Daily Calorie Needs and Weight Loss

By Sean McEvoy

The number of calories you need each day depends on many factors, including your height, weight, and age. Gender and activity level also affect the number of calories your body needs to maintain its current weight. Knowing how many calories you need on a daily basis can help you design an effective weight-loss program.

Determine Caloric Needs

The best way to determine how many calories you need every day is to ask your doctor, who can analyze your age, body type, physical activity level, and fitness goals to determine a healthy caloric goal. But if you need just a rough estimate, use an online calculator from a reputable organization. Typically, the calculator will ask for basic information, such as your gender, age, current weight, height, and normal activity level. The result of the calculation will be an estimate of the number of calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight.

Lower Calorie Intake

One way to lose weight is to eat enough calories to maintain your current weight while simultaneously increasing your activity level. Monitor your diet to ensure you consume the right number of calories. At the same time, regularly perform vigorous physical activities, such as aerobics or jogging. Your body needs fuel to move, so the more you move, the more calories you burn. Over time, your body will turn to its fat stores to meet its increased need for energy, which means you will lose weight.

Increase Physical Activity

Another way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you need to maintain your current weight at your current level of activity. For example, determine your daily caloric needs and then subtract enough calories to achieve your weight-loss goals. A pound of body weight is roughly equal to 3,500 calories, so subtract enough calories to create a caloric deficit of about 500 calories a day, which will lead to roughly 1 lb. of weight loss per week, which is a safe rate.

If you combine the two approaches (eat fewer calories than you need and burn additional calories with exercise) you'll maximize your weight-loss results. Although it's tempting, don't exercise too vigorously or starve yourself to achieve weight loss quickly. Your body can't function without a sufficient number of calories, so overdoing it might make your metabolism slow down, making it harder to lose weight. Instead, focus on achieving a new, healthy lifestyle that is conducive to permanent weight loss.