The Definite Answer To How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight

March 25, 2014 | 79 Comments


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

How many meals should I eat? Should I eat breakfast? What’s the word on caffeine? How about carbs, I heard those are bad for you.

Slow down buddy. Before you start worrying about any of that stuff, you need to get a firm grip on your calorie intake.

If you want to have any chance at successfully losing weight, you need to know the basics before worrying about all that other stuff.

You need to be able to answer this question – how many calories should I eat a day to lose weight?

How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight?
Counting calories doesn’t need to be frustrating

Calorie guidelines to lose weight

The following guidelines are to simply lose an average of about 1 pound per week.

The formula: Daily calorie intake to lose 1 pound per week = (your bodyweight in pounds) * 10-12

Complicated huh?

The truth is, there are a ton of fancy formulas and calculators out there to determine your daily calorie intake that take age, exercise frequency, and other factors into consideration, but I don’t like to complicate things, and this formula is as simple and effective as it gets.

Determining whether you should multiply by 10, 11, or 12 depends on your activity level.

  • Multiply by 10 if… you don’t move. You barely exercise, maybe 1-2x per week. You sit at a desk all day. The most active part of your day is lifting up your fork.
  • Multiply by 11 if… you move a little. You exercise 2-3x per week. You like to get up and move around a bit.
  • Multiply by 12 if… you’re normal. You are fairly active. You exercise 3-5x per week.

So for example, if you’re a 180 pound man who lifts weights 3x per week, walks around the office, and stands up every once in a while, then you would eat approximately 2160 calories per day (180*12=2160) to lose 1 pound per week.

For the majority of people, multiplying by 12 should be fine. I only recommend people to start at 10 if they are truly inactive.

Do I really need to count calories?

Short answer = YES.

There are people out there who argue about the long term effectiveness of calorie counting as a lifestyle. They argue that calorie counting will lead to obsessive disorders, and argue that weight loss is not about how much you eat, but is instead more about the types of food you eat.

I personally don’t agree with any of that. I understand that there are more nutritionally dense foods out there and that there are certain foods that satiate hunger better than others,  but in the end, there’s no other way to lose fat than to eat in a calorie deficit.

Don’t ever let ANYONE tell you that you have to eat a specific food to lose weight. Over the past few months, I’ve drawn my fair share of criticism for telling people that a calorie is a calorie no matter what and I understand where those arguments are coming from.

I’ve literally had people email me to tell to go “fuck myself” for the advice I’m giving on this blog. Whenever I tried to reasonably explain myself, they would just throw arguments about food processing, insulin, and other crazy stuff in my face. Over time, I just ignored these people. It’s simply not worth my time and energy.

What I’m trying to say is that calorie counting isn’t going to make you crazy as long as you don’t make it crazy. Just follow the formula I laid out and make small adjustments along the way if necessary.

As time goes on you’ll get a natural feel for how many calories it takes for you to lose, gain, or maintain your weight. But when first starting out, you should definitely track your intake closely.

After you get firm grip on your daily calorie intake, you could start to incorporate other weight loss tactics like intermittent fastinginto your life.

Hopefully, this answers your question to how many calories should I eat a day to lose weight.

79 Comments - Leave Your Thoughts

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  1. I will be honest with you and admit this may be the first one I disagree with you on. The whole it takes 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat idea is flawed. It starts becoming simple maths when the human body is more complex than that. Obese people will lose more fat than average sized people. Another case is when you get to really low body fats, that fat is very difficult to come off so there are other forces at work other than burn x amount of calories. I personally am in the middle of calorie theory and the quality of calories theory.

    1. Michael,
      I think the reason more obese people lose weight is simply due to the excess amount of water they’re holding. And yes, when it comes to dieting down to super low body fat levels, I think that does take a somewhat more delicate approach.

    2. Obese people lose more quickly because the lifestyle change is so great. I always marvel at how quickly people lose on shows like Biggest Loser but the truth is, if you drink a 2 liter of soda a day, for instance, simply switching to a diet soda will make a HUGE difference in your daily calories. For someone my size who might drink 1-2 cans, the deficit isn’t nearly as great.

      Love your posts. So true. It’s just MATH.

  2. So true! Losing weight is all about burning more calories than you ingest.
    I dropped 60 pounds simply by counting my calories and moderately exercising. No tricks and no supplementation whatsoever.

