How Many Calories Should You Be Eating Per Day To Lose Weight?

How Many Calories Should You Be Eating Per Day To Lose Weight?


Argh, the million-dollar question. One that is so important, yet so hard to answer. To help give you guidance, let me explain my approach when dealing with a new client.


Body & Goal

First off, I assess a client’s body via pictures, and then ask them what their goal is. Remember, we all have individual body shapes and no one goal is the same. Most come to me to lose weight (more specifically fat) but a fair amount also come to me to gain weight.

Some have naturally lean body shapes, some have a naturally higher body fat percentage. I can give them some initial guideline calorie (and protein) numbers to work towards once body shape and goals have been understood. These are tweaked over time as their body shape changes and training progresses.


Average for men & women

Government guidelines state that the average man should be consuming 2500 calories a day, and the average woman 2000 calories a day. Knocking 500 calories off if they want to lose weight.

This should NOT be what you base your daily calories off. It is a very vague guideline that cannot take into account you as an individual.


Calorie Calculators

There are three well recognised online calorie calculators – but which one should you use?

  1. Katch-McCardle Formula – A popular choice but requires a body fat percentage. Do not use body fat percentages off the scales you stand on as they are highly inaccurate.
  2. Harris-Benedict Formula – Created in 1919 this calculation is rather outdated. Lifestyle changes over the last 100 years have meant it tends to overstate calorie consumption by around 5%.
  3. Mifflin–St Joer Formula – A more up to date calculator that doesn’t require body fat percentage.

The latter (Mifflin-St Joer Formula) is the calculator that I loosely base my client’s daily calories on. I say loosely because, at the end of the day, calorie calculators don’t view you as a human but as a bunch of numbers (height, weight, sex, age, activity level).



Anyone who claims to be able to give you an exact calorie number to consume each day to achieve your goal is telling you porkies. Why? Because you will never burn the same number of calories today as you did yesterday.

If you are trying to hit exactly 1978 calories a day because a calorie calculator has told you to or – even worse – a personal trainer has (slap them in the face), please instead realise this number is a guideline. It’s not make or break.

There are so many varying factors in how many calories we burn on a day to day basis. Couple this with the fact that genetically we all burn calories at slightly different rates. It is impossible to have a perfect number of calories specific for your body and goals.

This lack of accuracy is exactly why I tell clients the calorie number I work out for them is a guideline and does not have to be hit perfectly. This makes things a whole lot more sustainable.


Calorie deficit

Assuming you want to lose weight, you must be consuming less calories than you are burning. Depending on how much weight you have to lose will depend on how much of a deficit you can be put in.

Many assume the less calories they consume the quicker they’ll see results. However, they don’t consider their basal metabolic rate – around 80% of their daily calories are used to keep their body functioning properly.

For this reason, I put most clients in a 10-20% calorie deficit. This keeps them above their basal metabolic rate and is far more sustainable. Slow and steady always wins the race.

However, if a client has a lot of weight to lose (BMI 35+) I can be more brutal with the calorie deficit.


Take home points

Calorie calculators are widely available across the internet. Using them to get vague daily calorie numbers to achieve your goal is fine, but take them with a large pinch of salt. There are so many varying factors from human to human that they simply cannot pick up.

Ideally, seek assistance from someone experienced within the field who can look at you physically. They can take your body shape and previous eating habits into account when working out guideline calorie numbers for you.

What has worked so well with my clients is the ongoing tweaks made to their calorie numbers as their training progresses as we see how their body responds to the calories they are on.

If you would like to know your daily calorie intake in accordance to your goal, then visit my membership page to become an online or gym floor client.

All the love,

Sam Jones Fitness




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