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How many calories should I eat to lose weight?

December 31, 2016
Posted in Nutrition
December 31, 2016 admin

How many calories should I eat to lose weight?

If you’re reading this, I will assume that you are someone who just wants to lose as much weight as possible. In fact, you don’t care whether this weight comes from fat, muscle, water or a combination. You just want to lose weight, and lose it fast. If so, you’re at the right place.
Quick notes:

  • I do NOT recommend aiming to lose weight mindlessly. Ideally, you want to lose fat, not muscle or water. However, to each his own. Perhaps you are obese and must lose weight fast to improve your health or prevent a medical condition.
  • The weight lost will be in the form of muscle, fat and water (combination). 

If you have been reading this guide from the beginning, you should know the following by now:

Now that you have an estimate of your daily caloric requirements, how many calories should you eat to lose weight as fast as possible?

Losing weight fast

Once again, this is NOT ideal or recommended. Here is a list of what we want to do while losing weight fast:

  • Lose as much weight as possible FAST.
  • Not affect our health negatively.
  • Do both in a sustainable way.

It’s important to note that there are 3 main types of a caloric deficit; small, moderate, large. Each one has its own uses, pros and cons. For the goal of losing weight, we will be using a large deficit.
The reason why a large caloric deficit would be ideal for obese individuals is because of the following:

  • They have tons of weight to lose (stored energy). Thus, doing it in a fast way, at least in the beginning, will be more beneficial to both their physical and mental health.
  • Seeing the weight come off fast will motivate those individuals to stay consistent and achieve their goals instead of making slower progress and eventually quitting.
  • Since obese individuals have tons of fat (energy) stored, the body will by default prefer to lose fat, which is ideal. The body has an excess of fat it doesn’t need, so it’ll happily shed most of the weight from body fat.
  • Seeing the difference every week/month will also motivate those individuals to eventually start an exercise program and build some muscle and lose just fat. If you are still not convinced that you should be doing some exercise by now, check out this article:

Benefits of strength training

 

So, how many calories should you eat to lose weight fast?

The ideal caloric deficit to lose weight fast = 20%-30% below daily caloric requirements.

What the heck does that mean?
This simply means that you should eat below your daily caloric requirements by about 20%-30% of those calories.
Here is an example:
If an individual’s maintenance calories are 3000 calories per day, and he chooses to eat at a 30% deficit, he would then consume; 3000 – (0.3 * 3000) = 3000 – 900 = 2100 calories per day!
Everyone hates math, but this isn’t too bad, right?
Well, if your daily caloric requirements = 3000 calories per day, you should then eat 2100 calories per day instead (30% deficit) or 2400 calories per day if you choose a 20% deficit.
You might be wondering why a 20%-30% would work better for someone who wants to lose weight fast. Such a deficit will allow those individuals to lose weight fast while somewhat maintaining their metabolic rate (in the short run, not long run. Which is another reason why this isn’t ideal).

So, how many pounds are we talking about here?

Obese individuals who have 50-100 pounds or more to lose should aim to lose weight at a rate of 4-6 pounds per week.

Despite what other people might say, people with such large storage of energy will be able to lose that much weight fast without affecting their metabolism by much. However, this is not sustainable and your metabolic rate will slow down at some point. Additionally, most of those 4-6 pounds lost will be in the form of fat. 

Individuals who have 30-50 pounds to lose should aim to lose weight at a slower rate. This rate translates into about 2-4 pounds per week.

This rate of weight loss for those individuals will allow them to somewhat enjoy food, eating out…etc. and still lose a significant amount of weight without affecting their metabolic rate by much (in the beginning).

Individual who want to lose 10-30 pounds should adopt an even smaller caloric deficit. This translates into 1-2 pounds per week.

These individuals have only some weight to lose. Thus, they don’t need to take extreme measures like the individuals above. Also, a greater caloric deficit than this will slow down their metabolism significantly and rapidly. 
Additionally, these rates of weight loss will usually allow the body to burn more fat than muscle. You may not care about muscle mass, but trust me, lean body mass is crucial for optimal health, performance, a healthy metabolic rate.
Most likely, you will move from one category to another as you make progress. For instance, if an individual starts off with 100 lbs. to lose, and he manages to successfully lose 50 lbs. he would then move into the less extreme category and aim to lose 2-4 pounds per week until he gets promoted to the last category and then it would be more ideal to just lose 1-2 pounds per week.

But, how can we aim to lose a specific number of pounds?
Excellent question, my friend. I happen to have explained this thoroughly in the ultimate guide to count calories easily, however, I don’t mind explaining it again in this context.

One pound of body weight / fat = 3500 calories

What does this mean? 

