If you are trying to lose weight, the first thing you should find out is how many calories you need to burn every day.
Knowing how many calories you burn each day will help you figure out how many calories to consume so that you create a calorie deficit that will lead to weight loss.
Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds, our online calorie calculator will do all calculations for you and give you a straight forward answer.
It is highly recommended though to go through our step-by-step example to understand what these numbers mean.
Here is a summary of what we want to achieve:
Steps to calculate how many calories you need to burn a day
- Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is how many calories are needed by your body to function properly (based on your age, sex and height)
- Use the Harris-Benedict formula (BMR X activity level) to find out how many calories you need to consume per day to maintain your current weight
- Decide how many pounds you want to lose and when
- Based on the above, calculate how many calories you should save per day either through dieting or by burning calories through exercising
BMR and Calorie Calculator
How many calories to burn a day to lose weight?
You can use our calculator above to find out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), how many calories you burn per day based on your activity level and how many calories you need to save per day (through dieting or exercise) in order to reach your weight loss goal.
To understand the theory behind these calculations, read our step by step example below.
You do not have to keep a pen and paper because our daily calorie calculator will do the hard part.
Step 1: Calculate your BMR
The first step is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Many studies have found that in general women need 1500-2000 calories to maintain their current weight and for men the range goes to 2000-2500 calories.
This number is also known as the Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR).
In essence, this figure gives you the number of calories your body needs on a daily basis in order to function properly.
To calculate you BMR (1), use the formulas below (enter your weight in pounds and height in inches).
BMR for Men: 66 + (6.2 x weight) + (12.7 x height) – (6.76 x age)
BMR for Women: 655.1 + (4.35 x weight) + (4.7 x height) – (4.7 x age)
For example, the BMR for a woman age 20, 5 feet height, weighting 140 pounds is: 1447.65 Calories.
This is not how many calories you should consume per day but how many calories your body needs to function without doing anything. It can also be considered as the number of calories you burn a day doing nothing.
Step 2: The Harris-Benedict Formula
Harris-Benedict Equation = BMR x Activity Factor
|Daily Activity||Activity Factor|
|Sedentary (little or no exercise)||1.2|
|Lightly Active (light exercise, doing sports 1-3 days per week)||1.375|
|Moderately Active (sports/exercise 3-5 days per week)||1.55|
|Very Active (intense sports 6 or 7 days per week)||1.725|
|Extra Active (sports and exercise, physical job or hard training)||1.9|
For example, if your BMR is 1600 calories and you are lightly active during the day then your daily calorie requirements are: 1600 x 1.375 = 2200 calories per day. 2200 calories are needed so that you maintain your current weight.
If you want to lose weight you should be consuming less than 2200 calories per day and if you want to gain weight you should be consuming more than 2200 calories per day.
Step 3: How many pounds you want to lose?
The next step is to decide how many pounds you want to lose and when. To set-up realistic goals, you should understand when do you lose weight.
When do you lose weight?
There are many factors that affect how much weight you can lose (and when) but in its simplest form weight loss will occur when the calories you burn are more than the calories you consume.
Food and drinks (think diet) are the only sources for calories you consume while exercise, physical activity and other body factors affect the rate you burn calories.
So, if you manage to control these 2 sources and create a calorie deficit you will eventually start losing weight.
How many calories are in a pound?
Let’s add one more parameter to our equation which is 1 pound of fat = 3500 calories aprx.
This means that if you consume 3500 more calories than what you burn in a period of time you will gain one pound but if you manage to burn 3500 more calories than you consume you will lose 1 pound.
Step 4: How many calories to burn per day for weight loss
The last step is to calculate how many calories you need to burn per day in order to reach your goal weight.
This is only an estimate and it is not guaranteed that by following this number you will lose or gain weight.
There are many other factors involved in losing weight and the number of calories you consume is just one of the elements and since it is easy to calculate you can use it as your starting point.
Let’s assume that you are a 40 year old woman, 5 ft and 3 inches tall, 143 pounds weight and lightly active. Your goal is to lose 5 pounds in 2 months.
