How Many Calories Do I Need To Eat To Lose Weight?
What are calories?
Before we find out how many calories you need in order to lose weight, first we must understand what calories are.
A calorie is a unit that measures energy. In nutrition, calories refer to the energy people get from the food and drink they consume, and the energy they use in physical activity and non-exercise day to day activities, known as NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis).
Energy balance is the relationship between your energy input (calories consumed) and energy output (calories burned through exercise and NEAT). This is also known as our maintenance requirement and if we were to consume this number then we would maintain weight.
In order to lose weight we need to create a negative energy balance, also known as a calorie deficit.
What is a calorie deficit?
When it comes to weight loss, energy expenditure NEEDS to be greater than energy intake, otherwise we will not lose weight. We can achieve this through either of the following ways;
- Reducing our input of energy/calories consumed so it is below the level of our output
- By increasing output without an increase in input
How many calories do I need to eat to lose weight?
The number of calories you need to eat to lose weight will be dependent on you as an individual, as we need to consider a number of factors.
First, we need to calculate our basic metabolic rate (BMR). For this, we need to include our gender, weight, height and age.
Second, we need to determine our activity level. This will be specific to you as an individual and how active your job is, since we spend most of our day working.
Last, we need to calculate our calorie intake. We do this by multiplying our BMR by our activity level.
BMR X Activity Level= Calorie Intake.
This number is the number of calories we need to consume daily if we want to MAINTAIN our current weight. To maintain weight, calories in (what you consume) must equal calories out (what you burn).
If your goal is weight loss, then we need to eat below this number (calorie deficit).
If your goal is weight gain, then we need to eat above this number (calorie surplus).
Here’s a simple guide below to help you calculate your energy requirements.
I’m eating in a calorie deficit but I can’t lose weight, what should I do?
This is a question we hear a lot, and quite frankly, the answer is very simple.
If you are not losing weight, then you are NOT in a calorie deficit.
I know this may be hard to believe, but there are a number of possibilities that may be resulting in you not being in a calorie deficit, even though you’re not eating that much.
1. You are misreporting
This is something that is very common, and we see it a lot with clients. The best way to combat this is to track your food with a tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal. This will allow you to have greater control over knowing how much calories you are eating each day.
But wait, you’re already using this app and still not losing weight? I hear you, but all though MyFitnessPal is probably the best app for this, it can still be a little off when it comes to the calorie content of certain foods.
Our best advice would be to let your trainer have a look at it. Some foods may be logging at a much lower calorie content than they actually are.
Resulting in you possibly eating above what you think you’re eating.
2. You overestimate how many calories you burn during exercise
The reality is that we actually don’t burn that many calories during exercise. That 1 hour in the gym lifting weights may burn 200-300 calories at best, no matter how hard you think you pushed yourself.
3. You don’t move enough
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is all physical activity that’s not related to any type of formal exercise. Everything from fidgeting, walking to your car, and even walking downstairs.
Exercise is only a small portion of the energy you expend each day if you are in a formal exercise program. NEAT actually comprises the vast majority of people’s physical activity energy expenditure
If you go to the gym for an hour, there’s still another 14 hours or so that you are awake. This makes up a much bigger proportion of your daily energy expenditure than that 1 hour of resistance training.
NEAT is also likely to be regulated through a central mechanism that integrates NEAT with energy intake and energy stores so that it is activated with over-feeding and suppressed with under-feeding. This is important for those who have been losing weight for the first few weeks but have now stalled with their weight loss. When you are in periods of energy restriction (calorie deficit) your body will start to move less without you realizing. A simple fix for this is to track your steps each day and aim for a daily step goal.
This will ensure that you keep your energy expenditure up during the day and keep the weight loss moving in the right direction.
Want to learn more about how you can boost fat loss with NEAT?