This means that to lose 1 pound of body weight / fat, you must burn 3500 calories from stored energy. Still confused? Let’s look at an example:

If John wants to lose 3 pounds over the next 3 weeks, which means he wants to lose to 1 pound per week. John would have to do the following:

  • Find out his daily caloric requirements. Let’s assume it’s 3000 calories per day.
  • Create a caloric deficit that will add up to 3500 calories PER WEEK. 
  • Thus, John would aim to consume 2500 calories per day. 
  • John creates a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day so this adds up to: 500 * 7 = 3500 calories at the end of the week.
  • John loses 1 pound per week successfully. Voila!

What if John wants to lose 2 pounds/week? 
John would create a caloric deficit of 1000 calories per day so at the end of the week he will have burnt 1000 * 7 = 7000 calories. 
And since 1 pound = 3500 calories. 7000 / 3500 = 2 pounds per week.
I think this clears up the matter. 

Putting it all together
By now, you have probably decided that you just want to lose weight and you want to do it fast. You figured out your daily caloric requirements and you decided how many pounds you want to lose per week based on your personal preference as well as your goal/starting point. What’s next?
The next step is to make sure you did not screw up! We want to ensure that you will be making the predicted amount of progress per week. For instance, if you decided that you want to lose 1 pound, we want to make sure you lose EXACTLY one pound per week, nothing less, nothing more. So, how do we do that?
You simply just start the process and track your progress. You start off by weighing yourself and setting up your caloric deficit. Then you weigh yourself over the next couple of weeks and see what’s going on. One of the following 3 scenarios will happen:
You lose weight at the predicted pace: If you decide that you want to lose 2 pounds per week, set up your 1000 calorie deficit properly based on the daily caloric requirement you calculated earlier and then track your progress over the next two weeks and see that you have lost 4 pounds, then congratulations! You did it! You are losing weight at your preferred rate. Do NOT change anything! Just keep doing this until your progress slows down.
You lose MORE weight than anticipated: Let’s say you create a caloric deficit of 500 calories so that by the end of two weeks you will have lost 2 pounds. Two weeks go by and you lose 4 pounds instead of 2. Why is that? This simply means that your predicted caloric requirement was not estimated accurately. What you thought was only a 500-calorie deficit was a 1000-calorie deficit. Which is why numbers added up and you lost more weight than you want. 
What should you do? Just increase your calories by 200-250 calories at a time and see what happens over the next week. That should make you lose LESS weight than 4 pounds. If you’re still not exactly at 2 (your preferred rate of weight loss) then simply increase the calories once again and repeat the experiment until you’re losing exactly 2 pounds per week.
You lose LESS weight than you had planned for:
Once again, let’s assume you create a caloric deficit of 500 calories so that 2 weeks from now you will have lost 2 pounds. Two weeks go by and you lose only one pound instead of 2. What happened? This simply means that your predicted caloric requirement was overestimated. What you thought was a 500-calorie deficit turned out to be a 250-calorie deficit which made you lose (250 * 7 = 1750 calories = 1/2 pound per week) only one pound over those two weeks. You overestimated and the numbers added up and you lost less weight than you wanted. 
What should you do? If this happens to you, just decrease your caloric intake by 200-250 calories at a time and see what happens over the next week. That should make you lose MORE weight than just half a pound per week. If you’re still not exactly at 2 (your preferred rate of weight loss) then simply decrease the calories once again and repeat the experiment until you’re losing exactly 2 pounds per week.

Weight Loss Plateaus

I explained in the fat loss basics article that weight loss is NOT linear. As much as we would all love to keep making progress at a constant rate, this simply doesn’t happen in real life. Many physiological processes are involved in weight loss, and the human body has several defense mechanisms to keep you alive. After all, your body doesn’t care what you want to look like. Your body just wants to SURVIVE, and it will do so at the expense of anything.
Fat/weight loss plateaus will have their own separate article so that I can go in depth of what causes plateaus and how to work around them. For now, let’s see what you should do in case your progress stalls.
If you have been dieting for a while, chances are that your progress will slow down gradually the longer you diet. Your metabolic rate slows down to conserve energy. Your body doesn’t like to waste energy. If you diet long enough to a point where your progress stops, simply create a larger caloric deficit.
So, if you have been losing weight at 2500 calories/day and your progress stops all of a sudden for two weeks or so, reduce your calories a bit more by 250 calories and see what happens. This should do the trick for now. Make sure you read the “plateaus” article that I will write soon, though, because this isn’t always the only solution.

What now?
By now, you should have a plan of how many calories you will be eating to lose weight at whatever rate you pick. Since this article is dedicated for people who just want to lose weight regardless of whether it comes from fat, lean tissue or a combination, you can stop reading this guide and go do your thing! You can also skip the next chapter, which deals with macronutrients and head over to the supplements chapter if you want. However, you can just create your own diet using the planned calories and get those calories from whatever foods you want. 
Congratulations! You have created a custom diet that will help you achieve your goals at the rate you WANT! Best of all? You will lose weight, enjoy whatever foods you like and this diet did not cost you a penny. Best of luck and stay consistent. 😉

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