How Many Calories Do I Need To Lose Weight Fast?

How Many Calories Do I Need To Lose Weight?

Calorie control is the single most important factor in weight loss. It is fundamental biology as well as physics. You will lose weight if you eat fewer calories than your body requires. But how do you figure out how many calories you need each day?

Here's everything you need to know about calorie control and calculating your exact calorie requirements for weight loss.

Calorie Definition

At its most basic, your body runs on energy derived from foods and beverages. Calories are equal to energy. And you need this energy to meet your daily requirements as well as to simply survive. You will perish if you stop eating calories.

So, what is the relationship between survival and maintaining a healthy weight? Because calories are essential for survival, your body stores them as muscle and fatty tissue, which is also the type of weight you can lose, gain, or maintain. This form of storage serves as a reserve fuel for times when you are not getting calories directly from food, as well as a precautionary measure in case you are unable to eat for an extended period of time.

Making a Calorie Deficit

You will maintain your current weight if the number of calories you consume equals the number of calories you burn. You will use more reserve fuels for energy and lose fat and muscle weight if you eat less. And eating more causes you to store more reserve fuel and gain muscle and/or fat. This is the weight-loss calorie balance equation: calories in versus calories out.

There is no pill, special diet, or food that can hack your metabolism and alter this fundamental formula. You cannot lose weight or fat unless you eat less than you burn through a consistent calorie deficit, regardless of how much fat or how many calories you burn for fuel.

What exactly is a calorie?

There is no single discovery more valuable in nutrition than a calorie in terms of energy intake and expenditure. Calories enable us to quantify our food, compare different foods, and manage our personal nutrition and fitness needs. But, exactly, what is a calorie?

A calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water by one degree Celsius. In other words, it is a metric that tells us how much energy is in our food. Initially, calories were measured by submerging a food item in water or burning the food in a sealed container. Calories are now calculated using a food's macronutrient breakdown, or the amount of carbs, fat, and protein it contains (2).

Calories have been used as a heat measurement since the early 1800s. However, what we now know and recognize as a food calorie was not established until the early twentieth century (3). Calories are still the most efficient way to measure energy intake and output, as well as the best way to directly affect weight management.

Calories = Macronutrients

Food and beverages are composed of macronutrients - carbohydrates, protein, and fat - which provide all of the calories we consume. Each macronutrient serves a different purpose in terms of health and nutrition, as well as providing a different number of calories per gram (protein and carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram, fat = 9 calories per gram).

Tracking your macros is an efficient way to count calories and balance your nutrition intake because macros play a role in your health and energy intake.

Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, help with overall health and weight management but do not directly contribute to calorie intake. In other words, the vitamins and minerals you eat or drink provide no calories.

Even though many micronutrients are involved in metabolic processes that help you get energy and can sometimes make you feel more energetic (I'm looking at you, B12), they cannot increase your energy on their own; you must also consume calories from macronutrients.

How Many Calories Should I Eat?

How Many Calories Should I Eat?

Energy requirements are completely individualized, which is why calorie control works so well for weight loss - there is no one-size-fits-all approach to how much energy your body requires. Calorie requirements differ according to age, height, gender, body weight, percent lean muscle mass, and level of activity.

Your daily requirements are comprised of four major components: BMR, NEAT, TEA, and TEF. Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is a fancy way of saying how many calories you burn each day based on your lifestyle, physical activity, and personal needs.

How Many Calories Do I Need To Lose Weight?

BMR: What is the Basal Metabolic Rate?

Your daily bodily functions, such as heartbeat, brain power, and breathing, all require a certain number of calories to function. This basic calorie intake is also known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or resting metabolic rate (RMR). This is the bare minimum of energy you require each day if you never leave your bed or move around, and it accounts for 60 to 70% of your daily calorie requirement.

Your BMR is proportional to your body weight. The higher it is, the more you weigh.

