“How many calories should I eat a day to lose weight?”
It’s a natural question to ask if you’re chasing weight loss (and one we hear a lot). If it’s on your mind, you’re in the right place.
Simply enter your details into our calorie calculator below, let the nutrition-math elves work their magic on the numbers, and poof! A daily calorie target just for you will emerge.
Ready to get started? Add your info and you’re on your way!
Try our SIMPLE calorie calculator to find your weight loss calorie target
How does the calorie calculator work?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend around 1,600 to 2,000 daily calories for women and around 2,000 to 3,000 calories for men. These are pretty broad estimates. To even get close to an accurate personal calorie target, you need to include things like your activity levels, age, height, and weight.
Trying to compute all that can make your head spin. Our calorie calculator does it all for you — using well-researched methods, like the World Health Organization calorie rate formula that factors in all the relevant parameters — so you don’t need to waste your brain space on complicated, weight-related math equations.
Can a calorie calculator help you lose weight?
A calorie calculator can definitely help you get into the weight loss ballpark, by giving you a target calorie intake to aim for. When you hit that target, you eat fewer calories than you burn, which is critical if you want to lose weight.
That said, working out your calorie deficit using a calculator is only a starting point. Once you know how many calories you need to lose weight, you’ve gotta count ‘em! You may not mind that … in the short term. But paying such close attention to a calorie counter gets pretty tedious, pretty fast.
Luckily, there’s an easier way. Check out the infographic below to see how you can eat less — and still hit a calorie deficit — without counting a single calorie.
Intermittent fasting — our calorie-counting-free weight loss weapon
What is this tool that frees you from the bind of tracking every calorie you eat? It’s a simple weight loss method we help our users with every day:
Intermittent fasting (IF).
Simply knowing the calorie deficit you want to create lets you choose an intermittent fasting schedule that suits your needs. For example, say you feel confident you can easily cut 200 kcal from your daily diet. Awesome. Instead of breaking out your calorie tracker, try 12/12 intermittent fasting.
This infographic shows you the calorie deficit each fasting schedule can help you achieve.
What is a calorie deficit?
A calorie deficit is when the calories you eat and drink are less than the calories you burn. When you’re in a calorie deficit, you lose weight.
Here’s why. Say you eat 1,800 calories today but you burn 2,200. Where do those extra 400 calories of energy you’re using come from?
Answer: your fat stores.
You’ve already got energy stored in your body. Eating fewer calories than you’re burning allows you to tap into that energy and use it up. When you do so, you get lighter (and/or leaner).
Counting calories isn’t the only way to be in a caloric deficit
Nailing the calorie intake you need to lose weight can happen without you ever opening a calculator or calorie-counting app. (Or putting pen to calorie-counting paper, if you’re old school.)
With intermittent fasting, all you need to do is set your timer.
Intermittent fasting means that, each day, you have an “eating window.” Based on the IF schedules we recommend as the safest ones (those you can see on the infographic above), this could be any length of time between 6 and 12 hours. During this time, you eat all your food for that day. The objective: to nourish your body and get all the nutrients you need to feel energized, alert, and happy.
The other 12–18 hours, you’ll be in the “fasting window.” During this time, you eat nothing (but stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water).
Just by shortening your eating window, you create that crucial calorie deficit.
Once you’ve settled into your IF routine (and gotten through the sticky first couple of weeks, when hunger and cravings can be a little testing), regular fasting makes it super straightforward to cut back on what you’re eating in a sustainable way.
That’s why we love it — and why we recommend it to you. If you’re into it, get started today by taking our SIMPLE quiz. We have plenty of smart tools to support you, including fasting reminders, nutrition tips to improve your food choices, and tons of wellness content!
Is calorie counting for weight loss sustainable?
Unless you absolutely love collecting details and data, you’ll most likely get pretty tired of weighing, measuring, and tracking every morsel of food you put in your mouth.
So, while calorie counting can be a great tool to learn about how much you’re actually eating, few folks use detailed calorie counting to manage their weight long-term.
In contrast, something like intermittent fasting lets you put your calories on autopilot.
It still takes conscious effort to be consistent and mindful of your food choices. Yet these are skills you can learn, and the more you practice them, the less you have to think about it. Let’s get into that a little bit more.
What is a calorie?
Calories are the units of energy stored in what we eat and drink. They power our bodies and minds.
Calories are the fuel we use to play squash, to drive to work, to talk to friends, to climb a mountain, etc. They keep our heart pumping, our digestive system processing, our blood circulating, and so on.
The different types of calories
You’ve probably heard of “empty” calories. These are calories from foods that have a high calorie content but a low nutritional value.
For instance, a cookie is mostly sugar, low-fiber starch, and saturated fat. It packs a lot of calories into a small package, but doesn’t do much to earn its rent (like give you long-lasting energy or better health, for instance).
