How to Calculate Calories for Weight Loss

crop kid weighing on scale

The secret to losing weight consistently and keeping it off isn’t some crazy diet or magic pill. It’s actually much simpler than that. If you know how many calories you are using throughout the day, you can determine how many you should consume to burn more than you take in. This article will show you exactly how to calculate calories for weight loss and how to maintain the weight that you want.

woman checking waist size with measuring tape for how to calculate calories for weight loss

The key to weight loss has nothing to do with the newest diet. They do work for the most part, but not for the reason you might think. The key to weight loss is always taking in less calories than you burn throughout the day. Keto does this by decreasing calories from carbs. Intermittent fasting does this by decreasing the amount of time you have to intake calories. They all work in the same way.

Before you jump to “what about insulin sensitivity/hormones/other fringe benefit of _______ diet” please remember that the key to health is always a well rounded diet. With the exception of very specific personal dietary restrictions such as diabetes or allergies.

The real trick is finding something that is sustainable for you long term. What can you stick to? For most people this means eating the foods they want, just in the quantities that keep them under their caloric needs.

This is where math class comes in. Don’t panic yet though. I have an easy answer for you!

Calculate Calories to Maintain

Don’t reach for a calculator! I am going to show you an easy calculation to find it for yourself, but there is an easier way still. Just click the button below!

blue tape measuring on clear glass square weighing scale

This calorie calculator will do tell you about how much you should be consuming. Just without all the math on your part.

To calculate calories for weight loss, you will first want to find out how many calories it takes to maintain your current weight. Take your current weight and multiply that number by:

  • 13 if you don’t exercise at all
  • 15 if you exercise a few times per week
  • 18 if you exercise 5 or more days per week

This will tell you about how many calories you would need to maintain your current weight. Remember, be honest with yourself here or the calculation will not be as accurate.

For example: if you weigh 165 pounds and exercise three times per week, then you would multiply 165 by 15. This would mean it takes a total of about 2,475 calories to maintain your current weight.

Calculate Calories for Weight Loss

Take the number you found for maintenance calories and reduce it. To lose about a pound per week you will want to reduce that number by 500. So in the example above, we would take 2,475 calories and reduce that by 500. Giving us a total of 1,975 calories to lose about one pound per week for that individual.

You can also reduce it by 1,000 to lose about two pounds per week.

How to Actually Reduce Calories

The three ways to create calorie deficits are:

  1. You can consume fewer calories per day
  2. You can burn off more calories per day with exercise
  3. A combination of the two- probably the healthiest method

Need a better way to track the calories you consume? Try this free app!

Why Not More?

Most experts agree that losing more than 1-2 pounds per week is a healthy level of weight loss. Anything more and you could be damaging your body.

The calories you consume in a day should not dip below 1,200 for women and 1,800 for men. Anything less and you are robbing your body of vital nutrients. If you feel that you need to lose more than this, consult a doctor to assist you in your weight loss.

Increasing Calorie Expenditure for Weight Loss

Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be intense to burn calories. If you hate lifting, running, or other common exercises for weight loss consider these options:

  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Walking
  • Mowing the Lawn
  • Playing a Sport
  • Casual biking
  • Playing with your kids

Continued Progress

As you lose weight you will need to calculate calories for weight loss again as your maintenance level of calories will have dropped. Make sure to recalculate or come back to the calorie calculator as your weight goes down.


When you find a weight that you are comfortable at you can just calculate your maintenance level calories and keep your intake there!

Learn more about calculating calories here or leave a comment sharing your thoughts!

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