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

How many calories should you eat a day to lose weight? We help you count BMR and the necessary calorie deficit, with a recommended daily meal plan.

21.01.2021

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

If you gained some quarantine weight, if eating was your coping mechanism to deal with stress, if you didn’t have access to the gym and you don’t have the shape you once had… this article is for you. We help you shape up your diet to get back on track!

The basics: Calculate the basal metabolic rate (BMR)

The BMR, short form for Basal Metabolic Rate, is the number of calories the body needs in order to perform its most basic functions while it is on a resting state; meaning that if you simply lay in bed and do absolutely nothing, your body will still require calories/energy in order to run basic bodily functions such as breathing, blood circulation, nutrients processing and cell production.

It is important to know your BMR because it will be your starting point to calculate the amount of calories you need to consume every day. And to those you will add the extra calories needed by your body for your daily activities, which may include work, exercise, physical activity, etc.

How to calculate your BMR?

The formula varies according to gender to let’s check both out:

BMR for men = (10 x weight in kg) + (6,25 x height in cm) - (5 x age in years) + 5

BMR for women = (10 x weight in kg) + (6,25 x height in cm) - (5 x age in years) - 161

For example, if you are a 30 years old male, you are 170 cm tall and weight 70 kg, your BMR = (10x70) + (6,25x170) – (5x30) + 5. For a total of 1617 calories.

Once you know your Basal Metabolic Rate, it is time to add your activity factor in order to figure out your TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. The TDEE is the estimation of how many calories you burn per day according to your daily activity, whether you have a desk job or one involving heavy physical activity, or if you do exercise or live a sedentary life.

Activity factor

The activity factor will influence your calorie requirements as you not only need to cover your BMR, but also the energy to go through your average daily activity:

  • Sedentary (Little or no exercise, desk job) = 1,2

  • Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days a week): 1,375

  • Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): 1,55

  • Very active (hard exercise every day or exercising 2x/day): 1,725

  • Extra active (hard exercise 2 or more times a day, training for a marathon, triathlon, etc.):  1,9

TDEE:

Once you know your BMR and your activity factor, all you need to do is to multiply them to get your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

TDEE = BMR * Activity Factor

For that man in the example, if he were working out 3 times a week, it would be considered light activity. So his TDEE = 1617*1,375 = 2223 calories.

IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT: STAY IN CALORIE DEFICIT

If you want to lose weight: Stay in calorie deficit

Your body will be in a calorie deficit when the calories you consume are less than the amount of calories it burns during the day with your regular activity and exercise; and when your body is in a deficit state for a longer period of time, the result is weight loss. The opposite happens when your body is in a constant excess of calories, resulting in weight gain and fat storage.

But you must be careful, because although a constant calorie deficit results in weight loss, you still want to give your body the right and adequate nutrients for it to use the fat stored instead of feeding from your muscles. The ideal weight-loss journey is the one that manages to use fat cells without sacrificing muscle mass.

Calculating a healthy calorie deficit

For the majority of people, a healthy calorie deficit is 500 calories below their TDEE, managing to work on their weight loss without sacrificing the energy needed for the day or without feeling hungry.

Continuing with the example of the 30 years old man, if his TDEE is 2223 calories, then his healthy weight loss calorie target is 1723. It is important to highlight that no man should consume less than 1500 and no woman should consume less than 1200 calories per day. Consuming any amount of calories below these numbers can cause serious damage in the digestive health and overall wellness so the meal plan must be well thought and contain all the nutrients in the right amounts.

Although dieting is an excellent way to lose weight, you can also create a calorie deficit by burning them through exercise, not necessarily at the gym, but also with activities like walking, running, swimming, biking; as those increase the heart rate and also increase the amount of energy needed by the body. Muscle strengthening exercises are recommended as a way to help the body prioritize the loss of body fat instead of consuming the muscle mass.

Burning 1 kg of fat

There are approximately 7700 calories in one kilogram, so these would be the amount of total calories you’d need in deficit for the week if you wanted to lose one kilo in one week, for a total of 1100 calories per day. For an average person, this deficit would be too high and risky, so a goal of losing 0.5 kilograms per weeks seems like a more realistic approach, which equals to 500 calories per day.

