How many calories do you need to lose weight?

4th February 2020

Calories can be a source of confusion and there seems to be a big debate about whether it’s better to count them or not when you’re trying to lose weight. But that can often be because people don’t understand how many calories they actually need (whether that’s to lose weight, put it on or maintain it).

Everyone is aware of the recommended daily intake numbers; 2,500 per day for men and 2,000 for women. But every person is different and understanding what calories are and what they do will help you better understand how many you need.

What are calories?

Because of negative relationships with weight and food, many people just think that calories = bad. But quite simply, a calorie is a unit used to measure energy. So the calorie content of the foods and drinks you consume does not mean how “bad” they are for you. It simply means how much energy they’ll provide your body with.

Of course, if you consume more calories (energy) than you burn throughout the day then your body will have a surplus and store this as fat. To lose weight, you should be consuming fewer calories than your body burns.

How many calories do I need?

There isn’t a one size fits all. Your calorie intake will depend on your gender, age, height and weight and there are simple calculators you can find online to spit out the numbers for you. As a general rule of thumb, to lose weight, you will need to eat 500 calories fewer than your maintenance target.

Because calories are units of energy, it makes sense that the more energy you use, the more calories you can (and need to) consume. So if you’re trying to lose weight, you should up your activity levels as well as lowering your calorie intake.

How to reduce calorie intake

When people hear “low calorie”, they can often jump to a “rabbit food” diet of nothing but plain, boring lettuce leaves. But you can easily reduce your calorie intake without sacrificing on flavour or leaving yourself feeling constantly hungry.

Start by drinking more water. Often, people mistake the feeling of thirst with the feeling of hunger and eat unnecessarily. Aim for 2 litres per day and if you think you might be peckish, have a drink. If you’re still hungry 20 minutes later then get yourself something to eat.

Drinking more water is also useful in that it increases the number of calories you burn, and can further contribute to your weight loss.

Another easy way to cut calories is to cut out fizzy drinks and fruit juices. They contain plenty of calories and sugars that won’t make you feel full or satisfied, but will quickly eat into your calorie allowance for the day. Swap to water and sugar-free fruit squash for fewer calories and plenty of other health benefits.

If your main concern is that cutting down on calories will leave you feeling hungry then the best way to counteract this is by filling up on protein. Protein is one of the best nutrients for weight loss as it increases your metabolism and helps to curb appetite.

Protein-rich foods include chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, chickpeas, lentils, dairy products, nuts, seeds and soy-based foods like tofu.

Losing weight with Orlistat

For some people, even with a calorie-controlled diet and increased levels of exercise, they still find it impossible to lose weight. But there are weight loss medications that can help when diet and exercise alone haven’t.

Orlistat (also known as Alli and Xenical) is a medication that works by blocking the absorption of the fats that you consume to help you lose weight. It’s a highly effective medication and can help people lose 10-20% of their body weight in 3-6 months. Orlistat is a prescription-only medication that you can buy from UK Meds, but it’s only suitable for people with a BMI of 27 or higher.