How Many Calories Should You Eat Per Day To Loose Pounds?

“I shouldn’t eat that! It has too much fat!” “But I’m hungry!” or “Was it really necessary to eat that second slice of cake?” You must have heard these statements multiple times, right? 

Eating more than you should have. That is a story that happens to almost all of us. It’s dangerous, too. The dangers of obesity are well-documented. As the number of overweight people grows, so does the rate of obesity-related medical problems.

The solution – our handy guide will give you the information on calories to take in per meal or snack. We’ll tell you how many calories you should take in, how your body mass index compares with others of the same height and gender, and how you can initiate weight loss or gain. Scroll down to learn about calories in depth!

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What Should Be Your Average Calorie Intake?

Your calorie intake depends on several factors like sex, height, age, activity levels, metabolic health, and current weight. But how do I lose weight?

Every person is different, and so is every weight loss journey. Because of this, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. However, there are a few things that might help you achieve your goals:

The first step to losing weight and keeping it off for good is to find an approach that fits within your lifestyle and will last for the long term. Sure, fad diets can help you drop a few pounds fast, but in the long run, they often fail. And you probably won’t shed pounds without changing how you live and view food.

To ensure that your diet is realistic and lasting, keep track of how many calories you consume daily. For this, you can also try low calorie high protein meals to lower down your calorie consumption. If you strip away all the confusion about what to eat, counting calories boils down to being aware of what you’re putting into your body and how much of it.

The best way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit diet. Consuming fewer calories than your average intake or increasing your exercise team can help in boosting weight loss. 

Some people prefer to eat fewer calories while being more physically active. The results you get after combining these two approaches are far more effective. However, you won’t want to lose your health while shedding some pounds.

Therefore, keeping track of calorie intake is important to ensure you are eating enough to provide your body with essential nutrients. Also, you should be opting for a sustainable weight loss plan. This is why many dietitians and experts recommend small reductions in calorie intake. 

For instance, several fad diets suggest limiting your calorie consumption to about 1,000-1,200 calories daily. However, healthy adults can’t perform well on this less calorie intake.

If you dare to reduce your calorie intake, it will come back to you with serious negative effects. On top of that, you will also have an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies. Besides, drastic drops in calorie consumption affect your metabolic rates, leading to difficult weight management. 

The following are the recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Men

Age Daily Calorie Requirements
19-30 years 2,400 – 3,000 calories
31-59 years 2,200 – 3,000 calories
60+ years 2,000 – 2,600 calories

In men, calorie intake may range depending on many factors. According to the recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, men between the ages of 19 and 30 must consume 2,400 – 3,000 calories daily to maintain a healthy weight. 

As you grow old, your body’s energy requirements also drop down. Therefore, the calorie intake becomes 2,200 – 3,000 for men between the ages of 31 and 59. For men over 60, consuming 2,000 – 2,600 calories is the general calorie requirement. 

Despite your age, the level of physical activity is a deciding factor in calculating the right amount of calories. Men who have certain health conditions or engage in more activities require more calories than men who don’t. Furthermore, even within these ranges, the exact number of optimal calories varies due to your weight and height. 

Women

Age Daily Calorie Requirements
19-30 years 2,000 – 2,400 calories
31-59 years 1,800 – 2,200 calories
60+ years 1,600 – 2,000 calories

Age, activity level, and size are the three primary factors that decide the optimal calorie requirements for women. For women aged 19-30 years, 2,000 – 2,400 calories per day are substantial for weight maintenance.

For the second age group, 31-59 years, these women should eat 1,800 – 2,200 calories daily, while women over 60 require far fewer calories. Generally, 1,600 – 2,000 calories per day are ideal for healthy weight management. 

Understand that these guidelines and ranges are for the general population, and the exact number of calories ideal for your body varies. Factors like weight, height, health condition, and activity level may push your calorie requirement to a high or low end or even exceed the limit.

