this simple measure rule. Starch serving should be no larger than the size of your fist.

Your dinner should account for 30% to 40% of daily calorie intake.

Far to often people fail to lose or maintain weight, not because of the main meals, but as a result of snacks.

Even healthy snacks can exceed your calorie allowance.

Some ideal examples of snacks:

  • Small handful of nuts or seeds
  • Finger of cheese
  • Piece of fruit

You snacks should account for 10% to 15% of your daily calorie intake.

Remember to include teas or coffees in your snack allowance if taken with milk, as a few of these can easily consume your allowance.

Summary

Break down your daily calorie intake across meals like this:

  • Breakfast: 15% – 20%
  • Lunch : 30% – 40%
  • Dinner : 30% – 40%
  • Snacks : 10% – 15%

Ensure breakfast has multiple food types and keep the sugar low

Both your lunch and dinner plates should consist of 25% protein, 25% starches and 50% vegetables.

Don’t forget to include drinks like tea or coffee taken with milk in your snack allowance, as milk calories can quickly mount up.

Using the calculator to see how many calories to eat per day to lose weight

If you are already tracking your calories burned through things like walkinghikingrunningswimmingcyclingspinningweightliftingelliptical training or others, you can combine that result with this calculator.

Simply choose the weekly activity level of Desk job with no exercise then add the two calorie values together.

For example if you’re a 160lb, 40 year old woman of 5′ 10″, who does a three mile run each day in 27 minutes.

The calories burned running calculator shows you burn 360 calories running.

The calories to eat per day calculator shows you need:

  • 1751 calories to maintain weight
  • 1375 calories to lose weight
  • 1000 calories to lose weight rapidly

So you can add these two together, giving you the following:

  • Maintain weight: 1751 + 360 = 2111 calories per day
  • Weight loss: 1375 + 360 = 1735 calories per day
  • Rapid weight loss: 1000 + 360 = 1360 calories per day

In order to lose weight you’ll need your average daily calorie intake to be inline with the values suggested in the calculator.

If you eat more one day, then simply eat less another.

Many people find success by being strict with themselves during the week and then allowing a few more treats at the weekend.

Let’s say for example you’ve got a daily target of 1800 calories. Then at the weekend you eat and drink more and end up consuming 2300 on both saturday and sunday. You can reduce your daily limt for the following monday to friday down to 1600.

e.g. :

Daily target = 1800 calories

  • Saturday @ 2300 = over target by 500
  • Sunday @ 2300 = over target by 500

Weekend = over target by 1000 calories

1000 calories divided by five days = reduce target by 200 calories Monday to Friday

New target for Monday to Friday = 1800 – 200 = 1600 calories

Daily calorie intake averaged over the week = 1800

This calculator uses a combination of equations.

The calories required to maintain weight are estimated by calculating your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) using a combination of Mifflin-St Jeor and Katch-McArdle equations. Then the RMR is multiplied by a standard activity factor scale to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

The calories required for weight loss and rapid weight loss are calculated based on a calorie reduction required to lose one to two pounds per week.

The calories per day calculator will not recommend less than 1000 calories.

While it can be safe to eat less than 1000 calories per day, this should only under qualified supervision.

Use the BMI calculator to understand your BMI, if this is less than 19, you are underweight.

Under eating is as dangerous as overeating. While rapid weight loss can be very motivating, it can also become addictive.

If you do not eat enough, over a prolonged length of time you will become very ill. In extreme cases this can lead to muscle reduction, including around the heart, which can be fatal.

Very low calorie diets

A very low calorie diet (VLCD) is where you eat less than 800 calories per day. You should only use a very low calorie diet under medical supervision.

The diet will usually replace food with foods with minimal calorie content. Examples include foods like:

  • Soups
  • shakes
  • bars
  • porridge

Usually very low calorie diets are only considered for people with a BMI over 30.

The longest time anyone should be on a very low calorie diet is 12 weeks. They are sometimes intermingled with a normal low calorie diet, e.g. VLCD two to four days a week.

Very low calorie diets are hard to follow. As well as feeling hungry all the time and having no energy, other side effects can include:

  • dry mouth
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • cramps
  • hair thinning

People do lose weight in the short term with VLCDs, but most people put it back on again after stopping the diet. Hence why doctors only prescribe them as part of a wider weight management plan.

The best path to long term weight loss is through consistent changes in what you eat and how much you exercise.

Calorie questions

what are caloriesA calorie is a measure of energy, it is used to measure the energy you take in through food and the energy you expend through daily activities.

A calorie is the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water one degree centigrade.

You body uses energy for keeping you alive, basic bodily functions such as pumping blood round your body, breathing, digesting food all require energy and that’s before you start standing up, walking around, working or even doing any exercise.

Calories vs kilocalories

The value you usually see (and what’s referenced on this page) in calories is actually kilocalories (kcal).

When you see food labelling and values on line, like in the calculator here, the reference is a kilocalorie. This is again a measure of energy required to raise 1000g (1kg) of water by one degree centigrade.

How many calories in a pound of fat?