TEA and NEAT: Activity Energy Expenditure

Assuming you will move around at some point during the day, you must also consider calories burned from physical activity. This includes non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and your activity's thermogenic effect (TEA). NEAT refers to basic daily movements such as fidgeting, whereas TEA refers to the effect of exercise or more strenuous physical activity. These two together account for roughly 20% to 35% of your energy requirements.

The simplest way to burn more calories each day is to increase your activity level through fitness or daily movements.

What exactly is TEF?

The thermic effect of food (TEF), also known as diet-induced thermogenesis, influences your total daily energy expenditure (DIT). TEF or DIT accounts for only 10% of your total TDEE, but it is still worth mentioning.

TEF is not necessary to consider when calculating your overall calorie needs because it is such a small portion of your TDEE. However, it may still be an important consideration when deciding what to eat for weight loss.

Determine Your TDEE

An online calorie calculator can help you calculate your TDEE. Alternatively, you can estimate your requirements using an activity factor (AF) and a known BMR.

Use one of the following, or something in between, depending on how active or sedentary you are each day:

  • Sedentary (AF of 1.1) - Little to no physical activity.
  • Lightly Active (AF of 1.2) - 1 to 3 days per week of light exercise or training.
  • Active Moderately (AF of 1.35) - Moderate exercise twice a week or more.
  • Very active (AF of 1.4) - Perform strenuous exercise three or more days per week.
  • Extremely Active (AF of 1.6) - Working out twice a day or more.

To calculate your TDEE, multiply your chosen activity factor by your BMR.


How Many Calories Do You Need to Lose Weight?

How Many Calories Do You Need to Lose Weight?

I know what you're thinking: cutting as many calories as possible is the most effective way to lose weight quickly. But believe me when I say that if you only cut 15 to 20% of your calories or less, you will be much happier and more successful in the long run. Starving yourself might work temporarily, but it's not going to be sustainable or even enjoyable. And you might end up gaining it all back and then some.

Furthermore, don't just go with the first arbitrary number you see on the internet. Just because 1,200 calories is a popular plan doesn't mean it's right for you. Keep in mind that your calorie goals are highly personalized.

Begin with one of the following for at least three weeks before reevaluating your needs:

Sustainable Weight Loss = TDEE x 0.85

Fast Weight Loss = TDEE x 0.8

If you find that you are no longer losing weight after a period of dieting, it may be time to take a break. Take a few weeks off your diet and allow your calories to creep up a little. If you've lost weight, you'll need to recalculate your TDEE to maintain your new normal. After a little time adjusting, you can resume cutting calories until you reach your goal weight.

Whatever you do, don't rush or overwork your body. Remember, we're talking about survival fuel here. And your personal well-being is just as important, if not more, than the number on the scale. You will achieve your objectives, make progress, and see results if you are consistent and give yourself enough time.

How Many Calories Are in a Pound?

Do you want to know how much you need to cut in order to lose one pound? A pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories, so you would need to cut this amount from your diet through food or exercise to lose one pound.

This number will also give you an idea of how quickly you can lose weight because there are only so many calories you can cut or burn each day. You can expect to lose about a pound per week if you spread out 3,500 calories over the week - 500 calories per day. However, this is dependent on a variety of individual factors and is not a perfect science.

How to Track Your Calories

Weight loss is a numbers game, but there are a few things you can try to make your journey more bearable and give you even better results by focusing on portion sizes, the types of foods you choose, taking care of your mental health, and choosing the most effective forms of exercise for weight loss.

Your body requires energy to function, but you also require good nutrition to live well and for a longer period of time. While the quantity of food consumed determines overall weight loss, gain, or maintenance, the quality of food consumed is also important.

Your diet's overall balance and nutrition can influence the type of weight you lose, gain, or maintain. If your macronutrient balance is off, you may be storing more fat or losing muscle mass, which can stymie your overall efforts.

Furthermore, eating more nutrient-dense foods may help you control your hunger (5). When your body isn't getting enough nutrition or is deficient in key nutrients, it sends a signal to your brain that you should keep eating, no matter how much you've eaten.

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