How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight? Here’s The Answer In 2023

Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN
Have you ever wondered — “How many calories should I eat to lose weight?” Here’s how to calculate those ever-important numbers in 2023.
how many calories should i eat to lose weight
Calories from whole food sources are best for weight loss.

If you’ve already started to exercise and eat healthier but haven’t lost belly fat, you might be wondering —how many calories should I eat to lose weight? 

The answer may vary from person to person and depends on your activity level, age, and gender. However, research shows that eating in a calorie deficit is the best way to lose weight.

The problem is that most people don’t know how many calories they consume or how many they need to cut to drop pounds. 

In this guide, we’ll show you how to calculate your daily calorie needs and how much you should eat to see weight loss based on this number. 

How Many Calories Should You Eat To Lose Weight?

The average woman needs to eat 1,500 calories per day to lose weight while the average man needs to consume 2,000 calories to do the same. However, this number varies from person to person.

How Many Calories Should You Eat Per Day?

This number really varies for everyone. To get an exact number,[1] you must factor in your height, age, gender, current health status, and activity levels. 

However, Dietary Guidelines[2] in the United States state that the average woman needs 2,000 calories per day to maintain her current weight, and men need 2,500 calories to do the same. There is some room for flexibility within these recommended amounts, but the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends staying close to these numbers. 

What Are Calories?

Calories are a way to measure energy. Most people are familiar with the macronutrient calories used to measure the amount of energy supplied by fats, protein, and carbohydrates in food. These are 4 kcal per gram for carbohydrates and protein and 9 kcal per gram for fat.

Calories are important because they provide the energy we need to sustain life. Every cell in the body requires calories to fuel processes like metabolism, digestion, and muscle building. When we eat, calories are broken down in the body, and energy is released. This energy is either used immediately or stored as glycogen or fat. Accumulating too many unused calories is what leads to weight gain. 

How Many Calories In A Pound?

A pound of body fat contains roughly 3,500 calories. However, there may be slight variations in this number. Based on these calculations, you can cut a pound of fat per week by decreasing 3,500 calories from your weekly calorie intake. 

That’s roughly 500 calories fewer than what you’re eating per day. It’s not recommended to try to drop more than two pounds per week as negative side effects may occur, such as gallstones, dehydration, muscle wasting, low blood sugar or blood pressure, decreased metabolic rate, and fatigue.  

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What Affects How Many Calories You Should Eat?

It would be simple if everyone required the same amount of calories daily. However, every person is different and, therefore, may have different energy needs. Additionally, your calorie needs may change as you age due to alterations in lean body mass and physical activity.

Daily caloric needs are influenced by many things, including height, weight, gender, age, and activity level. Adult men and women differ in terms of their calorie requirements and, therefore, have different weight loss requirements. 

How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight?

Weight loss isn’t always as simple as counting calories. Research shows that increasing exercise and counting calories[3] indeed have a noticeable effect on weight loss. However, it’s often only temporary. To maintain your weight loss, you need to focus on the type of calories you’re consuming and maintain a consistent physical activity level.  

Based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines of 2,000 calories per day for the average woman and 2,500 calories per day for the average man, studies show that women should lower their intake to 1,500 or less to shed weight and men should reduce their daily calorie intake to 2,000 to do the same. 

How To Calculate Calories Per Day For Weight Loss

For sedentary individuals, total energy expenditure can be estimated by calculating[4] 30-35 kcal/kg and up to 45 kcal/kg for more active people or those who are critically ill. This provides roughly the number of calories per kilogram of body weight you need to meet to maintain your current weight. The lower end of this suggestion might better suit women and the higher end for men.

For example, if you’re a woman who weighs 150 pounds, divide the pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms and multiply by 30-35 kcal to maintain your current weight if you are sedentary. This works out to be 68.18 x 30=2045. If you want to lose weight, you must eat 500-1,000 fewer calories per day than this to lose one to two pounds per week. You should never drop below 1200 calories per day if you are a woman and 1500 calories if you are a man.

Using an online calculator, you can also calculate the number of calories you need per day for weight loss by entering your age, weight, height, and activity level. Based on this information, the calorie calculator should give you numbers for calories you need to maintain and drop weight. 

In addition, you can also determine your calorie intake by keeping a diet journal for several days. Once you tally up the number of calories you eat, try subtracting around 500-1,000 calories per day. This should help put you in a calorie deficit to burn calories.

How To Cut Calories

Cutting calories should be done simultaneously as you increase activity for the best results. Drastic changes to your regular dietary and activity habits could have the opposite effect on your weight loss goals if you don’t make lifestyle changes gradually and sustainably. 

For example, cutting too many calories could cause your body to hang on to your fat reserves in an attempt to store energy. It’s also very hard to sustain a low-calorie diet for too long. This could cause you to binge eat or abandon your weight loss diet entirely.  So, while weight loss diets are only temporary, permanent changes in your eating and activity habits should be gradually introduced for sustainable weight loss.

Here are some tips to help you cut calories safely and effectively:

Reduce Your Portion Sizes

Perhaps the easiest way to cut calories is to eat smaller portions of what you’re already currently eating. For example, instead of eating a full sandwich or sub at lunch, eat half and save the other half for tomorrow’s lunch. Pair it with a side salad to get more vegetables and fiber in to increase satiety.

Prepare Your Meals At Home

Cooking at home allows you to control the calories that go into the food you’re consuming. It also allows you to make healthier choices. Many restaurants use additives, refined sugars, and hydrogenated oils to make their food taste better. Opt for healthier oils, such as olive oil, and avoid additives by cooking with herbs and spices instead of sugary flavorings.

