One of the most important questions for those desperate in search of ways for weight loss is how many calories a day for losing weight fast? However, the answer is not a straightforward one.
How Many Calories Do I need?
This would require you to understand the calories required for you every day at the minimum. Even the recommendations here are not universal and depend upon several factors like your height, weight, genetic make up and how active your lifestyle is.
But according to American Dietary Guidelines, the minimum recommended daily range from 1600 to 2000 f0r females aged between 18 years to 76 years and above for maintaining your present weight. For males, the minimum daily calorie intake to maintain your current weight is between 2000 to 2400 between the same age range.
We can say that average is 2000 calorie diet that most people need to maintain their current weight.
However, this recommendation is those living a sedentary life. Calories per day requirement is more for those who are moderately active or active. For details you can have a look at this chart here.
According to National Health Service UK, the minimum recommended calories per day is 200o and 2500 for females and males respectively to maintain present weight.
You can also make use of a calories per day calculator to exactly determine your daily calorie intake requirement. One good option is Calorie Calculator. Another very good calculator that also takes into account your physical activity level and how much you are willing to change is Body Weight Planner from the US Government.
The key to successful weight loss is to take in lesser calories and burn more than what you are currently doing. Ideally a deficit of 500 calories every day should help you lose at least one pound every week. Apparently, this means you should be shifting to about 1500 calorie diet.
Where these calories go
How does body use these calories? For understanding this completely we have to first look at Basal Metabolic Rate.
What is Basal Metabolic Rate?
BMR is the rate at which human bodies burn calories, while at rest. Well surprisingly this accounts for most of our daily calories that we burn. A normal human body burns between 65 to 80 percent of the daily calories for basal metabolism which involves basic human body functions like breathing, blood circulation, brain and nerve function and muscle contraction etc. (1) Another 10 percent is used for digesting your food.
Your might have been able to make a guess so far that one way of losing weight is increasing your BMR.
Therefore, BMR plays a big role in whether we gain or lose weight. Higher the BMR, higher the energy expenditure by the body and higher chances of losing weight.
There are different factors for BMR being different in different people. But one thing that does affect it is the fat body mass. If you have more fat, your BMR is likely to be lower. The inverse is also true. More muscles mean higher BMR. (2)
Exercise and Calories Link
It has been shown that exercise increases our metabolism.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that aerobic exercise is more beneficial for long term weight loss because of its effect on reducing fat mass and our daily energy expenditure.
As we age, resistance training becomes more important because it helps in maintaining our fat free mass (muscles) which are also indicators of a higher resting body metabolism. However, the same study concluded that a combination of aerobic training and resistance training is the most effective way to lose body weight. (3)
Research has also shown that resistance training keeps metabolism rate high upto 48 hours after exercise. (4)
But is increasing metabolism enough for weight loss.?
Why Calories in Food Items are Important?
The truth is that by just increasing your workout you can surely lose weight but at a very slow rate. For example, one pound of fat is about 3500 calories. And to lose one pound by walking, you will have to walk 35 miles. So the math hardly adds up favorably.
Therefore, in order to lose about two pounds a week, which is the recommended weight loss rate, you will have to burn 7000 calories in one week. Unless you are doing high intensity, long duration exercise, this is not going to materialize because it means you will have to walk 70 miles in one week to lose two pounds.
Have a look at how calories are burned when you exercise for one hour in different types of physical activity.
The other solution is to take care of your diet and start a low calorie diet without compromising your minimum diet requirement. This means taking care of calories in food.
Reducing Daily Calories Through Diet
This will simply mean adding quality foods to your diet. And broadly speaking you will shift to eating more lean protein, fish, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
You will still be getting the calories required for your body to function properly but you won’t be hungry and miserable because these foods will provide you all the macro and micronutrients your body needs. You can have a look at our foods that burn fat.
At the same time, you also need to let go the bad quality food. It is time to part ways with emty calories packed in foods that are classified as simple carbohydrates and sugars.
Some of the foods you should seriously consider saying goodbye to are juices (including fresh juices, eat whole fruits), cookies, candies, white bread and bakery products, chocolates, sodas and energy drinks.
Portion control is a very effective strategy to control excess weight. Our portion sizes have increased in last few decades and are normally almost double than the serving size. Therefore, when you are eating your pasta, keep in mind that one serving equals about one cup and 200 calories. Larger portion will only add up calories to your daily limit without you even noticing.
It might be a good idea to look at serving size and their corresponding calories in different foods at Food Data Central by searching their food calorie chart. You can also have use the food calorie calculator here.
The Bottom Line
So if I rephrase the question as under: How many calories should i burn a day to lose weight fast? The simple answer will be as many as you can. But at the minimum, you should try to create a calorie deficit of about 500 calories (inclusive of exercise and diet control) to lose one pound a week.
This can be easily achieved if you engage in moderate activity like brisk walk for one hour every day and 30 minutes resistance training twice a week. However, as we we noted above exercise is not enough on its own. You will have to start eating quality foods to stand a realistic chance of weight loss.