Most women will peel away pounds eating fewer than 2,000 calories a day. In fact, with the exception of very active women, eating 2,000 calories or more in a day likely won’t cut it for effective weight loss. Your individualized weight-loss calorie needs are based on your body weight, current calorie intake and activity level.
Weight-Loss Calorie Needs
To shed pounds safely and effectively, most women require fewer than 2,000 calories a day. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests most inactive women require 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day to drop weight, while active women and those weighing more than 164 pounds should aim for 1,200- to 1,600-calorie weight-loss diets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests cutting your current intake by 500 to 1,000 calories daily to drop 1 to 2 pounds weekly.
You may need 2,000 calories, or more, daily to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week if you regularly perform hard-core exercises at vigorous intensities or for long durations. For example, if you keep your regular calorie intake constant but burn an extra 500 to 1,000 calories daily by increasing your physical activity, you should still shed 1 to 2 pounds per week. Harvard Health Publications estimates a 155-pound woman who runs for one hour a day at a pace of 6 miles per hour will burn about 745 calories daily, which leads to a 1.5-pound weekly weight loss.
Importance of Protein
Boosting your protein intake will make it easier for you to cut calories and melt away fat. Protein also helps maintain lean muscle when you shed pounds. A 2008 review published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found protein increases satiety more than fat or carbs. A study published in a 2012 edition of “Physiology and Behavior” reports high-protein diets can help reduce body weight and body fat. Healthy, protein-rich foods include seafood, skinless poultry, egg whites, soy products, low-fat dairy foods, legumes, seitan, nuts and seeds.
Although eating fewer than 2,000 calories a day helps most women shed pounds, eating too few calories is a no-no. Very low-calorie diets containing 500 to 800 calories daily lead to rapid weight loss, but also cause unpleasant side effects. These may include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue and gallstone formation, according to Weight-control Information Network. Since rapid weight loss helps reduce obesity-related health conditions, chat with your doctor to see if you’re a candidate for a medically supervised VLCD program. However, a 2006 review published in the journal “Obesity” found that low-calorie diets containing 1,000 to 1,500 calories daily work just as well as very low-calorie diets long term.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: How Are Overweight and Obesity Treated?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Physiology and Behavior: Relatively High-Protein or 'Low-Carb' Energy-Restricted Diets for Body Weight Loss and Body Weight Maintenance?
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Protein, Weight management, and Satiety
- Weight-control Information Network: Very Low-calorie Diets
- Obesity: The Evolution of Very-Low-Calorie Diets: An Update and Meta-Analysis
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.