How to Estimate Calorie Needs for Weight Loss and Maintenance

Take into account all the running you do.
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If every time you open your closet you see a row of shirts, pants, skirts and dresses that used to fit you but are now just gathering dust, it may be time to lose some weight. By reducing your calorie intake and exercising more -- or starting an exercise plan if you don't currently have one -- you can shed weight and get back into those skinny jeans you covet. First, you'll need to figure out how many calories you need to cut from your current intake to make that dream a reality.

    Step 1

    Figure out your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, which is the number of calories your body burns when you're snoozing on the couch on a Sunday. It's the minimum amount of calories you need to take in to support your body's physiological function. The BMR equation for women is 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years). For example, if you're 27 years old and 5 feet 5 inches tall, and you weigh 130 pounds, your BMR is 1,399.

    Step 2

    Determine your appropriate activity factor, which calculates how many calories your body needs above your BMR to support your daily activities, such as walking to work and doing yoga. If you're mostly sedentary, meaning you don't exercise and tend to spend evenings on the couch, multiply your BMR by 1.2. If you're moderately active -- for example, you exercise or play sports three to five days a week -- multiply your BMR by 1.55. The resulting number is how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

    Step 3

    Calculate the number of calories you need to cut from your current intake to lose weight. Reduce your intake by 500 calories per day to lose about 1 pound a week; reduce it by 1,000 calories to lose about 2 pounds a week. So, for example, if your maintenance caloric intake is 2,100 calories, and you want to lose 1 pound a week, your caloric needs for weight loss are 1,600 calories a day.


    • You can also increase your exercise frequency and intensity to burn more calories in addition to reducing your caloric intake for quicker results.


    • According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you should never consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day, as doing so can lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor health.

    Things You'll Need

    • Calculator

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