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Calorie Intake For Weight Loss

Are you tracking your calorie intake? If you are trying to lose weight, then you want to know your daily calories for weight loss.  Losing weight, while in reality can be very difficult, is in actuality a very simple formula. 

Your calories consumed, or caloric intake, must be less than your calories expended or burned.

You consume calories through the drinks foods you eat. Different foods and drinks will have different amounts of calories.

Eating a piece of cake will have a higher calorie content than say a carrot stick (obviously).

It's pretty easy to determine that amount of calories you consume. You just need to track what you eat.

Figuring out how many calories you burn is not as straight forward. You burn calories when you exercise. This we all know.

But did you know you also burn calories by just doing your normal everyday activities? You even burn calories while sleeping. 

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is what is responsible for these calories burned while at rest.

Knowing your BMR is critical in figuring out your calorie intake for weight loss. In fact, your BMR accounts for up to 60% - 75% of the total calories you burn in a day.

Basal Metabolic Rate

Now that you know how important your Basal Metabolic Rate is to losing weight, let's take a closer look.

For instance, a 25 year old woman weighing 160 lbs and 5’3” would have a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of 1,441. 

This is the amount of calories per day that her body would burn while at rest. Put another way, this is the amount of energy she would need for basic body functions. 

Since these energy needs for the basic body functions stay fairly consistent and are not easily changed, you can expect this calorie expenditure to be about the same given the above example of age, gender, weight and height are constant.

Once you know your BMR, then you would need to adjust this for your activity level to determine your daily calorie intake needs in order to maintain your current weight.

Let’s take this same 5’3” woman as an example.  If she was sedentary, meaning little or no exercise, then she would need to consume 1,730 calories to maintain her existing weight. 

If she worked out or played moderately strenuous sports 3 - 5 days a week, she would need 2,234 calories to maintain her weight.

If she wanted to lose weight, then she would need to create a calorie deficit, meaning burn more calories than she consumes.

Calculating Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

To calculate your calorie needs for weight loss, start by determining your basal metabolic rate.

The easiest way is to us an online Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator.

This BMR calculator also explains the math behind the numbers. So if you are curious, be sure to scroll down to read all about BMR calculations.

Once you know the BMR (or your starting point), then you need to determine what your calorie consumption should be based on your activity level.

Your calorie needs increase as your activity increases. You can also use the BMR calculator for this (as it has a built in activity factor) or use a weight loss calculator.  

This weight loss calculator tells you the approximate calorie consumption, or calorie intake, for weight loss.

You can also use the slider to adjust the caloric amount to see approximately how long it will take you to lose the weight and reach your goal.

Remember the number of calories you consume must be less than the calories burned.  This can be done by either reducing your calories, creating a calorie deficit, or by adding activity. A person can do both, reducing daily calorie intake and adding exercises.

So, if this same woman currently consumed 1779 calories a day and added exercises, which burned 200 calories, she would have created a calorie deficit. 

If she also reduced her daily calorie intake by 300 (in addition to her exercise routine), then she would have a deficit of 500 calories.

Here's a searchable calorie intake calculator you can use to find out how many calories are in the foods you eat.

How Much is Too Much

When it comes to calorie intake for weight loss, there is such a thing as reducing calories by too much.

Although it would be tempting to reduce your calories by more than a 1000, this would actually cause your metabolism to slow down, meaning you have lowered your basal metabolic rate.

Experts say to decrease your calorie intake by 500 calories and no more than 1000 calories to lose weight.  If you are closer to your ideal weight, then even reducing your caloric intake by 500 or 1000 may be too much.

When a person reduces their calorie intake by too much, the body reacts by going into survival mode.  This survival mode dates back to the cave man days when it was literally feast or famine.

If the body received very little food, it would assume it was a time of famine and therefore would begin to store food intake as fat and slow down the body’s metabolism, saving energy for when it was needed.  Although food is readily available to us now, our body still reverts to the feast or famine concept and will go into survival mode.

So how much is too much when reducing calories?  This will really depend on your current situation and how close you may be to your ideal weight. Other factors would be your age, gender and activity level. 

As a general rule however it is recommended that a woman get at least 1200 calories per day and for a man this would be 1800 calories per day. This number should be increased if your activity level is increased. 

Do not go below these levels.  Also, monitor your progress.  If you see that you are losing weight too slowly or not at all, try adding some calories as this may increase your metabolism and get you back on track.

If you are a teen, then reducing your calorie intake by too much can harm your growing process.  Be sure to read this article to understand teen calorie intake.

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