Despite the slew of fad diets available today, calorie counting remains an effective and practical way to lose weight. While you know how to count calories and can use online tools to track your diets, figuring out how many calories to cut and setting a reasonable daily goal is somewhat more difficult. The right number of calories will keep your body fueled and allow for reasonable, appropriate weight loss of 1/2 lb. to 2 lbs. per week.
A calorie is a unit of energy supplied by food. All calories are the same, regardless of the food source. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you take in fewer calories than you need, you will lose weight. A pound is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, so to lose 1 lb. to 2 lbs. per week, you will need to cut your daily caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories.
Basal Metabolic Rate
To determine how many calories you should consume daily, you need to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This number tells you how many calories your body uses each day while at rest. While the mathematics behind this equation are rather complex, online calculators make it easy to determine both your BMR and the impact of your daily activity level. Once you know how many calories you use in a day, you can determine how many calories you need each day to lose weight.
Once you know your BMR and have factored in the impact of your daily activities and exercise, you can set a calorie goal. Plan to achieve weight loss by combining calorie cutting and increased exercise. If you cut 500 calories per day and burn another 250 calories per day with a workout, you will be on track to lose 1 1/2 lbs. per week. Use a combination of diet and exercise to achieve an appropriate calorie deficit.
While cutting calories produces weight loss, cutting calories too drastically may cause your weight to stagnate. Typically, women should not drop below 1,200 calories a day when dieting and 1,500 to 1,800 calories may work better for some people. It can take some experimentation to determine how many calories your body needs to keep your metabolism at its best and allow for weight loss.
Weight loss has proven health benefits. According to the Centers for Disease Control, even a 5 to 10 percent loss will improve your overall health. Cutting calories may also extend your life, improve your memory and help your energy level. Healthier food choices make it easier to stick to your daily calorie goals, allowing you to stay full and fit.