Children

Age Daily Calorie Requirements
2-4 years Male: 1,000 – 1,600 calories

Female: 1,000 – 1,400 calories

5-8 years Male: 1,200 – 2,000 calories

Female: 1,200 – 1,800 calories

9-13 years Male: 1,600 – 2,600 calories

Female: 1,400 – 2,200 calories

14-18 years Male: 2,000 – 3,200 calories

Female: 1,800 – 2,400 calories

For children in growing years; their calorie requirement varies widely depending on size, activity level, and age. Age and sex are the deciding factors for the energy needs of children and teens. 

While only 1,200 calories suffice the energy needs of a 3-year-old, nearly 3,000 calories per day are what a teenager may need. Nevertheless, knowing that counting the calories of children and teens may be useless since they are in their growth years. 

In fact, if you cut the children’s calorie intake, you will welcome their nutritional deficiencies, leading to slow growth. Besides, they may develop an unhealthy relationship with food that can further nurture an eating disorder.

Rather than counting calories, experts recommend encouraging your child to eat healthy and nutrient-dense home-cooked meals.

What Are Calories?

In the simplest terms, a calorie is a unit of energy. Generally, researchers and scientists use calories to measure the amount of energy a specific food and beverage can provide to your body. Your energy requirements are determined by your age, lifestyle, and size, including height and weight. 

If you want to lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories than you burn daily. Contrastingly, your body needs more calories than it expends if you plan to gain weight. 

Although the “calories in, calories out” concept for weight loss seems viable, numerous factors like hormonal changes, age, genetics, and medical diagnoses play a great role. Hence, losing weight is more about a healthy diet and a great lifestyle plan than merely calculating calorie intake or consuming fewer calories. 

Calories And Kilocalories

Generally, the term calorie is used in place of kilocalorie. Therefore, you will find kilocalories written on food packages instead of calories. On that note, kilocalories are equivalent to kilojoules (kJ) in the International System of Units (ISU). 

Food packets have energy calculations in both kcal and kJ. Note that 4.2kJ is approximately equivalent to 1kcal. 

Factors Affecting Calorie Intake

According to the recommended calorie intake guidelines, your daily calorie requirement depends on a multitude of factors. Sex, height, weight, age, and activity level are among them. 

Additional factors like your hormones, overall health, and some medication such as diabetes and steroid medicines can greatly impact you. 

How Can You Consume Fewer Calories?

What’s not normal is maintaining a healthy weight without effectively managing calories.

The 80/20 rule can be very helpful for weight loss. The famous Teressa Cutter made the rule in The 80/20 Diet: 12 Weeks to a Better Body. It holds that you should dedicate 80 percent of your effort to eating nutritious foods and enjoying a treat in the other 20 percent.

In this case, that means eating mostly nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables while cutting back on candy, soda, and donuts.Or some people even try Atkins diet, ketogenic (keto) diet  or meal replacement shakes to promote weight loss.

This makes the most out of our calorie consumption because aimlessly counting calories can be ineffective for sustaining weight loss. Also, if you want to make it easier to stick with a healthy diet or lose weight faster, consider lowering your calorie intake without being hungry or depriving yourself.

Five straightforward strategies can help you get closer to healthy body weight.  

  • More Protein

Protein intake plays a prominent role in weight loss plans. Studies have shown that increasing protein intake may help curb your hunger while keeping you full for a long time.

In addition, protein consumption helps against cravings. Research suggests that snacks with high protein levels improve feelings of fullness while suppressing appetite and hunger. 

According to some other studies, maintaining a high protein diet may prevent or decrease weight regain. Additionally, high protein intake may help with maintaining muscle mass. 

Consequently, increasing your protein intake through more meat, eggs, tofu, poultry, legumes, seeds, and nuts is your way to achieving long-lasting weight loss benefits. 

  • Restrict Sugar Beverages

Limiting the number of sugary drinks is another easy change you can bring to your diet. You should exclude sugar-sweetened beverages like chocolate milk, fruit juices, and sodas. These drinks do not have nutritional value, and that’s why it is better to avoid them.

Moreover, your brain does not keep tabs on the liquid calories as it does with solid calories. Therefore, liquid calories have significantly less influence on your hunger and feeling of fullness.

