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How to Calculate Calorie Intake to Lose Weight

May 2, 2016 / Weight Loss
How to Calculate Calorie Intake to Lose Weight

Most people are engaged in different weight loss programs with the hope of losing weight. But, have you ever stopped to ask yourself what is it that helps people to lose weight in the first place?

The simple answer is, ‘calories you take in versus the calories you expend’. For you to be able to calculate and effectively burn the calories to lose weight, you need to understand what calories are.

What are calories?

In nutrition, calories are defined as the unit of energy that is obtained from foods and drinks. Your body cells need the calories to function normally and that is why you need to ensure that you meet your daily calorie intake.

What you need to understand is that any food item that contains calories has the potential to increase your energy intake. Now, people who don’t understand the importance of calories in the body, end up gaining or losing too much weight that they intended.

To be able to understand the dynamics of weight loss and weight gain, you need to understand what the calories are and what their role is in their body. Calories as mentioned above are units of energy. They are the ones that provide the body with energy for its normal functions.

However, the calorie intake is directly linked to the energy expenditure. This means that for you to be able to lose weight, the energy expenditure needs to be higher than the calorie intake.

To gain weight, you need to maintain a higher energy intake than the energy expenditure, i.e. eat at a caloric surplus. The opposite is true if you want to lose weight wherein you must burn more than you take in.

 How calories are distributed?

As you know, there are three major macro nutrients of food; Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. For you to be able to effectively calculate your daily caloric intake, you need to focus on these understanding the caloric make up of each of these macro nutrients. However, not all calories are created equally.

Below is the number of calories per gram of each macro nutrient.

Macro nutrient

Calories per 1 gram

Protein 4
Carbohydrate 4
Fat 9
Alcohol 7

Example: 200g of Chicken Breast (64g Protein, 7g Fat, 0g Carbs) = ( [64 x 4] + [7 x 9] ) = 319 Calories

How many calories should I eat to lose weight?

Now we get down to the business end. This is where most people lose their way as they don’t have the sufficient knowledge regarding their recommended caloric intake to navigate toward their weight loss goals.

There are 3 main steps to determine your caloric needs for weight loss.

  • Step 1 | Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

When you are calculating your recommended caloric intake for weight loss, you need to factor in your age, physical activity, height and weight. All these variables will impact your BMR.

As mentioned in my previous post on The 5 Most Effective Ways to Boost Metabolism and Burn Fat, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) refers to the amount of energy that your body needs to run its normal functions.

You can calculate your BMR by clicking on the link and accessing the calculator here.


  • Step 2 | Determine Activity Factor

Once you have figured out your BMR, the next step is to multiply it with the number that corresponds with your activity level per day to determine your maintenance calories.

Activity Level




Doing nothing strenuous all day. No exercise


Lightly Active

Desk job, works out 1-3 times a week



Desk job, works out 3-5 times a week



Desk job, works out 6-7 times a week


Very Active

Physical job (e.g. construction) + works out 6-7 times a week


Let take my numbers as an example:

BMR: 1895 Calories (based on age 25, 182 cm, 80 kg, male)

Activity Level: 1.725

Daily Caloric intake to maintain weight at current level of activity is, (1895 x 1.725) = 3268 Calories  

Once we have figured out our maintenance caloric intake per day, we simply need to subtract the necessary calories from our diet to achieve our weight loss target.


  • Step 3 | How many calories to subtract?

To burn off 1 pound of Fat = 3500 calories. Therefore, by deducting 500 calories from our calorie intake per day, we can burn of 1 pound of fat in 1 week (500 x 7 = 3500). This method is equally effective if we want to gain muscle too. We need to add 500 calories to our diet to create a surplus which enables us to build muscle.

In this way, adding and deducting calories from our maintenance calories can help us gain muscle or lose weight more effectively.

If you found this article of value to you, please leave a comment, like or subscribe! Leave a comment or email me if you need any questions to be addressed regarding this topic.

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BMI/BMR calculators

About the author:
Wilfred Paul is an Exercise Physiologist, PT & Weight Loss Consultant with a passion for helping people actualize their health & fitness goals. He is also a content writer for Forbes, Medical Daily & The Independent UK. 
Posted by
Wilfred Paul
Wilfred Paul is an exercise physiologist, pt & weight loss consultant with a passion for helping people actualize their health & fitness goals. he is also a content writer for forbes, medical daily & the independent uk.


  1. Taylor Author December 8, 2017 (1:45 am)

    Super engaged with this article! Really good read . When is the next one!??🤓

    Reply to Taylor

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