    Question for ya…say I’m aiming for a bit of recomposition. Trim a few pounds while bulking up – what’s the good multiplier for someone who weighs 175? I’m currently eating about 2500 calories daily and exercising every other day (about 4 days a week).

    1. You have to be VERY patient for recomp.

      On training days: 500 extra calorie surplus
      On non-training days: 300 cal deficit

      Make sure to keep protein high on both days.

  3. Hello! I have a question: I’m a dog walker and have been walking about 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for the past 5 years. I’m not sure what my caloric goals should be for a 1lb loss/week?

    Should I be eating 12 x my body weight like everyone else? Should I be re-eating most of the calories I burn walking? Other dog walkers have told me that your metabolism eventually normalizes – not sure if that’s true / what that actually means lol!?

    Anywho not a big deal but just discovered this site (love!) so thought I’d ask the question I’ve been wondering for some time. Thanks!

    1. Just think of the calories as an extra ‘bonus’. Don’t try to compensate for your extra activity.

      Thanks glad you like the site.

  4. I love your advice I know it works because I have done the low calorie intake daily an saw changes on the scale I just gained 15 pounds after my mom passed away an summer is coming closer an I’m going on vacation to see my family an friends an I wanna get the best body that I can not go overboard but be in shape cause now Imy over weight I’m 5”4 I’m 15 an 164 pounds. Do you have any advice for me ? I just really think your articles are
    Great an that they help I was just wondering if you got any suggestions for me

    1. Sorry about your mom.

      But you’re 15 I really recommend just starting to make healthier food choices (eat more fruits and veggies and more lean protein). Don’t go on extreme calorie diets.

  5. Keith you have great advice and a great website but i really need your help its close to summer and i want to gain a summer body I’m tired of being shown up by my dad who’s a body builder i wanna gain that summer body with out my fathers help I’m 16 5″6 and i way 175 what foods should i eat and what work outs should i follow from your website. By the way i have sort of man boobs how do i get reed of that too?

    1. haha why don’t you just do what your dad is doing?

      For foods, it’s really simple just eat whole, natural unprocessed foods like lean proteins, fruits, veggies.

  6. Hello! I just stumbled upon your site. I really appreciate the advice you give!

    Just gotta ask: do these calorie calculations (12xBW) and protein intake (0.8-1) apply to women too?!

  7. Hey! Nice blog!
    I have a question for you. I did the math x12 and i should be eating roung 1500 kcals/ day. I’m going to the gym 5-6 times/ week for about 1 hour. Does the thing with “On training days: 500 extra calorie surplus ; On non-training days: 300 cal deficit” also apply to women and is it good for fatloss?

  8. Hi Keith, awesome website man! 😀
    I’ve lost 65 pounds in 10 months but now it is time to bulk up a little bit . So, i’m thinking to train 3 days per week (following your workout suggestion in a post) but i have a question. In training days I have to eat a caloric superavit (I’m 5.7′ and weight 150 lbs today, so mi caloric intake on workout days should be aproximately 2700-2800 calories) and non-training days I have to eat my maintenance caloric needs (obviously focusing on your macronutrient intake)? Thank you so much for your time Keith and i’ll train like a superhero! 😀
    Cheers!!

    1. yes but one suggestion i have recently is to eat 100-200 cals over maintenance just to be safe on off days. I find a lot guys stick to closely to maintenance and sometimes even dip under, so to be safe go 100-200 above on rest days.

      1. Hi Keith, thank you so much for your answer 🙂 !
        Sorry but (i forgot asking to you in my last comment), This 500 calories surplus must be only carbs or a mix of carbs, protein and fat? Thank you for your time and your help, your advice will be considered a lot! 😀
        Cheers from Chile!

  9. Hi Keith – please keep doing what you’re doing. I can’t believe people would tell you to f***off – just what is their weird deep-rooted problem!? Hey-ho, they’ll always be idiots, I guess.

    I have a question for you, if you don’t mind?

    I am female, 6 feet tall, 240lbs, sedentary (due to illness) and want to lose 1lb per week.

    Using your calculation, does this mean that I will start to achieve this by eating 2400 calories a day?