Meal Prep

Meal prepping is another great way to cut calories. Knowing what they will eat and when they will eat can help them stay on track. Before going grocery shopping, ask yourself—how many calories should I eat today? Try meal prepping your food for the week on Sunday to ensure you have properly portioned food (three meals and two snacks per day) for the remaining week. 

Avoid Drinking Your Calories 

Many people tend to forget that calories don’t just come from food, and losing weight may pose a challenge if you drink a lot of calories. Sugary drinks, such as alcohol, soda, and sweetened tea, are easy to drink a lot of because they are in liquid form, don’t require chewing, and taste good. Stick with water, black coffee, unsweetened tea, and no-calorie beverages.

Get Active

Exercise burns calories.[3] If you don’t already have a workout plan in place, now is a good time to start. Focus on weight-bearing exercises and high-intensity interval training or HIIT workouts to build lean muscle mass and burn fat. Adding exercise to your daily routine won’t have to cut as many calories from your diet before you start seeing progress on your weight loss journey.

Consider A Detox

A detox can help you cut calories and jump-start your weight loss journey. Your body naturally comes with a detoxification system. You can support your detox organs by removing inflammatory foods[5] that promote obesity and focusing on whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, organic meats, pasture-raised eggs, raw nuts, unrefined grains, and healthy oils. 

Aim For Quality, Not Quantity

A balanced diet containing whole, unprocessed foods is generally low in calories. Plus, whole, unprocessed foods contain nutrients that help you flush toxins that lead to inflammation and weight gain, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and monounsaturated fats.

Go For Fiber

High-fiber foods help fill you up and reduce your appetite, so you consume fewer calories per day. They also control insulin levels[6] to reduce cravings for sugary foods.[7] 

Find Healthy Ways To Manage Stress

Stress increases cortisol levels,[8] which leads to insulin spikes and increased hunger. Exercise and meditation are great ways to control stress and improve your body weight. 

Use Online Tools

Using a calorie calculator can help track calories. You can find several online for free.  

Side Effects Of Counting Calories

Calorie counting is not always a healthy eating habit. Some people become overly obsessed with counting calories. They may weigh their food, question every bite they take, experience social anxiety, or even develop a disordered eating pattern. 

Whole foods will naturally help you control your calorie consumption. For example, it’s very hard to overeat vegetables. However, a plate of pasta, cookies, and other comfort foods is easy to overconsume. 

Eat slowly and break up your meals into six small meals a day. For some people, eating smaller meals more frequently helps them cut calories without feeling deprived of food since they’re eating all day long.  


How many calories should I eat if I want to lose weight? To get an accurate answer, you’d need to consider your height, age, gender, activity levels, and health status. However, the guidelines for Americans recommend that the average woman eat 1,500 calories per day to reduce weight. The average man requires 2,000 calories per day to do the same. 

You can cut calories by focusing on whole foods, eating at home, eating smaller portions, exercising, and drinking more water. Be sure not to cut your calories too drastically, as negative side effects may occur. Combining burning more calories through increased physical activity with reduced calories from food is better for achieving a healthy weight. Focus on strength training exercises to build muscle and high-intensity interval training to burn fat. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 1200 calories a day good for weight loss?

This depends on your age, gender, and activity levels. Eating 1,200 calories per day is too low for many people, but if you are a sedentary female, this could be feasible. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest women consume 1,500 calories per day and men consume 2,000 calories.

How to speed up metabolism?

Building muscle by performing strength training exercises helps speed up metabolism. This is because muscle burns more calories than fat. Lifting weights or performing bodyweight exercises helps increase muscle mass to support a faster metabolism.

How many calories a day should I eat to gain weight?

To gain weight, you must eat a calorie surplus, meaning you must consume more calories than you’re burning. You can do this by consuming about 500 extra calories per day to gain one pound per week.

How many calories should I eat to lose 5 pounds a week?

A calorie deficit of 500 calories daily can help you lose one pound per week. However, attempting to drop more than one to two pounds per week is not recommended, as negative side effects may occur. 


  1. Ju Young Kim (2021). Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Journal of obesity & metabolic syndrome, [online] 30(1), pp.20–31. doi:
  2. USDA (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 -2025 Make Every Bite Count With the Dietary Guidelines. [online] Dietary Guidelines for Americans. USDA. Available at:
  3. Swift, D.L., McGee, J.E., Earnest, C.P., Carlisle, E., Nygard, M. and Johannsen, N.M. (2018). The Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Weight Loss and Maintenance. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 61(2), pp.206–213. doi:
  4. Merck Manuals Professional Edition. (n.d.). Overview of Nutritional Support – Nutritional Disorders. [online] Available at:
  5. Bárbara Pelicioli Riboldi, Vivian Cristine Luft, Bracco, P., de, L., Maria, Alvim, S., Giatti, L., Maria Inês Schmidt and Bruce Bartholow Duncan (2022). The inflammatory food index and its association with weight gain and incidence of diabetes: Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil). 32(3), pp.675–683. doi:
  6. Dong, Y., Chen, L., Gutin, B. and Zhu, H. (2018). Total, insoluble, and soluble dietary fiber intake and insulin resistance and blood pressure in adolescents. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 73(8), pp.1172–1178. doi:
  7. Masoumeh Akhlaghi (2022). The role of dietary fibers in regulating appetite, an overview of mechanisms and weight consequences. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, [online] pp.1–12. doi:
  8. Chao, A.M., Jastreboff, A.M., White, M.A., Grilo, C.M. and Sinha, R. (2017). Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight. Obesity, [online] 25(4), pp.713–720. doi:

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