This is how you calculate the amounts of calories to burn per day:
1. Your BMR is 1385 calories
2. Your daily calorie needs based on your current activity level is 1905 calories.
This means that if you consume 1905 calories per day, you will maintain your current weight. If you eat more than 1905 calories you will eventually gain weight and if you eat less than 1905 calories, you will lose weight.
3. Your goal is to lose 5 pounds / 2.3 kg in 60 days, which is about 17500 calories (1 pound of fat is 3500 calories).
This means you need to save or burn 17,500 extra calories for the next 60 days.
Doing some basic calculations you can find out that this is equivalent to 280 calories per day. If you manage to save 280 calories per day you will lose 5 pounds in 2 months.
4. Subtract the number of calories you need to save per day (Step 3 above) from your daily calorie needs (step 2 above)
Daily Calorie needs – Calorie savings per day = 1905 – 280 = 1625 calories per day.
This is the number of calories you need to eat per day if you want to lose 5 pounds in 2 months!
The amount of calories you need to burn per day, depends on how much you are consuming.
Remember your goal is to save 280 calories per day over and above what your body needs to function properly.
For example, if you are consuming 1800 calories per day, in order to lose weight you need to consume only 1625 calories per day (as calculated above).
This means that you should burn 175 calories per (1800-1625) day through exercise.
So, in this example:
- The number of calories you burn per day for normal body functioning is 1905.
- If you consume 1800 calories per day then it means you are saving 105 calories per day, but this is not enough to reach your weight loss goal which is to lose 5 pounds in 60 days.
- To reach your goal, you need to burn an additional 175 calories per day (280 – 105) through exercise.
To lose weight faster, you can try reducing your daily calorie intake or increase calories burn through exercise.
How many calories you burn through exercise and other activities?
Burning calories is not easy. Those that are counting calories burned while exercising know that it’s hard work to burn those extra calories.
To give you an idea, here is how many calories you can burn in 30-minute activities. (3)
Counting calories and weight loss
Does calorie counting works for weight loss?
From my experience a lot of people hesitate to even try and lose weight because they don’t know from where to start. They know that they should go on a diet and exercise regime but the lack of measurable goals creates uncertainty and this leads to failure before to even begin!
To bypass this problem and have clear goals on what you want to achieve, you can start your weight loss process by doing some simple calorie calculations, as explained above.
By calculating how many calories you should be eating per day and how many calories you should be burning per day, you can have a better picture about your daily calorie needs and a rough estimate as to when you will be able to reach your ideal weight.
What you should know when trying to lose weight
- When you start a diet or weight loss program you will not only lose fat. Especially at the beginning you will lose water weight and in some cases you may also lose muscle. So the results in the first few weeks may be misleading.
- When you make sudden or drastic changes to your diet the body will try to adapt by lowering the metabolic rate. In other words it enters a protective mode by reducing the number of calories it needs per day. As a result weight loss may slow down.
- The absolute minimum amount of calories you can consume per day is 1000-1100 kcal. It is not recommended to go beyond this number for any reason.
- The recommended weight to lose per week is between 1 – 1.5 pounds. Anything above that can have other implications to your health and normal body functioning.
- Do not forget that drinks also carry calories so make sure that you include drinks in your daily calorie calculations.
- You can use a technique called “calorie cycling” to make the process easier to follow. This means that once you calculate your daily calorie needs you can go above and below this range on different days of the week. If for example you daily calorie needs are 1700 you can choose to go above this number on Monday and Wednesday and below this number the rest days of the week but try to avoid exaggerations.
- Make sure that you give correct measurements for your weight and height when calculating your BMR.
- Do not lie about your activity level but try to be as accurate as possible.
- Do not decrease your daily calorie intake by more than 500 calories per day. Better expand the time period. Reducing your intake by 500 calories is a lot and very difficult to follow for a long time.
- Always consult your doctor or dietician before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
As explained above, you can use these calculations to give you an idea where you stand and how much effort you need to make until you meet your goals and target weight.
Weight loss depends on a lot more factors and calculating the calories you need per day is just your starting point.
Don’t forget that the amount of calories you should burn a day depends on the number of calories you consume through food and the number of calories you want to save for weight loss.
If you eat more calories than you need, you will have to burn more calories through exercise to stay aligned with your weight loss goals.