How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?

How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?

Do you ever wonder how many calories you should eat to lose weight? While the numbers are different for everyone — because we all have different body sizes, muscle mass, genetics, and lifestyles — there are some general guidelines that are helpful for most people.


How Many Calories Should I Eat in A Day?

An average woman will mostly likely need to eat around 1,800 calories in a day to maintain weight and approximately 1,200-1,400 calories a day to lose weight. An averageman needs around 2,800 calories per day to maintain and approximately 2,300 calories to lose weight. But since we are all different and this may not apply to you, how should you estimate the amount of calories you need to eat?

woman standing in front of open fridge wondering what to eat

A Calorie Calculator for Weight Loss

For starters, this calorie calculator can help you estimate your calorie needs better. It will show you around how many calories you need in a day to lose weight or to maintain weight. It takes into account your age, gender, height, weight and activity level, so, though the numbers are still ballpark rather than personalized, it may give you a better picture of your personal calorie needs.

How many calories do I need?

Ultimately, what leads to weight loss is maintaining a negative energy balance over time— meaning you consistently take in fewer calories than you use, either by cutting your calorie intake, increasing the amount of calories you burn through exercise, or both. Of course, the quality of calories matters as well, not just for healthy weight loss, but for your long-term health, metabolism, and immune system.

(And going to extremes — cutting more calories than is healthy, or going far too hard on exercise without consuming the calories to give your body the fuel it needs — could backfire, leading your body to hoard calories.)

Weight loss is not a fast process. I’m an R.D.N. (a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist), and this is probably the number-one issue I see my clients struggle with, the issue that leads them to give up. Know this: Fast results are highly unlikely without a crash diet or severe restriction — neither of which is healthy. Nor will either give you long-term results.

Slow and steady wins the race

It’s going to take time. That’s why I always tell my clients to be extra gentle with themselves — they shouldn’t get discouraged if they don’t see fast results.

It generally takes a deficit of 3,500 calories just to lose one single pound of weight. That’s a lot of calories, which is why a weight loss of only a half pound to one pound a week — a loss of fat, not water weight — actually takes a lot of work! You have to be in a significant daily deficit just to hit that.

And in order to maintain that momentum, you have to be losing weight in a way that is truly doable in the long run.

Hitting your weight-loss goal

Dietary needs are very personal. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. While most calorie calculators (like the one mentioned above) use your age, gender, activity level, and current weight, which are enough to give you an approximate answer for caloric intake, many of them do not take into account other individual and genetic factors like your sleep, muscle mass, stress level, and genes. All of which may affect your current weight and your weight-loss strategy.

So if you find you don’t know where to start or you have started but you’re not seeing the results you want, there are other things to try.

Getting personalized advice

If you want truly personalized advice, the best route is to work with a professional, such as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). An RDN knows how to evaluate you and your lifestyle to come up with an ideal calorie range, and can also help you to plan your meals and lifestyle in a way that will set you up for sustainable long-term results.

Other DIY tips to lose weight and decrease calories

woman's hand writing in a notebook on wooden table surrounded by veggies

If you don’t have access to a dietitian and you don’t trust yourself to count those calories, there are other ways to help manage your weight. Here are some of my favorite tips:

  • Add protein to your meals. Some research suggests protein helps to reduce hunger and boost your metabolism, and studies show that consuming protein on the higher end of the recommended amount — around 25 to 35 percent of your calories — may help you lose weight and keep it off long-term.
  • Add whole grains to your diet. Whole grains are digested more slowly than processed ones, which helps to keep you satiated over a longer period of time. The fiber will also help your body detoxify itself, lower your LDL cholesterol, and control your blood sugar. People who eat high fiber diets tend to have lower body weight.
  • Make sure you get enough fiber. Speaking of whole grains, research shows that if you’re not eating enough of them, you’re probably not getting enough fiber. The daily recommended fiber intake is 25 to 30 grams. This is only possible with a high intake of whole grains — and other high-fiber sources like fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes.
  • Stay away from processed carbs and sugary drinks. Refined simple carbs (like corn syrup) tend to give you none of the fiber or nutrients you need and all the added sugars you don’t.
  • Drink plenty of water. Sometimes when you feel hungry, you might just be thirsty. Our thirst and hunger centers are right next to one another in the brain, so that’s why you may sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Sip water throughout the day to help avoid unnecessary cravings (and to ensure proper hydration).
  • Establish a workout routine that you enjoy. Find an activity that you really like and try doing it for at least 30 minutes a day. If you find an exercise program you can look forward to, you are more likely to stay on track, and exercise is critical to a successful weight-loss plan. Exercise boosts your metabolism, helps you focus, and improves your mood.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is directly linked to weight loss. Sleep deprivation disrupts the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which are responsible for hunger and satiety signals. When you don’t sleep enough, you feel more hungry. This is why you might be craving sugary or fatty foods after a sleepless night.