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How to Calculate Your Caloric Needs and Lose Weight

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Updated May 15, 2014

Tetra Images - Jamie Grill Collection: Brand X Pictures
Tetra Images /Jamie Grill Collection/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Question:

How many calories should I eat if I want to lose weight?

 

Answer:

It's Relative

Technically, there is no magic number of calories we should all eat each day to lose weight. While most people can lose weight eating around 1,500 calories, you can assess your own personal caloric needs with a little math.

Why Estimate Your Caloric Needs?

To estimate how many calories you should consume in order to maintain your weight, you'll need to do a little math. By using a simple formula called the Harris-Benedict principle, you can assess your basal metabolic rate -- also known as your BMR.

Then, to lose weight, you'll need to cut the right number of calories, burn extra calories or combine both strategies (which is the method that most experts recommend).

Calculate Your BMR

Your BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to function. We use about 60% of the calories we consume each day for basic bodily functions such as breathing.

More: BMR Defined

Other factors that influence your BMR are height, weight, age and sex.

Step one is to calculate your BMR with the following formula:

Women:
655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

Men:
66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

Please note that this formula applies only to adults.

More: Calculating BMR

Calculate Activity

Step two: In order to incorporate activity into your daily caloric needs, do the following calculation:
 
  • If you are sedentary : BMR x 20 percent
  • If you are lightly active: BMR x 30 percent
  • If you are moderately active (You exercise most days a week.): BMR x 40 percent
  • If you are very active (You exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods.): BMR x 50 percent
  • If you are extra active (You do hard labor or are in athletic training.): BMR x 60 percent

Add this number to your BMR.

The result of this formula will be the number of calories you can eat every day and maintain your current weight. In order to lose weight, you'll need to take in fewer calories than this result.

As you lose weight, you can re-calculate the formula to assess your new BMR.

Once you've calculated your BMR, learn how to use the number in your energy balance equation to lose weight.

 

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