I am in a LOT of health and fitness forums and one question that I see all the time is this: how to calculate calorie intake for fat loss. Today I am going to answer that question as clearly and concisely as possible.
Knowing your daily calorie intake for fat loss or to put it differently, knowing how much food to eat every day to reach your fitness goals is very IMPORTANT.
You see, In spite of all the fads, all the diets, all the supplements, and programs, there’s one thing that must occur in order to lose weight.
That is, you must CREATE A CALORIE DEFICIT.
If you notice, I wrote that in all caps and bold it to place emphasis. Because if you don’t know how much food to eat on a daily basis to lose weight, I am 100% sure that you are NOT eating at a deficit.
This is why a LOT of people fail to reach their weight loss or fitness goals.
Your body needs energy to function. This energy is obtained from the food you eat and a calorie is a unit that measures this energy.
Your body is using energy even when you are inactive. Energy is used to maintain body temperature, for breathing, blood circulation, digestion, etc. Even your brain uses energy when you think.
A large part of the energy generated in the body goes into maintaining these essential body systems and functions. Besides these basic functions, energy is needed for physical activity.
A continuous supply of energy is crucial for your survival and it has to be obtained from food unless it is stored in your body in some way.
The body has two main methods of storing excess energy
- One is glycogen, which works as a temporary store and,
- the other is fat, which is the long-term food store of your body.
Glucose can be easily converted into glycogen and vice-versa. Our body uses this as a buffer mechanism to maintain blood glucose levels and ensure a steady supply of energy throughout the day. Excess glucose is converted into glycogen and it is converted back to glucose whenever necessary.
If you consume just enough food daily to keep your body running through the day, you will not gain weight.
How Do You Create A Calorie Deficit?
Each person’s calorie requirements are different.
To create a calorie deficit, you must first know your daily calorie requirement. Your daily calorie requirement also depends on your body structure and the amount of physical activity you do.
Your daily calorie requirement is also called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) .
It consists of two components. The first one is your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), which is the energy that your body needs for its metabolism, and the other component is the energy that you need for doing your physical activities.
Your BMR depends on your physical characteristics like height, weight, and lean mass. The TDEE is obtained by multiplying the BMR with a number called the activity factor.
There are many methods for calculating the BMR, but we will recommend the Katch-McArdle Formula given below:
BMR = 370 + (21.6 X Lean Body Mass (in kg))
This formula works for everyone and is more accurate than the other methods, especially if you are obese.
Using the caliper method, you may need someone to help you get your readings. After which you can look at the chart that comes with the caliper to see your BF percentage.
For the Omron method, all you have to do is enter your profile details and press a button and the device will give your readings in about 7 seconds.
Once we know your body fat percentage, we can proceed to calculate the weight of fat in your body and then your lean body mass.
Weight Of Fat In Your Body = (BF% X Actual Weight)/100
I’ll use an example to demonstrate. Let’s say a woman weighs 180 lbs and her BF% is 40.
(40 X 180)/100 = 72lbs Of FAT
Now in order to get your lean body mass, all you have to do is to subtract the amount of fat we got above from your overall body weight and you will get your lean body mass.
Using the same example of a woman weighing 180 pounds and 40% BF we would have:
Lean Body Mass = Overall Weight – Fat
180 – 72 = 108 lbs Lean Body Mass
Now that we have all the information we need, we can go ahead and calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is calculated using the formula below:
BMR = 370 + (21.6 X Lean Body Mass (in kg))
From the formula above, we must first convert our weight in pounds to kilograms.
1kg = 2.2lbs
So using the same example of a woman weighing 180 pounds with a lean body mass of 126 would be: (108/2.2) = 49.09kg
Back to the formula:
BMR = 370 + (21.6 X 49.09)
= 370 + 1060
BMR = 1430
So a woman weighing 180 pounds with a body fat percentage of 40 and a lean body mass of 49.09 Kg would have a BMR of 1430.
The next step is to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) using the formula below:
TDEE = BMR X Activity Factor
Activity factor varies between 1.2 and 2. Use the following table to find your activity factor depending on your current lifestyle:
Amount of Exercise/Activity
Little or no Exercise/ desk job
1.2 x BMR
Light exercise/ sports 1 – 3 days/ week
1.375 x BMR
Moderate Exercise, sports 3 – 5 days/ week
1.55 x BMR
Heavy Exercise/ sports 6 – 7 days/ week
1.725 x BMR
Very heavy exercise/ physical job/ training 2 x/ day
1.9 x BMR
Using our same example as before, we’ll assume that this woman has a sedentary lifestyle and currently does little to no physical activity daily. This means she’ll have an activity factor of 1.2.
We can then calculate her daily energy expenditure using the formula.
TDEE = BMR X Activity Factor
= 1430 X 1.2
TDEE = 1716 Calories Per Day!
The TDEE is your daily calorie requirement.
If your food intake only gives you these many calories and you maintain the same lifestyle, you will not gain or lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, it is quite likely that your daily calorie intake is much more than your daily requirement and you are actually gaining fat.
Obviously, this value that we obtained is a result of using an example of a woman who weighs 180 pounds and has a BF% of 40.
Everyone will have a different TDEE. So to make life easier for you, here is a summary of the steps you need to take to arrive at your TDEE.
Step By Step – How To Calculate Calorie Intake For Fat Loss
- Step #1 – Weight yourself using your bathroom scale and make a note of the figure.
- Step #2 – Find your body fat percentage using your caliper or Omron device.
- Step #3 – Calculate the weight of fat in your body: (Weight Of Fat In Your Body = (BF% X Actual Weight)/100).
- Step #4 – Calculate your lean body mass: (Lean Body Mass = Overall Weight – Fat).
- Step #5 – Convert your weight in pounds to kilograms: (Divide your weight by 2.2).
- Step #6 — Calculate your BMR: (BMR = 370 + (21.6 X Lean Body Mass (in kg)).
- Step #7 – Calculate your TDEE: (TDEE = BMR X Activity Factor).
Good job, you’ve now calculated your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.
In order to create a calorie deficit, all you would need to do is to consume less than your TDEE on a daily basis.
The best method is to start with a small deficit and work your way up. For example, if you are just starting out on your weight loss journey, you can start with a 15% Deficit.
After a few weeks, you can analyze your results and adjust accordingly.
Here are some articles that will help you to lose weight and get in shape:
- How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Month
- 10 Reasons Why Most Women Fail At Weight Loss
- 15 Ways To Lose Weight Fast
- Running For Weight Loss: 5 Things You Must Do