Not all high-calorie foods are low in nutrients, though. Avocados and nuts, for instance, are both calorie-dense and nutrient-dense.
And, btw, empty calories are not “bad” calories! Food is enjoyment just as much as it is nutrition. So if you enjoy cookies, find a home for them in your overall diet (and don’t feel guilty about it!)
Different macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates, and fats — store different amounts of calorie energy:
- protein: 4 calories per gram
- carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
- fats: 9 calories per gram
Each individual food’s unique make-up of macronutrients gives them a specific calorie value.
Where does fiber fit in?
Fiber is where calorie counting gets more complex — because it’s not just about how many calories a food contains, but also how many we absorb and use when we digest those foods.
For example, soluble fiber has about 2 calories per gram. But insoluble fiber, which we don’t digest at all, has 0 calories.
So should you count fiber calories in your calorie allocation? Well, that’s probably not as important as getting enough fiber into your diet overall — about 14 g per 1000 calories.
It’s questions like, “Should I count veggies in my daily calories?” that make calorie counting difficult. The advice feels confusing: On the one hand, eat plenty of veggies and fruits. On the other, watch your calories.
This is another place intermittent fasting shines.
By letting fasting take care of your calorie deficit, you’re free to focus your energy on food quality while more effortlessly keeping a tighter lid on food quantity.
If you’d like to go deeper into this, our guide on what to eat during intermittent fasting has everything you need to know. (Basically: eat plenty of protein, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, calcium-rich foods, and healthy fats.)
Benefits and risks of counting calories
The benefits of calorie counting are pretty clear.
Knowing how many calories to eat to lose weight helps you make sure you’re eating just a little less than your body needs. Knowing for sure that you’re eating the right amount can help you feel more confident — and, in turn, help you feel like weight loss is possible.
However, calorie counting does come with some risks.
For example, it can be tempting to eat a lot less than your body needs, not just a little less. However, restricting too much can lead to rebound overeating when hunger becomes overwhelming, as well as not getting the nutrients your body needs.
It can make you too reliant on external data — the number of calories you’re eating — and less connected to your body cues around hunger and fullness.
And it won’t necessarily help you improve your food choices. You could hit your calorie number eating only Twinkies and Pop Tarts if you chose to. And while you can lose weight that way, we both know it’s not a road to long term health — rather, it’s an expressway to nutrient deficiencies and feeling like a pile of wet laundry.
Intermittent fasting can potentially offset some of these risks.
Eating within a timed window naturally creates a calorie deficit. This leaves you free to:
- make food choices that are nutrient-rich, satisfying, and enjoyable without getting bogged down in how many calories they are;
- focus on your hunger and fullness cues to guide when and how much you eat; and
- eat what your body needs without feeling tempted to chase a lower number.
(Intermittent fasting has plenty of other benefits too, if you’re curious!)
Our expert opinion
Here’s what we recommend.
Get a feel for your daily calories by plugging your info into the calculator.
Then, instead of downloading a calorie counter, take our SIMPLE quiz, and get yourself hooked up with our intermittent fasting app instead. Use the infographic above to select the right fasting schedule for you. You don’t need to calculate a calorie deficit here — instead choose what you feel most comfortable with. What feels realistic and doable, right now? Start there and work your way up (if you need to).
If you can’t decide, we suggest starting with 12/12. It’s the perfect intermittent fasting schedule for beginners.
The SIMPLE app will guide you to:
- fast effectively and safely (and it’ll remind you to, too!)
- help you know what to eat, what to drink, and what to change to keep losing weight
- learn more about your own eating habits and behaviors.
With our smart nutrition guide in your pocket, you’ll have the support you need to lose the weight you want.
Frequently asked questions about calorie calculator
How do I calculate how many calories I eat?
To calculate how many calories you need to eat, simply enter your information into our calorie calculator above!
Is 1,200 calories a day good for weight loss?
While 1200 calories a day might be good for weight loss results initially, we wouldn’t recommend staying there for long periods.
Your daily maintenance calories are likely higher than 1,200, so eating so little over the longer term could leave you short on energy and nutrients, and make your appetite hard to manage. See what the calculator says could work for you.
How many calories should a woman eat a day to lose weight?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend around 1,600 to 2,000 calories for women to maintain a healthy weight. A number within that range would likely fit well for weight loss, as most people eat more than this each day, but remember to consider your own unique needs.
Can you lose weight by eating 1,200 calories a day and without exercise?
You can lose weight by eating 1,200 calories per day and without exercise. But we wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re wondering, “how many calories do I really need to lose weight?”, try our calculator and see what number actually makes sense for you.
What happens if you eat under 1,200 calories?
If you eat under 1,200 calories each day, what likely happens is this:
- your hunger and cravings get very persistent
- your energy tanks empty
- you become a moody, irritable, hangry grumpus
- your metabolism slows down over time
- you will ultimately stop losing weight, and find it hard to keep off the weight you have lost