Follow this simple, 3-step procedure to calculate the total calories you should be consuming for weight loss
Weight loss can be tricky.
You need to know the right balance of proteins, carbs, and fats, how to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, and the exact times of having a meal. But what’s the most important aspect of weight loss is the number of calories you should be eating every day.
Is there any wonder so many of us get it all wrong?
So, if your goal is to shed a few kilos, you must know the exact amount of calories to eat every day.
How many Calories does Your Body Require?
Calculating the total calories you require to lose weight is actually simple. All you need to do is follow a three-step process.
The Harris-Benedict equation is one of the most widely used methods for this purpose.  
Quoted below is the equation for you to figure out your daily caloric need.
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Just plug in your height, age, and weight, and voila! You get a number.
This number s what you refer to as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). For example, a 50-year of female, with 5’7” height and 160 lbs weight would have a BMR or 1441 calories.
Since you do not spend the entire day lying in bed, you definitely burn more calories than this. How do you calculate that? By using the following activity factors.
- Sedentary: For minimal movement, lots of reading, T.V. watching, etc, the activity factor is around 1.4
- Light activity: For office work with 1 hour of moderate activity/exercise per day, the activity factor is 1.5
- Moderate activity: For light manual/physical labor during the day and an active lifestyle, the activity factor is 1.6
- Very Active: For an active military, hard manual/physical labor, or full-time athlete, the activity factor is 1.9
Once you have gotten your activity factor, multiply it with your BMR. For example, if we choose the activity factor 1.5 (which is valid for most of the people) and multiply it with 1441, we get 2161 calories.
This number represents your total caloric needs, or roughly the total calories you require to maintain your weight. If your aim is to let go of a few pounds, you obviously need to eat lesser than this. But how much lesser?
How many Calories to Cut for Weight Loss?
Determining how many calories to lose for weight loss has become more of an art than a science, probably because there are so many variables that impact the calories in < calories out equation. Some of these variables include:
- The type of exercise you are performing: Interval and resistance training burn more calories as compared to the traditional aerobic training.
- Your dietary habits: A high-protein diet tends to burn more calories since protein requires more efforts from your body to metabolize and digest.
- Your targeted weight: For the sake of simplicity, you must use total body weight instead of your lean body mass. Based on this assumption, if you are aiming to lose 25 pounds or more to hit your desired weight, the total caloric needs that we calculated before, are going to be too high for you. This is because we didn’t differentiate between the caloric needs of your body fat and those of your lean tissue. In reality, your body fat requires a much low-calorie
- Your individual metabolism: The Harris-Benedict equation or any other equation estimating your calorie needs is just a calculated prediction. These equations take help from averages, and there is a possibility that you are not an average. Do not take the numbers you get through these equations as gospel. Instead, use them as a starting point, test them, and make suitable adjustments.
“Do not just eyeball it; calculate it, test it, and make necessary modifications”
Traditionally, the recommendations are to subtract 500 to 1000 calories from your total calorie needs if you wish to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. A 500-calorie deficit per day will cause a 3500-calorie weekly deficit- which is just the right number of calories you would have to burn to lose one pound of fat. However, these recommendations may be too harsh for some, according to my personal opinion.
If you are weight training, performing cardio sessions, and eating a low-carb, moderate-protein diet, I recommend subtracting 250 calories (or 500 calories if you wish to lose more than 35 pounds).
The Final Step
Put it to the test! By the end of the second week, check how much weight you have lost. If you are not losing pounds at a rate that makes you happy, try increasing your activity before cutting out more calories. If you still feel the need of a calorie reduction, subtract another 250 calories and put the new level to test for another two weeks.