In order to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit
This means you need to consume fewer calories than what is necessary to maintain your current weight.
You’ve probably heard this before, but how do you get to your specific number?
The first step is to figure out your maintenance calories.
Maintenance calories are the number of calories you’d eat in order to maintain your current weight. No weight gain or weight loss.
There are many ways to estimate your maintenance calories and several online calculators out there that will help you.
The one I like is the calorie calculator at calculator.net because it’s very simple and performs the same calculation used by MyFitnessPal, which is a popular calorie counting website and app that I use daily.
All you need to do is enter your own stats into the form. Your maintenance calories will be the first number displayed when you click calculate.
Now that you know your maintenance calories, how do you set a daily calorie target for weight loss?
Well, you know you must eat below your maintenance calories to lose weight. But how far below?
This depends on how fast you want to lose weight.
Since a pound is 3,500 calories, if you want to lose one pound per week, you’d target 500 calories below maintenance per day.
If you want to lose weight faster, you’d target a larger calorie deficit than 500 per day. If you are okay with losing weight more slowly, you can target a smaller calorie deficit.
I suggest a calorie deficit of around 20%.
This is a large enough deficit that you will start to see results fairly soon, but not so large that it’s intimidating and difficult to stick with.
For example, if your daily maintenance calories are 2,000, a 20% calorie deficit would be 400 calories and you’d target a daily consumption of 1,600 calories per day.
If you want an easy way to plan out your target calories on a calendar and make sure you are tracking towards your weight goal, I created a free weight loss spreadsheet you can use.