How many calories you need

Your body needs a certain amount of calories each day to function.

Your need depends on your body weight and your activity and exercise levels.

Remember, your goal is for gradual weight loss. You should lose no more than one to two pounds a week.

  • To lose one pound in one week, you need to burn or decrease 500 calories a day.
  • To lose two pounds in one week, you need to burn or decrease 1,000 calories a day.

Burning calories

When you exercise, your body burns calories (energy from food). If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight.

The healthiest way to lose one pound in one week is to burn 250 calories and cut 250 calories out of your diet each day.

To help you think about your current routines, try the following.

  • Keep track of your current diet habits and look for easy targets to cut out. If, for example, you have one 20-ounce soft drink each day with lunch, that can add up to more than 800 calories in one week. Do you always have sweets for dessert? Try fruit instead. Not only is it healthier, it will help fulfill your daily servings of fruit.
  • Keep track of your exercise and activity habits. Do you always look for the closest parking spot in the parking lot? Do you take the escalator or elevator rather than walk up a few flights of stairs?

You need fewer calories the older you get. Your calorie needs peak at age 25 and decline by two percent every 10 years.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Prediabetes: Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk Through a Lifestyle of Good Nutrition and Activity, first edition, dia-ah-94403
Reviewed By: Allina Health Patient Education
First Published: 04/02/2009
Last Reviewed: 01/28/2019