Weight loss can be challenging and knowing how many calories to consume verses how many to burn to produce results can be downright tricky. The standard equation uses a formula of 3,500 calories equaling 1 pound. This means that in theory to lose 1 pound per week, you would need to create a deficit of approximately 500 calories each day below energy balance (the amount of calories it takes for you to remain at your current weight) either through food, exercise or a combination of both; 500 calories x 7 days/week = 3500 calories (DHHS, 2005). But here’s where the tricky part comes in. The standard formula doesn’t factor for variances such as gender, hormone fluctuations, age, height/body size, activity level, and most importantly body composition-that being muscle mass which accounts for about 80% of the variance from the standard equation (Illner, 2000).
It’s no wonder that losing weight is difficult given all the factors that play into reaching your goals. However, the most effective approach includes striving to create your calorie deficit through a combination of a little less food and a little more exercise. For instance, if your goal is to lose 1 pound per week, each day you could choose to consume 200-250 fewer calories and expend 200-250 more calories through activity/exercise. ACE Fit has a number of free tools and calculators in the Healthy Living section of the website to help you get closer to your goals.
Curious to see how many calories are needed to maintain your current body weight? Feel free to check out the Daily Caloric Needs Estimate Calculator.
Need to find out how many calories you have burned doing a particular exercise or activity? The Physical Activity Calorie Counter is a great tool.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), AIM for a Healthy Weight, 2005.
Illner K et al: Metabolically active components of fat free mass and resting energy expenditure in non-obese adults, American Journal of Physiological Endocrinology and Metabolism 278(2); E308, 2000.