  10. Hi, really useful advice on your site, thanks.
    I’ve managed to lose 10lbs eating 1200 cals a day, struggling to lose last few lbs but don’t want to go lower, what do you advise? Also when calculating calorie intake is it according to your current weight, i.e. I’m 139lbs now want to be 135 so in theory should I consume 1350 a day? I run 3 times a week and lift weights twice a week.

    1. yes according to your current weight.

      Not sure what you mean by “struggling to lose last few lbs but don’t want to go lower”

      Are you saying you don’t want to lose any more weight?

      1. sorry, meant that I don’t want to reduce my calorie intake below 1200, as its been quite tough on that amount but have successfully lost 10lbs over 8 weeks, but have stalled at 139 so not sure how to lose last 4lbs.
        Thanks for your help

          1. Are you doing cardio now? If not, i’d recommend adding a little in while keeping cals the same.

  11. Hi Keith

    I find myself really struggling with this calorie intake issue. My trainer advises that I aim for 1800 cals a day for 6 days and 2150 cals once a week. However, I’m only averaging 1400-1500 cals a day and that’s already by trying really hard to hit the target, with 3 protein shakes a day plus other protein rich foods. I think the difficulty arises because ever since I overhauled my diet to ‘healthier’ foods, they tend to be lower in calories than what I used to eat. I feel stuffed on most days and don’t feel like eating more but I’m clearly short of my calorie target.

    Should I be trying hard to hit the daily recommended calorie target? I’m 194 lbs now and aiming for 154 lbs. I also exercise almost every day. I’m losing weight consistently but keep feeling guilty that I should increase my calorie intake.

  12. So hello there! I’m Barb; a 5’8″ 20 year old college student, who has an endo-mesomorphic frame (thick bones/strong body like Serena Williams) and has struggled losing and keeping weight off pretty much all my life. I’m fed up! I want to be lean/slim like all my friends. I usually work out 5-6times a week (3x week= 30-60mins elliptical/2x= 15 mins treadmill and various light weights; 15-20reps), but reached a plateau. I was eating healthier for over 3 months (not counting calories), but eating cleaner. I also recently went to Paris, ate crap, gained some weight and now I have serious cravings for all the bad sweets I used to eat. I’ve lost 20-25lbs maybe at most all my life, but find a way to get back to 160+lbs. Overall my weight fluctuates and I’m soo sick of it! I would like to do a cut/strict calorie counting type of diet, and uncertain at how many I should intake now.

    I would FINALLY like to be at my weight goal of 130lbs and maintain it! Having no more cravings, stressing over weightloss/getting depressed then indulging in food, and stop with the fluctuating weight already. I need the BEST workout plan and diet for me. In less than 5 months I’m off to Vegas for my 21st; I hope to go from 162lbs to 130lbs by then. I’ll be working out 5+ times a week (20-60mins of diff. cardio- treadmill, elliptical, stair master, etc. daily, 2x= light; 15-20 rep for weights). PLEASE help, this would be the best birthday gift I could ever receive in my life. I’ve struggled way too long, and I’m ready for change. Just knowing how
    many calories I need to intake without passing out (under eating) or having cravings for bad foods then indulging in food is definitely the first step to success.

    -Thanks!
    B.

    1. If you’re not tracking, I would definitely recommend that you start.

      There is no “BEST” plan. The best plan is the one that works for you.

    1. Assuming you’re a girl since your name is Brenda (if you’re not, my bad)….then start at about 2080 calories per day (10x your bodyweight).

  13. Here’s a complicated one. My 17 year old daughter works out 4-5 days a week with a mixture of weights and cardio. She is very conscious about exercise and what she eats. Here’s the kicker. She developed pituitary failure, and her body pumped out a crap load of epinephrine to keep her alive until we figured out what was happening, and she gained 30 pounds from the treatment. Thank GOD she is now stable, but she is trying to lose the weight she gained. She has to take 5.5 mg of prednisone a day to replace what her body isn’t making, but she tells me that if she eats over 800 calories a day she gains weight. I am a bit skeptical. When I was her age, I had to eat 5000 calories a day to prevent losing weight. I think she has gone too low. I am telling her to increase her intake to at least 1200 a day. She only takes carbs 1 hour after a work out and in the evening. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks

  14. Hi this seems hard to believe I’m 310 pounds 🙁 I don’t move much due to illness so I have to eat 3100 calls a day seems so much

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