How Many Calories Should You Cut to Lose Weight?

I am often asked, “How much (calories) should I cut in order to lost weight?”


Great question!


First of all, get it out of your head that all calories are “bad.” We need calories! They are energy, an important source of fuel your body cannot live without. What’s important is that you get the right calories–nutritious ones that feed your body, as opposed to “empty” ones–and that you get the right number of calories.


You need to find the right balance of calories every day, depending on your fitness goals. Eating more calories than you burn will cause weight gain.   Eating less calories than you burn will cause weight loss. We burn calories to sustain life, through non-exercise physical activity, and through planned exercise.


The number of calories you need in a day depends on  individual factors such as age, weight, height, and activity level.  Generally speaking, though, a good baseline for a weight-loss calorie intake starts with 8-10 calories per pound of body weight. This is just a starting point and will need adjusting as your weight drops. Take that baseline number and divide by 5 or 6 (the number of times you will eat in a day). You can have a few more calories for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and less calories for snacks.


For example: a 150-lb. person would multiply this weight by 10 calories, which gives a total of 1500 calories a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner = 400 and 2 snacks =150.


This is only a guideline. If you want more calories for breakfast, cut back somewhere else in your day. Bottom line: you want to expend more energy than you take in.  Without this deficit you will not see results.  Keep in mind, though, that consuming less than 1,200 calories per day can be harmful to your health. It is impossible to get all the essential nutrients our bodies need on less than 1200 calories a day.


I always recommend writing down everything you eat or drink. Try using the My Net Diary app or another on line food tracker.   I can’t stress this enough. When we record what we eat, I’d say 99% of the time we will find things that are halting progress. We can’t change what we don’t know–and many times, what we “think” we know, we don’t!  I encourage at least three weeks of food journaling to really get a clear picture of the reality of your food choices and to “cement” your new way of eating. I know this is tedious, but the payback is HUGE.
Counting calories is not difficult. Knowing and watching your (healthy) weight loss calorie intake might just be the big breakthrough you need to achieve your 2013 health and fitness goals!

brendaBrenda Boback is a Certified Personal Trainer and Cycling Instructor at Harbor Fit. When not teaching classes, Brenda is working one-on-one with clients to help them achieve their fitness goals. She has a special interest in diabetes prevention, nutrition, and women’s health and wellness. You can contact Brenda at

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