Easily Calculate Calories to Lose Weight

Forget the complicated calorie reduction formulas, and easily calculate calories to lose weight with one simple figure.

How Effective is Calorie Counting to Lose Weight?

There are all kinds of trackers to calculate calories for losing weight. You can choose from the traditional formulas that require a bit of mathematical skills, or you can choose an online calculator that will do the math for you. All of them are useful.

Following are some helpful tips to easily calculate your calories and macros to lose weight. I’ve used these successfully for years with my clients. They don’t involve any difficult mathematical formulas, though they do require a little bit of math.

How to do Calorie Counting Easily to Lose Weight

As mentioned earlier, there are many mathematical formulas you can use to determine your daily calorie needs. My favorites are the Harris-Benedict and Katch-McArdle formulas. Their formulas take several factors into consideration which include resting metabolic rate, activity level, body weight, lean body mass, age, and gender.

However, you can use a quick method that I have successfully used with my clients throughout the years. To easily calculate your calories, you'll need to know your total body weight and activity level. Once you calculate your daily calorie needs, you can subtract 500 to 1,000 for a calorie deficit. Start with 500 to 750 so that you have room to go if you hit a weight loss plateau.

Activity Level

Depending on how active you are, you'll multiply your weight by a factor between 10 and 13.5. Choose your multiplier below. An example is also provided.

  • 10 = Sedentary... little to no exercise; confined to bed.
  • 11 = Very light activity... mostly sitting; desk job.
  • 12.5 = Light activity... exercise or sports 1 to 3 days per week.
  • 13.5 = Moderate activity... exercise or sports 3 to 5 days per week.

Dr. Campbell's Example

  • You are female
  • Your weight is 190 pounds
  • Lightly active

Dr. Campbell's Weight Loss Formula

  • Body Weight (190) x Multiplier (11) = 2,090 Daily Calories for Maintenance
  • Daily Calories (2,090) - Calorie Deficit (500) = 1,590 Daily Calories for Weight Loss

If you have very stubborn body fat that won’t budge after using the multiplier 12 after four weeks, you may calculate a new calorie intake using multiplier 11 or 10. However, never go below 10, and never use it for more than 8 weeks at a time with at least 8 weeks of going back to multiplier 12 to 13. The body adapts quickly, and you risk becoming nutrient deficient and lowering your metabolic rate if you stay on a diet too low on calories for too long. Also, your body may have a more difficult time losing weight in the future.

Further, please keep in mind that this quick and easy formula works best if you aren’t significantly overweight (over 350 pounds for women and 400 pounds for men).

How to do Calorie Counting Based on the Harris-Benedict Formula

If you are significantly overweight or would rather use the most accurate formula for calculating calories, the Harris-Benedict Formula is the model for you. It uses factors such as gender, weight in kilograms (kg.), height in centimeters (cm.), and age to determine your calorie needs for your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR is the rate at which your body burns energy when it is at complete rest.

Once your RMR is figured, activity is calculated to get your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which should be your total calories per day for maintaining weight.

Once TDEE is calculated, you can then subtract calories to create a deficit to help you lose weight. To keep your body’s metabolic processes from slowing too much, you would typically start by subtracting 15 to 20 percent from your TDEE. A larger deficit may be necessary if you haven’t lost body fat after four weeks. You can then subtract 25 to 30 percent from your TDEE for a total calorie count per day.

The Harris-Benedict model uses different formulas for men and women. This is because men are usually bigger than women. Plus, they also have a higher lean body mass.

Following are examples with formulas for both men and women.

Harris-Benedict Example for Men

  • You are male.
  • You are 30 years old.
  • You weigh 185 pounds.
  • You are 5 feet, 10 inches tall (70 inches total).
  • You are moderately active and play sports five days per week.

Harris-Benedict Formula Calculations Using Male Example

  • RMR = 66.47 + (13.75 x weight in kg.) + (5 x height in cm.) – (6.76 x age in years)
  • RMR = 66.47 + (13.75 x 84 kg.) + (5 x 177.8 cm.) – (6.76 x 30 years)
  • RMR = 66.47 + 1,155 + 889 – 202.8
  • RMR = 1,907.67 (rounded up to 1,908)
  • TDEE = RMR x Activity Factor
  • TDEE = 1,908 x 1.7 (moderately active)
  • TDEE = 3,243.6 (rounded up to 3,244)
  • Calories to Lose Weight = TDEE – 20% Calorie Deficit
  • Calories to Lose Weight = 3,244 – 648.8 Calories
  • Calories to Lose Weight = 2,595.2 (rounded to 2,595 Calories per Day)

Harris-Benedict Example for Women

  • You are female.
  • You are 40 years old.
  • You weigh 200 pounds.
  • You are 5 feet, 5 inches tall (65 inches total).
  • You are lightly active and working out 3 days per week.

