Caloric intake to lose weight is a popular topic in the weight loss industry because it turns weight loss into a simple math problem.
If you have read our stuff or listened to the podcast, then you already know that we are not huge fans of calorie counting for long-term fat loss. With that said, this tactic can be a useful tool to use in the beginning of your program in order to calibrate your body to a healthy diet. The problem is most equations for determining your daily energy intake provide generalizations that can wreak havoc on your metabolism.
In this article, I offer an approach to calorie management that will allow you to personalize your program beyond the simple calorie equations.
Finding the right calorie intake to lose weight does not have to be complicated. Below you will find two equations, the first equation is the Super Easy Method for determining calorie needs for the day. The second equation is likely more accurate, but also a bit more inconvenient and confusing.
The Super Easy Method – This method is the easiest but least accurate method. The equation provides you with the number of calories that you will consume for the purpose of losing weight, maintaining weight, and gaining muscle. I feel that this method, although considered an educated guess, is sufficient to use as a starting point for most people. As you get closer to your goal weight, you may need to use more accurate techniques. So, without further adieu, here are the equations:
- Fat loss = 11 – 12 calories per lb. of body-weight
- Maintenance = 14 – 15 calories per lb. of body-weight
- Weight gain = 18 – 19 calories per lb. of body-weight
2. The More Accurate Method -This method is based on solid scientific research and will provide you with a more accurate representation of your resting metabolic rate, which is slightly higher than your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories that you would burn if you laid in bed all day). Once you calculate this number, you will decrease it by 250-500 calories to find your caloric intake to lose weight.
Calculation using weight in pounds and height in inches:
- Men: RMR = (4.54 x Weight in pounds) + (2.44 x Height in inches) – (4.92 x Age) + 5
- Women: RMR = (4.54 x Weight in pounds) + (2.44 x Height in inches) – (4.92 x Age) – 161
Calculation using weight in kilograms and height in centimeters:
- Men: RMR = (9.99 x Weight in kg) + (6.25 x Height in cm) – (4.92 x Age) + 5
- Women: RMR = (9.99 x Weight in kg) + (6.25 x Height in cm) – (4.92 x Age) – 161
After you have figured out your RMR, you will need to multiply the RMR by what is called an Activity Coefficient (AC). Basically, an AC is a factor that will estimate how many calories your body will burn from every day activity. Here are the average ACs for men and women.
- Sedentary Men: AC = 1.55
- Moderately Active Men: AC = 1.78
- Very Active Men: AC = 2.10
- Sedentary Women: AC = 1.56
- Moderately Active Women: AC = 1.64
- Very Active Women: AC = 1.82
So, let’s put it all together to determine the number of calories that you burn in a day. Multiply the RMR from your first calculation by the Activity Coefficient. (RMR x AC) Now, to determine your caloric intake to lose lose weight, subtract between 250 and 500 calories.
Shew! That is quite an ordeal! Ok, now let me give you a simple way to use this information to personalize it a bit more. In my opinion, this is far superior to just relying on a general calculation.
- Start by calculating your RMR with the second equation above.
- Using some sort of online calorie-tracking system like FitDay.com or Calorieking.com, keep track of your food for 3-4 days including one weekend day. During this time, just eat normally. Do not alter a thing! This is a very important step.
- If you are eating fewer calories than you calculated for your RMR, simply increase your caloric intake to the RMR (without the Activity Coefficient), that’s right, I said INCREASE your caloric intake. The RMR is the lowest number of calories that you require to maintain life without negative health consequences. Metabolism suffers greatly if you eat below your RMR requirements, I actually see this quite often in my practice. Many people who are eating fewer calories than their RMR dictates often find that they lose weight when they bump their caloric intake up.
- If you’re eating more calories than your RMR and Activity Coefficient together, then we will attempt to decrease your caloric intake to get you losing weight. For example: If you’re eating an average of 3,000 calories and your calculations suggest that you should be consuming 2,000 calories, don’t drop your calories by 1,000 to get you to the calculated need. Instead, decrease your current caloric intake by 250 calories and monitor for weight loss. If you lose weight by decreasing caloric intake by this amount, stay there until weight plateaus. Then decrease another 50-100 calories and continue to monitor. If you do not lose weight by decreasing your calories by 250 then drop them another 100 calories.
If you are going to use calorie-counting as a tactic for weight loss, I highly recommend an eBook by Tom Venuto, called Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle. His book is designed to get you through the process of managing calories in an easy step-by-step system. I hope you enjoyed this article on caloric intake to lose weight, for more advanced tips on weight loss, be sure to subscribe to our FREE podcast on iTunes called Cut the Fat Podcast.