Besides, studies show that drinking sugary drinks can increase the risk of obesity in individuals. Also, the negative effects of high sugar intake go beyond weight gain. Over consumption of sugar may lead to a number of health issues like type-2 diabetes

es, liver problems, and heart disease.

  • Increase Water Consumption

Another simple contribution you can make to your diet is drinking more water. Appropriate hydration boosts your weight management goals and improves brain health. Besides, it is also helpful in reducing the risk of kidney stones. 

Additionally, if you drink water immediately before meals, you will feel less hungry, resulting in fewer calories. By combining this strategy with a balanced diet, pre-meal water consumption can be greatly helpful in shedding weight. 

Drink a glass of water before every meal – water helps fill you up without adding to the calorie count in your meal, but it also helps boost your metabolism for several hours after drinking it.

You can drink unsweetened beverages, including sparkling water, tea, and coffee, to meet your hydration needs. This way your body will not have to deal with added calories from sugary drinks. 

  • Limit Ultra-Processed Foods and Refined Carbs

Refined carbs include grains that lack germ and bran. In addition to sugar and sweeteners, bread, white rice, crackers, and pasta are an example of refined carbs. 

Fiber aids weight loss by suppressing your appetite and making you feel full. Since refined grains do not have fiber, they are useless to your weight loss plan. 

Limiting your carbohydrate intake, including fewer carbs, may improve weight loss. It is because fewer carbs intake can modify levels of certain hormones involved in appetite regulation like peptide YY. 

A ketogenic or low-carb diet is not an answer for every individual’s weight loss goals. Therefore, you can replace refined carbs with a range of fibrous and nutrient-rich carbs. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and root vegetables, among other sources, can be beneficial. 

Furthermore, it is in your best health to keep ultra-processed foods like packaged snacks, fast food, sugary drinks, and candies at bay. These food products pack high levels of refined carbs on the one hand; on the other, they contain sugars, salt, unhealthy fats, and preservatives. All of them are detrimental to your health, so ensure to omit them from your diet. 

  • Engage In Physical Activity

Significant calorie restriction may have a toll on your health as it slows down your metabolic rate and boosts your appetite. In addition, cutting calories drastically may result in losing muscle mass, which can harm your overall health.  

Resistance training activities can aid in lesser muscle loss during long-term calorie restriction. These activities, like weightlifting, can ultimately impact limiting alterations in metabolic rates. 

Bodyweight exercises are a suitable alternative to weightlifting. So, if you can’t go to a gym, try doing squats, situps, and pushups in your safe space. 

Furthermore, swimming, jogging, and walking are cardio exercises that help boost weight loss and promote great health. Not to mention, the benefits of exercise outstrip weight loss. Engaging in physical activities result in better energy levels, promotes longevity, improved mental health, and lower risk of chronic ailments.  

Tips to Lose Weight

Stuck in a vicious cycle of skipping meals to eat less and exercise more but still not losing weight? It’s time for a new approach.

The easiest way to create a calorie deficit is to have a meal or snack with fewer calories than usual or be more active than usual. In addition, you can follow the following steps to stick to a sustainable and long-lasting weight loss plan.

  • Develop Mindful Eating Habits: Mindful eating means limiting mealtime disturbance and focusing on your foods’ smell, taste, and texture. Also, mindful eating can lessen cravings and boost long-term weight loss. 
  • Eat More Vegetables And Fruits: Fresh vegetables and fruits provide high levels of fiber but offer low calories. They boost your nutrient intake. Furthermore, veggies and fruits may have a link with your weight loss goals. 
  • Make A Shopping List: You will have difficulty sticking to a healthy diet if your kitchen is stocked with ultra-processed foods. Therefore, make a shopping list and buy healthy foods each week. Stocking up your fridge with nutritious and healthy ingredients is better.
  • Prep Meals In Advance: For many people, meal prepping is a convenient method to eat nutritious food even on the go. So, pick one or two days from your schedule, cook your meals in advance, and savor tasty dishes throughout your week.   

