Cutting back on calories is a great way to lose weight, but cutting back TOO far can be counterproductive. I’ve seen a number of people take their calories down to 1,000 (or lower!), and without a doubt they have regretted their decision in the long run. First of all, when you drop your calories too low, your body responds by slowing down your metabolism. This will cause you to burn fewer calories, which is definitely NOT what we want to happen. Also, when your fuel intake dips below what you need to support the activity of your muscles, bones, and organs, your cells simply can’t function properly. Eating too few calories will zap you of energy and can affect your looks (i.e. dry skin, limp hair).
So, it is important to strike a good balance when determining the number of calories to consume each day. An article in the August issue of SHAPE magazine had a formula that I think works really well:
Step 1 : Multiply your weight goal by 10. That is the minimum number of calories you need per day without any physical activity. So, if your goal weight is 130, you should aim for no less than 1,300 calories each day.
Step 2 : Factor in your daily activity. If you have a very active job (i.e. a nurse, a busy mom), you should add an additional 3 calories per pound of your goal weight. So, if your goal weight is 130 and you are super active each day, you should add on an additional 390 calories to consume. However, if you have a desk job and are at the computer most of the day, stick with the number in Step 1.
Step 3 : Tack on extra for exercise. On the days that you work out, add half the calories you burn to your daily intake. In other words, if you burn 300 calories during your workout, add an additional 150 calories to your daily allotment.
Here are a couple of examples:
EXAMPLE 1 : Debbie is a busy nurse, and her goal weight is 125 pounds. Here is how many calories she should target to lose weight:
- 125 * 10 = 1,250 calories.
- Due to her active lifestyle, she adds on 3 * 125 = 375.
- 1,250 calories + 375 calories = 1,625 calories.
- When she works out, she burns approximately 300 calories, so we add half of that (150 calories) on to her total.
- So, on days that Debbie does not work out, she should target 1,625 calories. On days that she does workout, she should target 1,775 calories.
EXAMPLE 2 : Tracy has a job that requires her to work at the computer most of the day. Her goal weight is 140 pounds. Here is how many calories she should target to lose weight:
- 140 * 10 = 1,400 calories.
- We don’t add any additional calories due to the sedentary nature of her work.
- When Tracy works out, she burns approximately 250 calories. We add half of that number (125 calories) to her total for the day.
- So, on days that Tracy does not work out, she should target 1,400 calories. On days that she does work out, she should target 1525 calories.
Now that you know how many calories to eat each day, learn how to spend that calorie budget wisely! Read Happy Dieter’s Top 10 Favorite Foods to help get you started.