How to work out your daily calorie intake for weight loss

Understanding of the importance of tracking your food and see how creating a healthy calorie deficit can be effective and sustainable for weight loss.

3 September 2020

3 min read

Daily calorie intake for weight loss

It’s important to remember that when you’re looking at the calories on your food labels a lot of these are based on the average person eating 2000 calories per day. The chances are that you may need more or fewer than 2000 calories in order to maintain a healthy weight. Remember that your needs are based on your weight, height, age and gender, as well as your activity level throughout the day.  There are a number of ways to determine how many calories you need. 


How to work out an individual calorie requirement

(Harris benedict Formula)

Men 66 + (6.3 x bodyweight in lbs) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age) = BMR

Women 655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age) = BMR

Your BMR is your basal metabolic rate which is essentially the amount of kcals your body needs to perform basic functions (such as breathing, digestion and hair growth among many others). We then need to times that by an activity factor. 

Little or no exercise = BMR x 1.2

Light activity/light exercise and sports (1-3 days per week), or a moderately active job such as beauty therapist and no exercise = BMR x 1.375

Moderate exercise/sports (3-5 days per week), or a moderately active job with light exercise, or heavy exercise and an inactive job = BMR x 1.55

Heavy exercise (5 days a week training) or moderately active job such as policeman and moderate exercise = BMR x 1.725

Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts) or someone with a very active job like Personal Trainer, Factory Worker who also exercises a lot = BMR x 1.9

This will give you your T.D.E.E (Total daily energy expenditure) please refer back to my previous article to learn more about this. 

We now have your daily calorie intake figure and this alone is what you need to maintain your body weight and function within your activity factor. Now that we have this figure we need to put ourselves in a calorie deficit in order to see a shift in body composition. Healthy ranges are anywhere from 10-25%, Please remember the bigger the drop the quicker the results, the smaller the drop the longer it takes. Both have pros and cons. These targets have to be specific to the individual. If you put yourself into too much of a calorie deficit it can be completely counterproductive i.e you will have very little energy which means your activity level will drop. Make sure you find what works for you, every individual will be different, take it week by week and assess how you’re doing. 

For example if you’re losing a couple of pounds per week then you know you are absolutely nailing it but if you see a gain in weight or no change, then something is not right and we just need to reassess the numbers and move forward. 


Example of this process

This person is a female looking to create a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. She has a low impact job (office based) and her exercise level is moderately low (1-2 week). 

Woman  655 + (4.3 x 182lbs) + (4.7 x 64 inches) – (4.7 x 29) = 1,602.1

1602 x 1.2 (Activity Level) = 1922 (T.D.E.E)

10% = -192kcals

20% = -384kcals

25% = -480kcals

1922 – 384 (20%) = 1538kcals

As you can see the Individuals T.D.E.E is around 1900 calories and by adding a gradual deficit of 20% this allows her to slowly start reducing the daily calorie intake by just under 400 calories. This process is all about trial and error. Take it week by week and reassess at the end, you won’t always hit the target every time but by reassessing and tracking your calories, you will put yourself in a much stronger position to hit your targets. 

Have a go at using the formula and see how you get on; remember the most important thing of all this is to reassess each week and do your best to track your foods throughout the day. 

Matt Knight - Personal Trainer