About Food And Exercise

If you stay within your calorie range, eating what you want and losing weight will never be parallel factors. Notably, refusing to eat nutritious foods will cancel those benefits even if your calorie intake is within range.

In addition, empty-calorie foods lack nutritional value and thus can’t promote your health and life activities. Consumption of junk and overly processed foods do not help your weight loss as they increase your appetite and cravings. 

Contrastingly, healthy foods are packed with nutrients, energy, and health-boosting compounds. Therefore, they keep you feeling satiated, strong, and energized.   

So, thinking about what you should eat? Health and fitness experts suggest filling your plate with colorful vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, whole fruits, nuts, seeds, and water. 

Diet

Are you tired of ineffective diet plans? Nutritionist-approved food plans that don’t work? The way to shed those unwanted pounds is by using your fridge. In fact, your refrigerator might hold the answers you need to your weight loss problems.

Keep your weight loss efforts on track by avoiding common food pitfalls that lead to overeating – like snacking before dinner or skipping breakfast.

Therefore, you need to replace large meals and snacks with five or six realistically portioned “mini meals” throughout the day. Other strategies include cutting out liquids during meals and adding more protein-packed foods, such as eggs, beans, and lentils, to your diet. 

Eat more leafy greens as they are packed with vitamins and minerals that can aid your metabolism significantly while making your meal feel less caloric. Additionally, switch up healthy fats for unhealthy ones in many recipes – like coconut oil instead of butter or ghee instead of vegetable oil.

These changes might not sound like they’ll be easy because they take time to develop new habits. However, you will soon be used to them and benefit from improved overall health.

Exercise

Here are a few activities and the number of calories they help you burn in half an hour. Following are the values estimated for an individual weighing 125 pounds. 

Activity Calories Burned
Aqua aerobics 120
Lifting weights 90
Computer work 41
General swimming 180
Walking at 4.5 miles an hour 150
Sleeping 19
Running at 6 miles an hour 300

Daily Needs

To learn the number of calories your body needs, understand your activity factor and basal metabolic rate.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

You can effectively calculate your BMR using Mifflin-St.Jeor equation:

Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161

Men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5

If not, you can use one of many BMR calculators available on the internet. Just make sure to put your details cautiously in the calculator, which will give you your BMR.

Activity Factor

Once you have calculated your BMR, multiply your result with an activity factor to know your daily calorie needs.

Sedentary Lifestyle: If you engage in very little physical activity or do no exercise at all, BMR x 1.2 is your daily calorie need. 

Slightly Active Lifestyle: If you do little exercise one to three times per week, your daily calorie need is BMR x 1.375.

Moderately Active Lifestyle: If you moderate exercise three to five times a week, BMR x 1.725 is your daily calorie need.

Active Lifestyle: If you do heavy exercise six to seven times a week, BMR x 1.725 will give your daily calorie requirement.

Very Active Lifestyle: If you do very intensive training twice a day with heavy workouts, BMR x 1.9 is your daily calorie need. 

Doing the calculations correctly will give you a rough idea of how many calories you should take in a day to maintain weight. Know that the result is not completely perfect since the equation does not involve the muscle fat ratio. Even in resting conditions, a bulky and muscular individual requires more calories. 

Ideal Body Weight

Like daily calorie requirements, ideal body weight results from many factors encompassing bone density, muscle-fat ratio, height, sex, and age. Generally, you can use one of three ways to know your ideal weight.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Calculating body mass index is the one way to know how much you should weigh. You can use a BMI calculator to calculate your weight and height. 

 

BMI  Definition
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal weight
25 – 29.9 Overweight
30 or above Obese

The BMI does not consider muscle mass during calculations. For instance, suppose a fine athlete with 200 pounds weight, 1 meter, and 83 cm height. He can have the same BMI as an inactive individual of the same height. While the athlete is not overweight, the inactive person possibly is. 

Waist-Hip Ratio

Researchers say that individuals with a waist circumference of less than half their height are expected to live longer. The risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease is lower in individuals with smaller waist-to-height sizes.

An adult male should have a waist less than 36 inches (91 cm) and 6 feet (183 cm).