One pound of fat has 3500 calories (kilocalories) of energy.

The basic principal of weight loss is that you must burn more calories than you consume, this is called creating a calorie deficit. The size of the calorie deficit is determined by calories in minus calories out.

To burn one pound of fat you need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories.

Example

A woman consumes 1,500 calories a day and expends 2,000 calories a day for 1 week
= (1,500 calories in – 2,000 calories out) X 7 days
= -500 calories per day
= -3,500 calories per week
= 1 lb of weight loss in a week

In order to lose weight, the average daily recommendations are:

  • 1900 calories for a man
  • 1400 calories for a woman

These are very broad averages, use the calories per day calculator for your own personal estimate.

Summary

Calories are a measure of energy. The values typically seen are actually kilocalories (kcal), the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree centigrade.

The average daily calorie recommendation is 2,500 for a man and 2,000 for a woman.

You need to burn 3,500 more calories than you eat for every pound of fat you want to lose.

The average calorie recommendations a day are:

  • 2500 for a man
  • 2000 for a woman

What difference does age make?

As you age you metabolism slows. This means you burn calories slower, meaning you need less calories per day the older you are.

For example a 5′ 4″ 130 pound woman of 20 years old requires 1615 calories a day to maintain that weight, whereas the same woman at 40 years old only needs 1496 calories a day.

Summary

The average daily calorie recommendation is 2,500 for a man and 2,000 for a woman.

The older you get, the slower your metabolism gets, meaning the less calories you need per day.

Daily calories when pregnant or breastfeeding

You’ve heard the saying “she’s eating for two”.

This can lead you to think, you should be eating twice as much when pregnant.

In reality, when pregnant you will only need a small increase in calories to provide the extra for your baby.

During your second trimester, you will need about 350 calories per day extra. This raises to around 450 calories per day during your third trimester.

So for example if you usually need 1,660 calories a day to maintain your normal weight.

  • During your second trimester you should be aiming to consume around 2,010 calories a day.
  • Then in your third trimester this should increase to about 2,110 calories per day.

What you eat is as important and how much you eat.

Filling your face with sweets and junk food, doesn’t provide your baby with any nutrients.

If you don’t eat food high in nutrients you baby will draw have to draw from your bodies reserves. Which could make you ill.

So look to healthy choices for your extra calories, such as:

  • Whole grain foods
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy food

So you know you should be gaining weight during pregnancy. But how much should you expect to gain?

How much is too much and how much is too little?

Well, as you’d expect, it depends where you start from…

Normal weight – BMI of 18.5 to 25

Starting your pregnancy with a normal health weight, with a BMI of between 18.5 and 25 is ideal.

Mothers with a normal weight have the lowest risk of adverse birth outcomes. Your baby is least likely to be either low or high birth weight.

Expect to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. At an increase of around 0.8 pounds per week in the second and third trimesters.

Underweight – BMI of less than 18.5

If you have a BMI of less than 18.5, you are underweight.

Starting a pregnancy underweight leads to an increase in the risk of low birth weight for your baby.

The risk is you may not have enough nutrient stores to provide for both you and your baby.

You can reduce your risk by having an appropriate gestation weight gain. From 27 to 40 pounds in total, or about one pound each week in the second and third trimesters.

You should also seek individual advice from your doctor.

Overweight and obese women – BMI of 25 or above

Being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases risks for you and your baby. It can increase the risk of you:

  • Needing a caesarean section, having a
  • Having a large baby
  • Having a baby with serious breathing problems

If you have a BMI of 25 to 30 you are overweight.

You can reduce your risk by only gaining

between 15 to 25 pounds in total. This is about 0.6 pound each week during the second and third trimesters

If your BMI is over 30, you are obese.

You can reduce your risk by only gaining between 10 to 20 pounds in total. This is roughly 0.4 pound per week in the second and third trimesters.

Generally you shouldn’t take up any new vigorous physical activity during pregnancy.

Ideal of mild physical activities like walking and swimming three to four times a week.

It’s generally safe to continue any existing regular exercise you did before pregnancy. For example, it can be safe to continue running, if your a regular runner, but don’t start anew.

Speak to your doctor, who can help clarify what is safe for you.

Food craving during pregnancy are due to your hormonal changes.

Often craving will pass after the first trimester.

It is fine to have some of the foods you crave every now and then. As long as you are getting a varied diet of different nutrients.

Sometimes pregnant women get strange cravings for things that are not food, such as:

  • Dirt
  • Clay
  • Laundry detergent
  • Ice chips

This type of craving is pica disorder, and it may be because of too little iron in your blood

A lack of iron can lead to anemia.

If you experience cravings for non-food items speak to your doctor about it.

Breastfeeding will consume about 450 to 500 calories per day.

If you are trying to maintain weight, then consume an extra 450 to 500 calories on top of your daily calories.

But if you want to lose weight, this calorie deficit is ideal and natures way of helping you out. Continue with a daily calorie intake recommended to maintain weight. The calories consumed breast-feeding will result in safe, gradual weight loss.