Calories to Lose a Pound of Body Fat

By Renee Rogers RD, LDN

One pound of body fat equals roughly 3,500 calories. Meaning 3,500 calories is the golden number needed to either lose or gain a pound of fat. This might seem like a lot but if you spread it out over a week it amounts to just 500 calories per day.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommend people aim to lose no more than one to two pounds per week by setting a target of consuming 500 to 1000 kcal less than their current daily diet. 500 calories is the same amount as a few handfuls of potato chips, one cup of premium ice cream, and one large coffee mocha.

Exercise plays an important roll in this process as well. Eating less and active lifestyle moving more both contribute to a deficit in calories. Just one hour of housecleaning, mowing the lawn, or walking can burn over 300 calories.

Understanding the “math” is an important part of weight loss but consuming a combination of different types of calories is also crucial. Eating a combination of calories from carbohydrates, protein, and fat will ensure the body is getting what it needs to operate optimally and lose weight effectively.

Aim to get 50 to 55 percent of your calories from carbohydrates by filling half your plate with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Try to get 25 to 30 percent of your calories from fat by enjoying heart-healthy olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Attempt to get 15 to 20 percent of your calories from protein with lean meats, fish, eggs, and legumes.

The best and healthiest way to lose weight is gradually. Successful weight loss takes place over weeks not days. Dropping the pounds too quickly will cause your body to shed desired muscle along with fat. Furthermore, cutting calories too fast may put your body in shock and lead to intense cravings, fatigue, and even a slower metabolism.

Consistently making small lifestyle changes will yield big results down the road.


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