How Many Calories? That is the Question!

calorie intake for weight loss

Calorie Intake to Lose Weight

We are all in search of the magic potion.  You know – the one that instantly melts pounds away.

While the potion sounds like a dream come true, the reality is that it just doesn’t exist.

So, until it does, we need to stick to the basics of weight loss: burn more calories than you consume.

Really, it is as simple as that, you lose weight by eating less energy than you expend. It seems as if it couldn’t be simpler.  However, determining the appropriate amount of calories for weight loss can be a difficult and frustrating process.

Understanding Calories

Calories tend to get a bad rap.

Calories themselves are not bad.  However, eating more of them than your body needs tends to be a problem.

A calorie is simply a unit of energy.  Your body burns it to fuel the everyday function required to live. When you increase movement, through exercise, your body requires more energy, so it burns more calories.

On the other hand, when you eat more food than your body requires, they are stored in the body as fat.

Food generally falls into three categories: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

While each category provides specific functions in the body, it helps to know the amount of calories in each one:

Calories Per Gram:

  • Carbohydrates: 4
  • Proteins: 4
  • Fats: 9

How Your Body Loses Weight

The rate at which your body uses energy while performing normal, everyday activities is known as metabolism.

Your metabolism is determined by two main factors:

  • Heredity
  • Physical Activity Level

Some people have a naturally high metabolism.  They process food seemingly as fast as they can eat it (I’m jealous).

Others have a slow metabolism.  Rather than burn energy, their bodies tend to store it as fat (yup, that’s me).

Unfortunately, there is little you can do about genetics.  It really is how your body is built (thanks mom and dad!).

However, metabolism can be increased through physical activity.

Obviously, your body burns calories during physical activity. Physical activity also keeps your metabolism at a high level long after you have completed exercise.

The amount of muscle you have on your body also affects your metabolism.  One pound of muscle burns roughly 50 more calories per hour than fat!

Determining Your Caloric Intake

Consuming or burning an additional 3,500 calories adds or subtracts one pound of body fat.

Reducing your daily intake by 500 calories a day typically results in one pound of fat lost each week. Burning an additional 500 a day, through exercise typically results in another one pound of fat loss per week.

Determine your caloric need, or Resting Metabolic Rate, with the following formula:

  • For Females: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
  • For Males: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

Here’s a calculator to figure it out for you

The safest and most effective way to achieve healthy weight loss is a lifestyle change.  This change includes consuming less calories from healthier options and committing to daily physical activity.


References: What it Takes to Lose Weight
The Nemours Foundation: Learning About Calories


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