An adult female should have a waist not exceeding 32 inches (81 cm) if her height is 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm).

You can measure your waist by wrapping a measuring tape around your tummy, approximately halfway between your lower rib and pelvic bone. This measurement is more accurate for working out a healthy weight than BMI. Still, it has a drawback since it does not consider your muscle-fat ratio.

How To Count Daily Calorie Intake?

How can I count calories? Should I use an app or look food up in a book? If you calculate your calorie intake every time you eat, it takes too long.

The best way is to look for an appropriate app or website like MyFitnessPal. You will definitely find several services that let you calculate your daily calorie requirement by putting in the food and portion size you ate.   

Using a weight loss journal is the best bet if you are not tech-savvy. This way, you can write your calorie intake in your journal or notebook and keep tabs on your calorie intake. 

Drawbacks Of Calorie Calculation

Deciding how many calories you should eat for weight loss can be confusing. Calorie counting and macronutrient tracking are time-consuming, and it can be tempting to give up when meal planning gets overwhelming.

Although counting calories consumed is an efficient strategy for weight loss, consider several factors to choose what and how much to eat. In addition to calories, you should pay attention to balancing your diet rich in a range of whole foods. 

Eating nutritious foods will help your body get nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to boost health. Even if you start a calorie-deficient diet, ensure not to drastically cut calories. If so, you might face several side effects like dizziness, nausea, fatigue, more appetite, and headaches. 

Additionally, intake of too few calories may negatively impact your metabolism, making it slow. And if your metabolism is slow, your body will not shed those stubborn fat packets.  

Focus on sustainable weight loss plans and prefer taking baby steps towards your weight loss goals. Consequently, calorie counting is not a definite science. Your body’s daily calorie requirement may fluctuate. While it needs more on some days, the other days it calls for fewer calories. Moreover, solely focusing on weight and numbers can elicit eating disorders

FAQs Regarding Calorie Intake 

Are all calories created equally?

You may come across the term “empty calories.” It is typically used for processed foods and items rich in sugar, trans fat, and unnecessary levels of calories and fat. 

Although these foods give you energy, processed foods lack suitable levels of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Therefore, their calories become empty calories, unable to match your body’s requirements. Even if you eat burgers, pizzas, and packet snacks, you will have more cravings.

Therefore, you need to focus on a healthy and nutritious diet based on fruits, veggies, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and lean meats. Working out the right amount of calories will assist your goal regardless of your weight loss or weight gain program.  

How many calories should you eat to lose weight?

The number of calories for your health goals, like weight loss, depends on several factors. To pursue a sustainable and long-term weight loss plan, experts advise you to cut on highly processed foods. 

It means no more drinking soft drinks, having your favorite ice cream, or another piece of strawberry cake. Also, prefer combining a calorie deficit diet with an active lifestyle. Weightlifting and strenuous exercise can help increase your metabolism, which is reduced by a calorie deficit diet. Exercise aids in boosting your metabolic rate, which ultimately leads to the burning of stored fat in your body. 

Moreover, if you want personalized help, make sure to consult a dietitian and get your diet plan.   

Conclusion: How Many Calories Should I Take? 

A calorie is a unit of energy equivalent to kilojoules in the International System of Units. Scientists, researchers, and dietitians use this unit to estimate the energy a specific food can provide. 

Keeping account of your calorie intake is important when you want to; gain, lose, or maintain weight. First, you should know which calorie range you fall in using your height and weight. 

The daily calorie requirements vary from one individual to other depending upon sex, age, height, weight, and activity factors. So, calculating daily calorie intake can supplement your efforts if you want to pursue a fitness and health goal. 

Experts recommend consuming 1,000 to 1,200 calories every day on average. However, for personalized diet plans, make sure to consult a dietician. Your physician will help you craft a menu with a specific amount of calories to help you lose or gain weight quickly. Or you can even try weight loss pills and supplements to boost your weight loss cycle.

Whatever strategy you opt for your goal, just eat healthy, mindful meals and snacks, and watch those extra pounds melt off!

 

 

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