The question posed in the headline is a common one. You’ve probably asked this question yourself. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s a common question, it doesn’t necessarily have a common answer. How many calories should you eat per day to lose weight? The answer depends on a number of factors — all of which should be discussed with your primary care provider.

Losing Weight: Caloric Intake and Exercise

You may already be familiar with some of the reasons why there’s no tried-and-true answer to the question of how many calories you need to eat each day to lose weight.

First of all, everybody’s caloric requirements are different. An athlete who weighs 225 pounds and stands 6 feet 4 inches has much different caloric needs than a teenager who weighs just 110 pounds and is 5 feet 6 inches tall.

Speak with your doctor to determine what works best for you and before starting any diet program.

Second, the number of calories you should eat per day to lose weight also depends on how many calories you burn every day.

If you’re an active person — i.e., someone who exercises an hour or so a day — then you probably don’t need to make a drastic reduction in caloric intake in order to achieve healthy weight loss.

On the other hand, a person who is largely inactive and leads a sedentary lifestyle with no plans to exercise (something we don’t recommend), then that person will need to make major restrictions on diet to make up for the calories not being burned through even moderate activity levels and exercise.

Finally, the type of diet plan one chooses also has an effect — vegan, keto, vegan keto (!), Ghost protein, etc. Some diets, nutrition plans, and supplements are said to help the body burn more calories than others, for instance. Be wary of unscientific claims and those unsupported by evidence. But do pay attention to how your body responds to changes in your diet. And always make sure you’re getting the proper nutrients.

Calorie Goals

The number of calories a day that you need will depend on your long term calorie goals, how easy it is for you to gain weight (e.g., if you’re older), and what it takes to maintain your current weight.

Counting calories can be a chore — and counting daily calories can be a long term chore. Still, it’s in your best interest to keep track, especially if you’re overweight or obese.

The bottom line remains the same (courtesy of the Mayo Clinic): “Despite all the diet strategies out there, weight management still comes down to the calories you take in versus those you burn off.”

This is true regardless of your basal metabolic rate, which is the energy your body requires to perform basic functions, such as repairing cells and breathing.

In other words, don’t let yourself off the hook by claiming to have a slow metabolism.

Burning Calories

That same Mayo piece linked above has a great deal of helpful information. We suggest reading the whole thing. It’s worth quoting in full:

“Calories are the energy in food. Your body has a constant demand for energy and uses the calories from food to keep functioning. Energy from calories fuels your every action, from fidgeting to marathon running. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are the types of nutrients that contain calories and are the main energy sources for your body. Regardless of where they come from, the calories you eat are either converted to physical energy or stored within your body as fat. These stored calories will remain in your body as fat unless you use them up, either by reducing calorie intake so that your body must draw on reserves for energy, or by increasing physical activity so that you burn more calories.”

You’ll need to burn 3,500 calories in order to lose a pound. How many calories you actually burn with diet and exercise varies based on some of the factors we mentioned above. But you can get a rough estimate by doing some simple math.

For example, if you normally eat a 2,500-calorie diet, cutting 500 calories per day means you should lose about one pound per week. (Losing one to two pounds per week is the generally recommended amount in order to sustain health and weight loss.)

So … how many calories should you eat per day to lose weight? Probably 500 less than you’re eating now!

Of course, if you exercise, the number of calories you cut per day will be reduced. So get started on a regular plan of exercise in addition to limiting calories.

One final thought: Make sure the calories you’re consuming come from real food rather than processed, boxed servings. Real food — whole grains, proteins, etc. — keep you feeling fuller longer, so it helps prevent cravings. Plus, real food provides the right kind of fuel that you’ll need to exercise.

Contact Oregon Weight Loss Surgery with any questions.

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