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Woman counting calories while eating healthy foods

Exercise and cutting calories – a simple formula for weight loss

There are countless fad diets out there but the only true way to lose weight is to consume less calories than the number of calories you burn.

Let’s use an example to understand the simple math behind calories and weight loss. Say you need 2,000 calories per day to stay the same weight you are now. This assumes average physical activity around the house, to the store, at work, etc., and no additional exercise worked into the equation yet. We’ll call these 2,000 calories your “daily calorie base” – that is, you don’t gain weight and you don’t lose weight taking in 2,000 calories per day.

Continuing in this same example let’s focus on the number 3,500. Losing one pound of fat requires a calorie deficit of approximately 3,500 calories. If you are aiming to lose 1 pound per week you will need to consume 3,500 calories less than your weekly calorie base (weekly calorie base = 7 days X daily calorie base). The table below shows the approximate number of calories you need to cut on a daily basis to lose ¼ lb to 1 lbs a week. Any plan where you are losing more than 1 lb per week should be discussed with your doctor.

Daily Calorie Deficit Weekly Weight Loss
125 ¼ lb.
250 ½ lb.
500 1 lb.

Combining Exercise and Counting Calories

Sticking with the same example, let’s now add exercise into the weight loss program. Say your exercise routine burns 400 calories per day on average. That means your new daily calorie base in now 2,400 calories. In other words, your average physical activity combined with your exercise regimen requires 2,400 calories per day to maintain the same weight. Eating less than 2,400 calories will cause you to lose weight and consuming more than 2,400 will cause weight gain. In this scenario, if you are aiming to lose 1 lb per week, then you will need to eat no more than 1,900 calories per day equaling a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories per week (7 days X 500 calories = 3,500 calorie deficit per week or 1 lb weight loss). The table below shows examples.

Daily Calorie Base Daily Calorie Intake to Lose 1 lb./Week
2,000 1,500
2,400 1,900
2,600 2,100

Combining a regular fitness routine with calorie cutting can accelerate your weight loss results by slightly increasing the calorie burn rate even when you’re not exercising. And pounds lost through raising your activity level consist almost completely of fat, not muscle.

As you cut calories and increase exercise, make sure you’re drinking lots of water and eating foods with plenty of protein and nutrients to keep you full and your body nourished.

Knowing your daily calorie base is crucial to a successful and safe weight loss plan. It takes the guessing out of weight loss. Put simply, if you have a consistent daily calorie deficit, you will lose weight.

In Conclusion

The most important points from above:

  • You need a calorie deficit to lose fat
  • Figure out your daily calorie base
  • 1 lb of fat loss requires burning about 3,500 calories
  • Lose weight gradually and safely – 500 calories less each day equals 1 lb weight loss per week
  • Combining exercise and calorie counting can increase results

Counting calories will take self-discipline at first. But after a week or two of cutting calories combined with a consistent fitness program, you will notice a difference on the scale that will motivate you to continue. Very quickly weeks add up and the extra pounds disappear.

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