Calories are the basis of our energy requirements. They determine whether or not we gain weight, lose weight, bulk up, or trim down. The great thing about calories is that you can use them to your advantage by counting them and figuring out just where your daily calories come from.
One pound equals 3,500 calories-this is a basic fact. It has been said that a healthy weightloss is around 1lb per week, though some try to get it off sooner. Remember ladies: the faster the weight comes off, the faster it can be put right back on. So, slow and steady wins the weight race here.
To lose one pound a week, you will have to cut or burn your calories by at least 3,500 calories per week, which will mean you will need to cut or burn 500 calories per day. This is just a basic method!
For a more in depth method that is more specific to you, try using my favorite formula: The Harris Benedict Formula. This equation is the most widely used method of calculating your calorie needs (and thus your calorie needs for weight loss).
Here is the Harris-Benedict equation for women:
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
You just need to plug in your age, height, and weight. The number you get is the total number of calories you need each day to exist (also known as your basal metabolic rate, BMR). For example, a 50-year-woman who is 5' 7" and weighs 160 lbs has a basal metabolic rate of 1441 calories. This is only the first part of the formula.
The next step is to figure out your activity level. When you figure yours out from the options below, multiply your result with your BMR and this will give you your final number of base calories to consume per day.
- Sedentary: Minimal movement, lots of TV watching, reading, etc. Activity factor = 1.4
- Light activity: Office work, ~1 hour of moderate exercise/activity during the day. Activity factor = 1.5
- Moderate activity: Light physical/manual labor during the day, plus more active lifestyle. Activity factor = 1.6
- Very Active: Active military, full time athlete, hard physical/manual labor job. Activity factor = 1.9
For the example we're using, we’ll choose an activity factor of 1.5 (common for most people) and multiply that by 1441 calories, giving us 2161 calories. This number is your total caloric needs, or roughly the amount of calories that you need to eat each day to maintain your weight. To lose weight, you need to eat less than this. How much less? That's the next step.
How many calories to cut or burn? If you are weight training, doing interval cardio sessions during the week, and eating a carb-controlled/moderate-protein diet, then I recommend that you only subtract 250 calories from your total calorie needs (or 500 calories if you need to lose more than 25 pounds to reach your goal weight). You’ll see results that make you happy while being able to eat more. Using our example, the woman would need to eat 1900 calories per day to lose weight.
The final step: Put it to the test! At the end of two weeks, see how much weight you have lost. If you aren’t losing at a rate that makes you happy, opt to do more activity before you cut out more calories. If you need to cut out more calories, remove another 250 and put that new calorie level to the test for two weeks.