How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight?

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If you’re just now embarking on a weight loss journey, the good news is that you have a lot of choices in terms of how you’ll do it. Many people like to see quick, fast results—but losing weight fast may not be healthy.

Losing weight rapidly is typically accomplished through crash or overly-restrictive diets that are not sustainable long-term,” says Audra Wilson, RD, a registered bariatric dietitian at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital

Of course, it all depends on what you define as “fast” weight loss. “An achievable and, more important, sustainable goal is to lose 0.5 to 2 pounds per week,” says Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Note that the more weight you have to lose, the easier it is to lose more pounds per week.”

But if you are losing more weight than that, you’re likely not losing just fat. And it could lead to regain weight down the road. “Typically a rapid weight loss is due to the loss of muscle mass, which you want to keep to have a strong, nicely defined body,” says Escobar. “The more muscle you keep, the more calories you are going to burn.”

How many calories should I eat to lose weight?

There are a few different calculations that can be used to determine calorie needs, or your BMR (basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories you need to maintain your weight). “All it takes is to do an online search for the Mifflin-St Jeor calculator to find the number of calories based on weight, age, gender, height, along with an activity factor,” says Escobar.

Adds Wilson, “You will subtract about 200-500 calories from your BMR for weight loss. So, for example: If your caloric needs are 1800, you would aim for 1300-1600 calories per day for weight loss.”

This is the formula that you can use to determine your caloric needs:

Men
66 + (6.3 x body weight in lbs.) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

Women
655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Which One of These 100 Diets Could Help You Lose Weight? We’ve Got Tons of Info to Help You Decide 

How to lose water weight

You’ve probably heard the term “water weight,” and you may be wondering what it is and how it impacts your overall weight loss goals. “Water weight is the water that is retained by the body that normally would go to the kidneys for excretion. It could happen because a person is eating too much salt. Sodium binds with water and keeps the water inside the body,” says Escobar. “Also, an abnormal amount of carbohydrates (for example, when you eat carbohydrates after a period of restriction) can cause water retention. When we don’t use carbohydrates for energy immediately, they are stored as glycogen. Glycogen pulls water, and therefore there is more water retained by the body.”

If water weight is happening because you’re eating too much salt, a healthy way to lose water weight is—you guessed it—to eat less salt. “In fact this can be really good for you as it will lower the chances of developing high blood pressure,” says Escobar.

Keeping  your carbohydrate intake consistent by eating healthy carbohydrates can also help. However, water retention may also be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as edema. This may require medical treatment and medication to alleviate, so talk with your doctor if you’re concerned.

Related: What Is Intermittent Fasting—and Is It For You? 

16 ways to lose weight

With the above in mind, here are 16 actionable tips to help you lose weight quickly.

Eat adequate protein

“Adult women should have 0.75g protein per kg of body weight, while men should have 0.84g/kg body weight. Athletes or people exercising regularly will need more, about 1.2-2.0 g/kg of weight,” says Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If you’re aiming to maintain your lean body mass while losing weight, the higher end of 2.0g/kg of weight is recommended. Protein provides satiety and helps maintain muscle mass during weight loss.”

…especially at breakfast

“If you find yourself getting hungry immediately after breakfast, it might be time to increase protein intake,” says Amber Pankonin, RD, registered dietitian and owner of Stirlist. “Eggs, Greek yogurt or lean meats are all good protein sources that might be able to keep you fuller longer in between meals.”

Minimize all added sugar 

“Added sugar is found in cakes, pastries, ice cream, candies, sugary drinks (including energy drinks and Gatorade). All of these items tend to have large amounts of calories, and the more you eat, the more you’ll crave,” says Escobar.

Drink more water

“Aim for 64 ounces,” says Wilson. “Being adequately hydrated can reduce snacking and increase energy. Many times our hunger and thirst cues can get mixed up. Those that drink water consistently throughout the day will not feel these competing cues and will likely snack less, reducing total calorie intake (this means weight loss over time!).”

Eliminate fried foods

“Fried foods another source of a high number of calories,” says Escobar.

Include fiber-rich foods in your diet

“Include plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, which provide fiber. Aim for two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables to meet adequate requirements,” says Valdez. “Fiber promotes satiety, is naturally low calorie, and provides beneficial micronutrients.”

Track your calories

“This is a classic idea for a reason: It works. Taking a few minutes before your meal to be mindful of what you are about to eat can help you to make more deliberate decisions about what you are about to put into your mouth,” says Wilson. “Sometimes it just takes that extra minute to consider whether your choice will be beneficial in supporting you in getting to your weight loss goal. You by no means need to be perfect—aim for the healthier option about 80% of the time—but many times we eat without thinking and this results in excess calorie intake.”

If you need a little extra help tracking, try MyFitnessPal, Lose It! WW or Noom.

Don’t eat nut butter out of the jar

“Nuts and nut butters can be a great source of fiber and protein, but they still contain quite a few calories, so it’s important to be mindful about portion size. In fact, two tablespoons contain around 200 calories,” says Pankonin. “Dropping the habit of eating nut butters right out of the jar might make a difference on the scale.”

Related: 3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Losing Weight—Plus, Expert-Backed Tips on What to Do About It 

Use a smaller plate

“Use small plates when you eat to control portion sizes. This can help you eat half of typical restaurant sizes,” says Escobar.

Get moving

“Aim to include 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a mixture of the two,” says Valdez. “Physical activity increases energy expenditure and is important to implement to slow and prevent weight regain. Activities such as cleaning the house, walking, dancing, swimming, and running can burn hundreds of calories per hour aiding in increased energy expenditure.”

Minimize your alcohol intake

“Join the sober curious trend and cut alcohol for a month! Think about cutting one glass of wine a day, which can save you 54,750 calories in a year,” says Escobar.

Get up 30 minutes earlier

“Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier and get in an AM workout. Whether it’s walking, following a video on YouTube or Fitness Blender, or running up and down the stairs with push-up and squat breaks; use this time of day where you have most control,” says Wilson. “If you wait until after work, school, and everything else piled on your plate, you are less likely to exercise. As a nice bonus, morning workouts energize you for the day and get your mind set on healthy for the rest of the day.”

Don’t skip meals

“Depending on the individual, skipping meals can lead to excess hunger causing some folks to overeat later in the day,” says Pankonin. “Taking time for balanced meals or scheduled snacks could prevent overeating at other times throughout the day.”

Work on meal prep

“When we eat on the run we eat whatever is easiest and fastest, which is usually not the healthiest option. Having a plan and preparing for each day with a menu can help to prevent the scramble at mealtimes,” says Wilson. “Think about your week, events, meetings, work and school schedules, and plan accordingly. If no one will be home at dinner time, a crockpot meal may be the best option. If you need a quick and easy dinner, have some deli meat and sandwich fixings ready for a made to order meal. You can also use your plan to batch cook foods like taco meat or a healthy casserole on the weekends so leftovers are available for lunch and dinner, or make egg cups for a quick protein breakfast.”

Have caffeinated beverages (coffee or tea)

“Caffeine may promote weight and body fat reduction and weight loss maintenance because it increases thermogenesis and fat oxidation. Caffeine can also help with the perception of fatigue while working out,” says Valdez. “However, make sure to stay away if you are sensitive to caffeine and have your last drop of caffeine at least 8 hours before your scheduled bed-time to not disrupt your sleeping patterns.”

Eat more vegetables

“Adding veggies to your morning omelet or vegetables on top of pizza can help add additional fiber and fullness,” explains Pankonin.

Sources

Next up, here are the 5 best diets to help manage your weight after 50.

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