Harris-Benedict Formula Calculations Using Female Example

  • RMR = 655.1 + (9.56 x weight in kg.) + (1.85 x height in cm.) = (4.68 x age in years)
  • RMR = 655.1 + (9.56 x 90.91 kg.) + (1.85 x 165.1 cm.) – (4.68 x 40 years)
  • RMR = 655.1 + 869.1 + 305.44 – 187.2
  • RMR = 1,642.44 (rounded up to 1,643)
  • TDEE = RMR x Activity Factor
  • TDEE = 1,643 x 1.5 (lightly active)
  • TDEE = 2,464.5 (rounded up to 2,465)
  • Calories to Lose Weight = TDEE – 20% Calorie Deficit
  • Calories to Lose Weight = 2,465 – 493 Calories
  • Calories to Lose Weight = 1,972 Calories per Day

How to Calculate Your Macros for Weight Loss

Now that you have calculated your calorie needs per day, it’s time to figure your nutrient ratios (macros). In other words, you’ll need to know how many calories should come from each food category of protein, carbs, and fats.

While there is no perfect ratio for every single person, a baseline will help you determine your specific ratio. Some body types seem to be luckier than others, but all body types have the tendency to gain fat with the wrong lifestyle habits. However, each body type, or combination of body types, will react differently to different nutrient ratios. The following will help guide you in finding your baseline:

Ectomorph: A body that normally has the tendency to be lean and long but has difficulty building muscle. Ectomorphs have a fast metabolic rate and a high tolerance for starchy carbs. A good macro baseline is 25% protein, 55% carbs, and 20% fats.

Mesomorph: A body that is usually well-proportioned with the right amount of muscle and body fat. They are naturally muscular and athletic. Mesomorphs have a moderate metabolic rate with a moderate tolerance for starchy carbs. A starting macronutrient baseline would be 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% fat.

Endomorph: A body that is naturally broad and thick. Endomorphs are often pear-shaped with a tendency to store body fat. They have a slow metabolic rate and a low tolerance for starchy carbs. A proper macro baseline is 35% protein, 25% carbs, and 40% fat.

Since the endomorph body type is the one that naturally tends to put on body weight, its macro ratio will be used from the previous examples to calculate needs.

Macro Calculation for Male Example

  • Total Daily Calorie Needs = 2,595
  • Endomorph Body Type
  • Macro Ratios = 35% protein, 25% carbs, and 40% fat
  • Protein = 2,595 calories x 35% protein needs = 908.25 protein calories
  • Carbs = 2,595 calories x 25% carb needs = 648.75 carb calories
  • Fat = 2,595 calories x 40% fat needs = 1,038 fat calories

Macro Calculation for Female Example

  • Total Daily Calorie Needs = 2,116
  • Endomorph Body Type
  • Macro Ratios = 35% protein, 25% carbs, and 40% fat
  • Protein = 2,116 calories x 35% protein needs = 740.6 protein calories
  • Carbs = 2,116 calories x 25% carb needs = 529 carb calories
  • Fat = 2,116 calories x 40% fat needs = 846.4 fat calories

What to do When Calorie Counting Doesn't Work

If you find yourself not losing any body fat or weight after four weeks of sticking to your calories and macros, you’ll need to do a bit of investigating to find out why. Take the following litmus tests:

  • Are your macro calculations correct?
  • Is your diet on cue with no cheating?
  • Are you exercising per the activity factor you used?
  • Are you sleeping well?
  • Is your stress level good?

If you’re sticking to your plan perfectly and still not losing weight, then a little tweaking needs to be done to your baseline:

First, tweak your macros before calories. Start by lowering your carbs and increasing your fats by five percent (35% protein, 20% carbs, 45% fats). Assess in two weeks.

Second, tweak your calories. Change your calorie multiplier by one point. If you started with 13 as your factor, reduce it to 12 and recalculate your macros. Assess in two weeks.

Third, tweak your macros again by lowering your carbs and increasing your fats by five percent (35% protein, 15% carbs, 50% fats). Assess in two weeks.

Fourth, tweak your calories again. If your calorie multiplier is 12, reduce it to 11 and recalculate your macros. Assess in two weeks.

Remember to never go below 10 for with your calorie multiplier as this may cause nutrient deficiencies and lower your metabolic rate without return. If you’re still not losing weight after the fourth step, you may need to see your health practitioner to possibly have tests run for metabolic problems. Nonetheless, feel free to experiment with your baseline to find better results.

Closing

To lose weight, you can easily calculate your calories and macros by using a simple but successful formula that I’ve used for my weight loss clients throughout the last decade. However, calories and macros aren’t the only determinant for weight loss. Nixing any processed and refined foods while including natural, whole foods high in plant-based fiber in your meal plan will also help.

If you would like to learn other beneficial ways to losing weight, please read Is Calorie Counting the Best Way to Lose Weight?

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