Weight loss – it’s an ongoing war.
Let me ask you, have you ever struggled to lose 10 pounds? Or would dropping 50 pounds change your life?
If so, you’re not alone. Every year millions of people battle obesity, it’s truly a worldwide epidemic.
I believe the human psyche doesn’t want to be overweight. Deep down, we aspire to look like Hollywood celebrities. We desire the bodies of pro-athletes and supermodels.
But in the end, we just want to be healthy and feel good about ourselves.
So if we want the perfect body, then why is losing weight so difficult?
Our culture doesn’t make it easy. Everyday you’re bashed with a barrage of food ads to “super size this” and “double stuff that.” Our portion sizes are out of control, and we no longer view food for nutritional value because it’s become an emotional attachment.
And that gets us, more than we like to admit…
So what’s the secret weapon? How do you lose weight?
It’s really not as hard as you think.
In this post, I’ll tell you why counting calories is a sure-fire way to lose weight. Then we’ll figure out how many calories you should consume to lose weight.
But first, let’s debunk 2 major myths behind weight loss. Are you ready?
Myth #1: Exercise More to Lose More Weight
False. You can’t “out-exercise” your diet. It’s impossible.
Now these are crude numbers (lots of other factors come into play), but let’s look at a typical weekly workout.
Let’s say you run 6 times a week for 60-mins and burn 5kcal/min (moderate jog).
- 60-mins x 5kcal/min = 300kcals burned per workout
- 6 times/week = 1800kcals burned per week
1-lb of fat contains 3500kcals of stored energy. Therefore you should lose 0.51lbs of fat every week based on exercise alone.
I don’t know about you, but running 6 times a week sounds like a ton of work to only lose half a pound!
Let’s be honest, you can easily over-eat 1800kcals per week. It’s much more practical to adjust your diet for weight loss.
Myth #2: Calories Are Not Created Equal
False. A calorie is a calorie. Energy IN – Energy OUT.
I do agree that eating whole foods will cause you to eat less. Think about it – have you ever binged on 10 bunches of broccoli? Ever ate an entire large bucket of movie popcorn?
I arrest my case.
Calories IN and Calories OUT make up the Energy Balance Equation. To simplify this:
Calories Consumed (IN) – Calories Burned (OUT) x Time = Weight Loss or Gain
Meaning if you eat more calories than you burn in a day – you will gain weight. It’s a law of thermodynamics that humans can’t escape.
Every food you eat has a certain amount of energy that can be used. If you eat more energy than you use, then the body has to store the extra energy (fat). Likewise, if you eat less energy than you use, then the body has to burn stored energy (fat) to stay alive.
To say a potato has “better energy” than a potato chip defies thermodynamics. They both have different amounts of energy and nutritional value. You’re just more likely to eat an entire bag of potato chips and consume more calories than you need.
Calories are calories, we’re just less likely to over-eat whole foods.
**Side Note: I do realize hormones also play a big part in storing fat, but that’s a whole different article.
How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
Find Your Basal Metabolic Rate:
First off, let’s find your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – which is how many calories you would burn daily if you never moved a muscle (just to stay alive).
There’s tons of calculators online, I like Scooby’s fat-loss calorie calculator - but you can Google “BMR calculator” just as easily.
Here’s the BMR calculation:
- Male Adults
BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.76 x age in years)
- Female Adults
Apply Harris-Benedict Equation:
Next, we need to apply the Harris Benedict Equation - which estimates your daily caloric requirements (DCR) based on activity levels.
Take your BMR and use these equations:
- If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) = BMR x 1.2
- If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) = BMR x 1.375
- If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) = BMR x 1.55
- If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) = BMR x 1.725
- If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) = BMR x 1.9
Here’s a cheat from HHS/USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
Calorie Consumption for 1-lb Fat Loss Per Week
1-lb Fat = 3500kcals
To lose 1-lb of fat per week, you have to be at a 3500kcal deficit weekly. This comes out to 500kcals per day.
Take your daily caloric requirement (DCR) and subtract 500 – that is how many calories you need to eat daily to lose one pound per week.
Bonus Tip: Weight gain is different. You only need a surplus of 100-150kcals per day to gain 1-lb per week.
Count Your Calories
Once you know the math behind fat loss, it becomes easy to measure. You simply have to count calories.
I use a daily calorie tracker like Myplate on Livestrong.com. Make sure to only use the verified foods when counting calories on Myplate.
Calorie trackers make you consciously aware of what you are eating daily. Plug in your favorite foods to get an idea how many calories each contain. Also, get insanely good at looking at nutrition labels. Get to a point where you can estimate calories just by eyeballing food.
You should also get familiar with portion sizes. How many ounces in a serving of protein? How many grams of carbs in one serving? These numbers will help you achieve your goals and make sure you don’t over-eat.
I realize I covered a TON of material for one blog post. But now you know how to count calories effectively to lose weight.
Look – I’m currently working towards 8% from 12% body fat, so I’m not shredded at the moment.
We all fall off the wagon, the key in fat loss is persistence. You didn’t get fat overnight, and you’re not going to lose 10 pounds of fat by tomorrow. Keep counting your calories, stick to your diet 90% of the time, and I guarantee results.
In an upcoming post I’ll talk about macro-nutrients and what kind of foods you should be eating for fat loss. Feel free to share your thoughts on this article below.