If you are planning to lose weight then you should know how many calories you need each day. Calorie restrictive diets work well, but only if you correctly follow them! The problem with implementing a calorie restrictive diet is twofold:
- People often overestimate the amount of food that they need
- People underestimate the how hard it is to restrict calories
Here we share daily calorie tables and then provide advice on how to use this information to lose weight.
Remember that these are just average figures so you may need more or less than the calories stated here. If you wish to have a more accurate figure then read our page Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) Explained. Both of these are good weight loss calculators.
Also, you only need the higher figure on the days that you are most active. Doing two intensive workouts each week does not mean you need maximum calories on the other 5 days.
How Many Calories Does a Woman Need?
The number of calories depends on your height and muscle mass, so these figures are averages only. However, this does provide a good starting point – aim to eat fewer calories and adjust your diet depending on results. Daily Calorie Needs for Females:
|Age/years||Sedentary||Low activity||High activity|
How Many Calories Does a Man Need?
Again, these are averages, and as with women, some men naturally carry a lot more muscle mass that others. So use these figures as a starting point in your weight loss plan. Daily Calorie Needs for Males:
|Age/years||Sedentary||Low activity||High activity|
How Many Calories Do You Need to Reduce By?
So, how many calories can you eat and lose weight? Studies have shown that women who eat 1000 fewer calories than they need lost around 2 pounds per week. This is a healthy and sustainable level of weight loss. The same rule applies to men.
Start by eating 500 calories a day fewer than your body needs, and if this is not producing results, decrease a little further.
How many calories should you be eating?
The two tables above show the average calories requirements for males and females at various ages for varying levels of activity. Sedentary means no exercise or rarely active. Low activity means walking, housework, some play. High activity means regular exercise, generally more active in work and life.
This is a general guide to the amount of calories you need to be in deficit to lose a specific amount of weight:
- If you are in a deficit of 500 calories per day you will lose approximately 1 pound per week
- A calorie deficit of 750 calories will help you lose about 1.5 pounds per week
- A calorie deficit of 1000 calories will help you lose about 2 pounds per week (about 1 kg weight loss per week)
- To lose 20 pounds in a year you will need to eat 200 calories less per day than you were eating when your weight was stable
- To lose 20 pounds in 1 month, you need to eat 2400 calories fewer per day. Overweight people who usually eat 4000 calories per day can lose weight quicker than lighter people – they can reduce their intake by 2400 calories per day and still eat enough to sustain themselves.
Do Not Eat More When Exercising
What often strikes people who are new to dieting and exercise is that the high activity group do not need many more calories than the low activity group. Being very active adds 300 calories for men and 250 calories for women.
This is the equivalent of a sandwich or a large white coffee in terms of food energy. This is why it is important that you do not eat more food just because you are exercising! The exercise creates a calorie deficit but if you eat more to compensate you will fail to lose weight.
Learn more about activity calorie burn (calories burned for different exercises) in our article on What is the Best Exercise to Help Lose Weight?
Calorie Requirements for Teenagers
We have highlighted the calories needs of teenagers as this is an important time during a persons development, and also a time when many people start to become more aware of their bodies.
Few teenagers are aware that their calorie needs are higher than that of any other age group, and for sporty teens, such as those that play sports or are practicing martial arts or are learning to dance, they need around 500-600 more calories a day than their sedentary peers.
During this time the quality of energy consumed must be high for healthy growth. What is worrying is the trend for many teens to skip meals to keep their weight down. They could be setting themselves up for long term health problems as well as stunted growth. We have a page dedicated to teenagers here: Diet and Weight Loss Advice for Teenagers.
Calorie Needs As We Get Older
For a woman in her 30’s that is not exercising, 2000 calories a day is enough to maintain weight. To lose 2 pounds per week, she needs to reduce her daily calories by 1000, which means consuming 1000 calories a day. If she is exercising 3-4 times a week then she can eat 1250 calories per day.
This may seem low, but it is how our bodies work. To lose weight you need to restrict calories, this is what is meant by a calorie deficit. Eating healthier foods help too. Lean proteins will be used to build new muscle tissue. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain fiber to aid digestion. Bread is full of energy (around 100 calories per slice) and has little of nutritional value.