Risks of too less calories or losing weight too fast

In the fitness industry the biggest risk people take into consideration when dieting is losing muscle mass, but the health detriments of poor nutrition and losing weight too fast go beyond that. Some of the risks include slower metabolism, nutrient deficiencies and the hair loss, fatigue and poor immune function associated with them. Other risks are weakness in bones, irritability, dizziness, bowel movement irregularities and dehydration, among others.

Additionally, there is also the risk of cause long-term damage to the metabolism and body functions. For example, sudden weight loss can cause damage in the blood vessels and heart rate fluctuations that could result in heart failure. Losing weight too fast poses an overall very high risk for heart health.

And on top of all, keeping the body on very limited calories can take a toll on people’s mental health because of the lack of energy, excessive fatigue, crankiness, dehydration and the affect on someone’s appearance through damaged skin and hair.

WHAT TO EAT IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT?

What to eat if you want to lose weight?

There are the main types of macronutrients that need to be present in every diet; those are protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Regardless of the fitness goal, the three of them must be included in the diet in order to provide the body with the essential nutrients it requires, next to vitamins and minerals.

Regardless of the fitness goal, the three of them must be included in the diet in order to provide the body with the essential nutrients it requires, next to vitamins and minerals.

The difference relies on the proportion of these macronutrients according to the goal to be accomplished.

  • For muscle gain (bodybuilding):

    • Proteins: 35%

    • Carbohydrates: 45%

    • Fats: 20%

    • For muscle/weight maintenance:

      • Proteins: 25-40%

      • Carbohydrates: 35-55%

      • Fats: 25-40%

      • For weight loss:

        • Proteins: 35-50%

        • Carbohydrates: 25-45%

        • Fats: 20-35%

The best sources of proteins are: Chicken breast, fat-free pork chops, beef, tuna fish, eggs, and quark cheese, among others. Another great alternative is to use meal replacement shakes, that cover up basic nutrients without the extra calorie intake.

The best sources of carbohydrates are: Quinoa, oats, bananas, sweet potatoes, rice, whole grain bread, fruits and vegetables, among others.

The best sources of fats are: Avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, almonds, flax seeds and chia seeds, among others.

What you should definitely avoid in a weight loss diet

Unfortunately, the foods that people should avoid on their journey to lose weight are some of the ones we love the most. Simply by reducing the amount of sweet snacks and sugary drinks that are consumed every day, most people can reach a significant decrease in their calorie intake. On top of that, here are some foods that should be avoided if the goal is to burn some fat:

  • Fast food

  • Refined carbs

  • Foods with added sugars

  • Processed foods

  • Fried foods

 SAMPLE MEAL PLAN FOR WEIGHT LOSS: 1500 KCAL

Sample meal plan for weight loss: 1500 kcal

Meal 1:

30 g oatmeal, 210 ml water, 1 whole egg, 75 g cottage cheese (half a box), 1 teaspoon flaxseed oil.

Preparation: Put the oatmeal in a pot, pour the water on ​​it and then start cooking. When boiling, break the egg over it, and then continue to cook, stirring. When thick enough take it off the stove and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Then add half a box of cottage cheese and you can eat it!

Meal 2:

30 g buckwheat, 100 g chicken breast, 150 g broccoli

Preparation: The easiest way to prepare it is to buy buckwheat in a cooking bag or to cook it in a saucepan. You can cook the meat of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th meals together either in a baking tray or in a wok, preferably less seasoned. Use green spices instead. You can also cook or bake the broccoli for meals 2 and 4 at the same time, and then you can pack the boxes exactly to the amount per meal. Use coconut oil for grilling the chicken, or simply wrap it on baking paper and put it in a baking dish without oil / fat.

Meal 3:

30 g basmati rice, 100 g chicken breast, half cucumber

Meal 4:

30 g of cooked oatmeal, 100 g of chicken breast, 150 g of broccoli

Meal 5:

3 egg whites (one yolk) prepared as scrambled eggs with 75 g of cottage cheese

Preparation: Use eggs to make scrambled eggs, and then spread half a box of cottage cheese on top. If you like it, eat a little salad or cucumber with it!

Drinks:

During the day, 3 liters of water, coffee with a little milk, tea

There are several apps available in the market (some are even free) where foods can be registered, manually or by bar code, and they will keep track of your calories, nutrients and goals. Another option to track manually is to have an Excel sheet in which you can adapt the amounts in order to restrict or widen the amount of calories you consume per day according to your progress.


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