How to Calculate Your Daily Calorie Burn to Lose Weight?


How to Calculate Your Daily Calorie Burn

It's a tale as old as time: In order to lose weight, you need to move more and eat less. But understanding how much more to move can be confusing. That's because the amount of calories you need to burn a day to lose weight depends on many factors, including your weight-loss goal, how much you're eating, and how you're burning those calories. So, beyond burning calories, know you're doing your body a world of good when you move more.

How to Calculate Your Daily Calorie Burn

The total number of calories you burn in a day depends on things like your age, height and weight, muscle mass, and how much you exercise, according to Kansas State University. 

There are several formulas to calculate your exact total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE (more on that in a minute), but there's also a simpler method based only on body weight. While it's not as accurate, it can give you a starting point to work from without having to do a lot of math:

Daily calories burned:​ 15-16 per pound of body weight ​

Calories needed for weight loss:​ 12-13 per pound of body weight ​

Calories needed for weight gain:​ 18-19 per pound of body weight

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

Sometimes referred to as basal metabolic rate (BMR), this is the total number of calories your body needs each day just for basic functions (think: breathing, blinking, etc). In general, your RMR is higher if you're younger and have more muscle, but your genetics plays a role, too.

To calculate your RMR, you can use either the Harris-Benedict Equation or Mifflin-St Jeor Equation, per the National Academy of Sports Medicine:

Harris-Benedict Equation​

Men: 88.362 + (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) - (5.677 × age in years) 

Women: 447.593 + (9.247 × weight in kg) + (3.098 × height in cm) - (4.330 × age in years) 

Note that 1 kg is equal to 2.2 pounds, and 1 inch is 2.54 cm.

Mifflin-St Jeor Equation

Men: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) + 5 

Women: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) - 161

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) 

TEF is the calories your body uses to digest, absorb and store the nutrients from the food you eat. Certain foods have been shown to have a higher thermic effect than others, meaning your body burns more calories to process them. These include foods high in protein and fiber, especially.

Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) 

NEAT is the number of calories your body uses doing daily activities, like brushing your teeth, washing dishes, and walking, according to the April 2015 paper in ​Mayo Clinic Proceedings​. This number varies greatly from person to person, and even from day to day, depending on your activity level.

Calories Burned During Exercise 

Just how many calories you burn during a workout depends on how long and how intensely you exercise. Together with NEAT, the calories you burn during exercise makes up somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of your TDEE, per the paper in ​Mayo Clinic Proceedings​.

Calculate Your TDEE 

Multiply your RMR by your activity level to get your estimated TDEE, per Kansas State:

Sedentary:​ BMR x 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job) 

Lightly active:​ BMR x 1.375 (light exercise 1-3 days per week) ​

Moderately active:​ BMR x 1.55 (moderate exercise 6-7 days per week) 

Very active:​ BMR x 1.725 (hard exercise every day, or exercising twice per day) ​

Extra active:​ BMR x 1.9 (hard exercise two or more times per day, or training for a marathon, triathlon, etc.)

How to Calculate Your Calories for Weight Loss 

To lose weight, you'll need to do some simple math and create a calorie deficit based on your TDEE, which means you burn more calories than you consume.

1. Find Your TDEE 

First, calculate your total daily energy expenditure based on the formula above. This will give you your maintenance calories, or how many calories you need a day to maintain your current weight.

2. Subtract 500 to 1,000 Calories 

One pound of fat is about 3,500 calories, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, if you want to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week (a generally healthy and sustainable goal), you need to burn between 500 and 1,000 calories more than you consume each day — or between 3,500 and 7,000 calories per week.

3. Keep Track 

Weight-loss statistics show a food diary and a fitness tracker can help you monitor the calories you're eating and burning each day and stay on track with your weight-loss goals.

4. Adjust When Necessary 

As you lose weight, you'll need to recalculate both your TDEE and how many calories you need to burn a day in order to keep losing weight.

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