Losing weight is not just about counting calories – it is about eating a balanced diet and exercising too. Diet without exercise almost always leads to eventual weight loss failure. See our article MotleyHealth’s Guide To Losing Weight to learn why.
Calories in Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
If you are counting calories to aid weight loss, then you need to know how many calories are in carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
- Protein has 4 Calories per gram
- Carbohydrates has 4 Calories per gram
- Fat has 9 Calories per gram
- Alcohol has 7 Calories per gram
You may think that the best way to create an energy deficit is to eat more carbohydrates, but not all carbohydrates are equal. To lose weight while eating carbs you need to eat low GI carbohydrates (effectively they contain less sugar) which tend to have higher fiber content, which means that you do not absorb so much of the energy.
All food that you consume is either used immediately as energy by the body or stored as fat for the future. You gain weight when you eat more than you burn, you maintain your weight when you eat as much as you burn, and you lose weight when you eat less than you burn. Understanding this is the key to start losing weight.
If you look at the calories in fat, it quickly becomes obvious why there has been such an emphasis on eating low fat foods in recent decades. Fat has more than twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein. A healthy and well balanced diet will have adequate macro-nutrients and still allow weight loss to occur.
Swapping fatty food for carbohydrate or proteins means that you can eat the same weight in food and take in fewer calories. The health food industry has taken advantage of this and produced many foods that are low in fat but far higher in sugars. Read Sugar, Carbohydrates and Your Health to learn more about this.
Structure Your Life
To lose weight you need to start to structure your life. You need to plan what you are going to eat each day so that you do not end up snacking on junk food when your fridge gets empty. You need to plan each exercise session in advance so that you never put off exercising because you cannot think what to do.
Find 5 workouts that you enjoy doing, such as bodyweight exercises, circuit training workouts, weight training workouts or just sessions on the elliptical trainer. This ensures that you can get variety in your new lifestyle and this helps you to stay interested.
If you plan your weight loss and calorie restriction, there is no reason why you cannot lose 100 pounds in 2 years. It will not be an easy task, but it will be rewarding, and the best thing you ever do.
Creating An Energy Deficit
If there is one rule that applies to every single overweight person it is this:
- To lose weight you must create an energy deficit
It is that simple! Although as we all know, implementing a theory is never as easy as writing it down.
The amount of energy you consume is related to what you eat and drink. So the first step in losing weight is to determine how much you are eating and make a guesstimate at how much you need.
Permanent Lifestyle Changes
Just eating less will work, but it is not as effective as eating less and exercising. When you eat less food than you need you create an energy deficit. You will lose weight, but your metabolism will slow down, i.e. you burn calories slower.
This means that you will burn less energy throughout the day, which reduces your requirements even more, so you stop losing weight. You have to eat even less, and the cycle continues until a point where you are not receiving enough nutrients and vitamins to maintain a healthy body.
By exercising while dieting you keep your metabolism high and you build new muscle tissue which requires energy. By increasing your metabolism it is easier to adjust your diet to make changes to your daily energy deficit.
It is recommended that you make permanent lifestyle changes that will help you lose weight at a steady rate. Generally it is advisable to aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week (0.5 – 1kg per week).
Do not forget that there are a lot of calories in alcohol, especially beer. Just a few beers a week can put you over your daily energy requirements and stop you from losing weight. For example, drinking one glass of wine per day is enough to add 14 pounds of weight over a year. One bottle of wine has as many calories as a large meal. So if you are serious about losing weight you need to ensure that you are losing weight every day of the week. This is why diets such as the Dukan Diet are so successful – they encourage you to give up alcohol completely.
Calories Are Hard To Count
The order in which food is presented to you can determine how many calories you think it contains. If you are shown a low calorie fruit salad and then a burger you are likely to think that the meal contains more calories than if you see a burger followed by a high calorie cheesecake.
Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research explains that simply changing the order in which 2 meals were shown to a person would significantly alter their perception of how many calories were in that meal.
This discovery could explain why so many people eat too much food and put on weight, especially those that love desserts.
For example, when people were shown a cheeseburger they estimated that it contained 570 calories, whereas when shown a salad first and then a cheeseburger, they thought that the cheeseburger contained 787 calories. Just by looking at another meal they thought that the cheeseburger contained more energy than it actually did.
“The sequence in which items are considered often influences our evaluations of these items” – Alexander Chernev, Northwestern University.
Just by changing the order in which the meals were viewed changed the perceived calories from 757 to 1,097 calories.
Self Regulation of Consumption
This principal can help you to self-regulate their food consumption which should reduce overeating. For example, eating more than one course will result eating too much, so stick to a single course.
Diet is the main cause of obesity and weight problems, but many people do not realise that this is the case. Many people think they are not overeating even though they are overweight. For your next meal, avoid starters and desserts.
This could also explain why people that love desserts are more likely to be overweight. They simply underestimate the amount of food that they are eating.
Learn how to measure how many calories you have used or consumed.
1500 Calories a Day With Exercise
Here is an example for anybody hoping to lose 100 pounds. If you aim to lose one pound a week until you reach your goal, you should eat around 1500 calories a day, and exercise.
Your diet should be healthy and balanced. Avoid sugar and saturated fats, and instead eat low GI vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meat, fish. Also, avoid soft drinks and alcohol, and instead drink mostly water, tea and the occasional coffee.
For exercise you should aim to walk for at least 15 minutes every single day. Also do a 30 minute workout 3 times a week. As you get fitter you can do a shorter but more intensive workout 5-6 times a week. This helps you to maintain a higher metabolism and so burn more fat.
It is important to see your doctor before you start a weight loss plan that will see you losing so much weight. If you have not done any exercise for many years then it is wise to get some professional medical advice. Generally a walking program is suitable for most people that are obese.
One weight loss method that is growing in popularity is fasting. Rather than eating fewer calories every day, you have extremely limited calories on some days of the week, and eat more normally on other days. Take a look at our articles on fasting:
All of these fasting systems work, but you must follow them responsibly and ensure that you are still getting all the nutrients your body needs.
“Semantic Anchoring in Sequential Evaluations of Vices and Virtues.” by Alexander Chernev. Journal of Consumer Research: February 2011. A preprint of this article:http://journals.uchicago.edu/jcr.
428 Comments on “Weight Loss Calculator: How Many Calories Do You Need?”
Hi Caaishah, according to your current BMI, which is 21.9, you are now at a healthy weight. When you were 143 pounds you were overweight, but you are now doing OK. This means two things – 1. in terms of health, you do not need to lose more weight. 2. In terms of weight loss, it is going to be much harder to lose more weight, and additional weight loss could lead you to becoming underweight.
But a weight of 110 pounds is still a healthy / normal weight for your height. Can you do it in 8 days? No, that is not going to happen. Your current diet plan is pretty strict, and you really should start to focus on fitness and eating a healthy and balanced diet. Too little food may lead to problems later in life caused by nutrition deficiencies.
2 pounds weight loss in a week is good for people who are overweight. For somebody with a BMI of 21.9, it could be too much.
Focus on fitness and healthy eating – fuel your body.
I need your help to reduce my belly fat. actually I am 31 year old man. I have my computer shop I have sit in front of computer all the day. therefore I can’t do my physical exercise. please do me a favor & help me reducing my fat. I really don’t want to be a fatty person.
Hi Bipul, many people work at desks but stay in shape. What is stopping your from exercising in the evening, or early morning before work? Excessive weight gain is always caused by eating too much, so you need to look at your diet. Cut out all junk food and snacks. Take a look at our weekly exercise plan and start exercising at home in the evenings.
My height is 5’8 and weight is 82 which is not suitable according to my height. please suggest me something so that i can lose 12 kg of weight to get healthy.
Hi Sahib, the best thing to do is to start following a diet and fitness plan. Regular exercise combined with healthy eating will get you in shape. Take a look at our weekly fitness plan and read the advice in our nutrition pages.
I am trying to get to 185 from 235 I am burning 1100 to 900 cal. A day on a treadmill and eating between 1600/1700 cal. A day will I loose weight
Hi Chris, yes, you will lose weight if you carry on like that.
im currently approx 24stone 10 lbs and would need help to lose weight with a good diet healthy food is exspensive not working need diet to work around it. been 21 plus stone since 18 now 34 can you help advice
I drink green tea in the morning.. Take protien shake with oats, during lunch I eat 1 cup rice with vegetables and fish/chiken.. And during dinner I take the same as lunch and do exercise 1 hour 5 in a days.. Will I able to loose 12 kg weight in 3 months?
Possibly Tanjina, monitor your weekly weight loss, if you are losing 1kg a week, you will lose 12 kg in 3 months. Your current weight will make a huge difference in the outcome though.
Hi Stuart, start with daily walking and eat a simple, healthy diet. Healthy food is not really expensive – buy carrots, onions, cabbage, potatoes, and cook veg soups etc. “Health food” is expensive, healthy food is not – it is often cheaper than processed junk!
I am 13 and weigh 178 pounds and am overweight. I want to look good in my clothes. My mom doesn’t make that much money and it’s getting cold outside. I need some things it hints to loose weight but I wanna loose it quick with some moderate health and healthy packed lunches for school. What’s more important calories or carbs. Anyways thanks hope to see from u soon
Hi Willow, neither carbs or calories is most important – they are both equally important. You need a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, veg and pulses to provide most carbs, lean proteins from chicken, fish and eggs, some healthy fats. Check out our nutrition section.
Hi I am a 60 year old and do app 30 minutes of fast walking and 30 mins of weights and other related exercises.I do this every second day in the gym.Now I am experiencing weakness. Is it that I do too much workout or should I eat more ?
Hi Haley, that might be the case. Exercise should always make you stronger, so increase rest and food intake – take a few days off, replenish, and hopefully after a short break you will feel fitter.
Hi there, I’m 32 years old and I’ve been suffering with my weight all my life. I have a goal in my mind that by August 1st 2017 I’d of lost 100 pounds. Can you tell me how many calories in a day I’d need to consume to actually hit that goal?
Current weight 295
-Already take a walk every day with my dog-
Hi Sabrina, you are going to have to hit around 1200 calories a day, which is the minimum recommended. Make sure that includes a balanced diet, you are going to need healthy carbs, proteins and healthy fats.
Hello I currently weigh 398 pounds. I am currently using meal replcements shakes for breakfast and lunch. For dinner I rotate back and forth between fish and chicken with either salad or steamed veggies. It totals 1200 calories a day. I have been exercising walking 3 miles a day as well as weight training and doing a 30 minute workout video. What is the average I will lose doing this? Oh and I used to eat around 3000 or more calories as well as drinking soda. Now its pure water.
Hi Chelsie. It’s really hard to say to be honest. You should lose at least a pound a week, but you might lose more, up to 3 or 4 pounds. The weight always drops off quicker to start with. Just stick to the plan and monitor your weight once a week, no more.
Hi , I am a 58 year old male weighting 300lbs . I would like to lose 100lbs ? how many calories should I be doing per day ??
HI Joe, aim for around 1500 a day, you will lose weight with this. Be as active as you can too, even if it is just a short walk every day.
Excellent read for guidence
I drink vodka and tomato juice is this bad for weight gane?
Depends how much Susan, and what else you are drinking and eating, and if you are active or not. One won’t hurt though.
Great article and I really appreciate it, but the typos are distracting.
First sentence in article: If you are planning to lose weight then you should know how many calories you ? each day.
First sentence under PERMENANT LIFESTYLE CHANGES: “ust” eating less will work, but it is not as effective as eating less and exercising.
Also, I don’t understand the advantage of drinking coffee. “Avoid sugar and saturated fats, and instead eat low GI vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meat, fish and drink water, tea and coffee.”
Thanks for all the information
Thanks for your feedback Regis, I’ve made some edits. I have a terrible habit of not always proofreading what I have written – and much of this was written many years ago now!
I hear a lot of people say “I cant lose weight no matter what I do” ….
The whole story is “I cant lose weight no matter what I do and continue to do what I ve always done”
Very comprehensive article. Thank you!
Regarding Regis’ grammar remarks, REALLY?? What an asshat that he felt compelled to write that to you. And as far as his complement to you on the article, it was nothing more than a left handed complement just to try to show his superiority.