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How Many Calories To Lose a Pound

by Dave on March 22, 2011

Let me try today to clear up the how many calories to lose a pound debate.

This post forms part of the how many calories to lose weight series  you may also find the post on how many calories do I need to lose weight helpful.

How Many Calories To Lose a Pound

How Many Calories To Lose a Pound

Let me first say that in this post I will talk about how many calories to lose a pound of fat, rather than just lose a pound. When we lose weight, we will usually lose water in addition to body fat.  To lose one pound of fat we need to cut 3,500 calories from our maintenance calorie level.  Many people make the mistake of thinking that if you save 3,500 calories in a week, then you should lose 1lb of fat, but this only true if that figure is below your current weekly calorie needs. My current weekly maintenance calorie total around 11,500 calories. If I was eating  16000 calories per week, and cut 3, 500 from that total, I would still not be losing weight.  I know I repeat it through this series of posts, but  it really does all start with you first understanding your current  resting metabolic rate.

How Many Calories To Lose a Pound – Creating A Calorie Deficit

If you want to lose one pound of fat, you can create the calorie deficit by either diet or exercise, or of course a combination of both. From my own experience, I would advise you ensure you have your diet in order first, and then look at calories burned from exercise as a bonus. If you can lose body fat at the rate of 1lb per week, you should be happy. Please don’t be taken in by the claims of diet fads, losing more than a pound of  FAT on a weekly basis is very hard to do.

How Many Calories To Lose a Pound Of Fat

If you have cut 3,500 calories from your RMR level, then you will lose one pound of fat, in addition to this you will most likely see some loss of water weight too, so the scales may show you losing 2 or 3lbs.  Use the scales as a guide, but don’t get too obsessed with them, as I mentioned earlier, our weight flucuates depending on what we have eaten, and when we get weighed. The only thing you need to focus on is keeping your calories below your normal weekly needs.  If you can cut 3,500 calories a week then you will lose 1lb of fat per week.


Any questions about this how many calories to lose a pound post, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will be happy to reply. If you are new to the retired dieter weight loss blog then why not sign up for regular weight loss updates, just enter your name email in box on the top right of this site.



Related posts:

  1. How Many Calories To Lose Weight – Where To Start
  2. Resting Metabolic Rate:What Is Your RMR
  3. How Many Calories Do I Need To Lose Weight
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  • maria rios

    I have been trying to lose weight but stay the same why? I would like to learn how to count calories and the intake and get back on track can you help me figure this out?

  • Kate

    Very inspired by your postings. There is quite a bit of maths there, which I hope you can help me.
    I am trying to drop 10-15lb (currently 140lb, 5’5″, light active, 38). According to your RMR chart, 1355 but because of my activity level, I should multiply 1.375, right?
    So, my new RMR is 1863. My total calories per week is about13000.
    Let’s say I want to lose 1 lb/week. My total calories per week should not excess 13000-3500 = 9500. So divide 9500/7, my daily calories become 1350.

    I am trying to apply Brad Pilon’s theory of fasting 2 days a week. Here, I am very confused. Should my non fasting day calories be 1863 or 1355?

    Sorry to throw you this maths question. But, I guess, when you can successfully taken off these much weight. Your maths will be better than mine.


    PS I had posted the same question somewhere. But not sure which place is best to reach you.

    • Dave


      If it was me I would just use the 1355 number x 7 and use that as my base. As I mentioned in the post, it’s a guide to work to, it is very difficult for us to know exactly what we take in, and burn off. This post shows how I break down my weekly numbers

      The calories I burn through exercise , I simply count as a bonus, I don’t ad them into my total. I have found if I do this, I just eat more. Again this is personal, but for me, I prefer to try and work to that yellow mean calorie total in the chart and I find it works for me.

      • Kate

        Thanks, Dave.
        Wow. 1355 cal per day (about 9500 in a week) is pretty low, especially if I want to drop a pound a week which mean 9500-3500=6000.

        I think I probably need to fast for 24 hrs twice a week , plus skip a few breakfasts (as suggest by Leangains). What do you think about this strategy. For me the fasts are not hard. It is coming off and choose what to eat is hard.

        Furthermore, what way do you follow to set your goal weight or body comp or etc.
        Does the ideal weight chart a good guide?


        PS keep up the blog, it is such great help!

  • Kristin

    Hi Kate,

    I’m in an almost identical situation as you – 5’5″, 140 lbs, looking to lose 10-15 lbs. I’m 29. I’ve been following a Paleo diet for about 14 months now, and more recently low-carb Paleo. Adding in IF is the next step (as restricting calories has always worked for me – without fail – in the past for weight loss; it just required significant effort and planning.) I also work out a fair amount – a “CrossFit Lite” style training plus some swimming, sprinting, and long walks. Using your approach and the caloric guidelines, I came up with a calorie schedule of sorts for a typical week:

    Sunday: Brunch, lite dinner = 1000
    Monday: Lunch, Dinner = 1300
    Tuesday: Fast = 0
    Wednesday: lite breakfast, Lunch, Dinner = 1400
    Thursday: Lunch, Dinner = 1200
    Friday: Fast = 0
    Saturday: Brunch, lite dinner = 800

    Week: 5700

    I’m going to try this for the next two weeks. I’ll let you know what kind of results I see/feel. I’d be curious to see how you approach IF/CR as well.

    Good luck!

  • Kate

    Hi Kristin,
    Just been looking at your plan.
    If you fast on Tue and Fri with O cal. Won’t it mean you fast over 24 hours? As I gather , Brad Pilon’s Eat stop Eat is only for 24 hours. So if you fast on Mon 6pm, your fast ends after Tue 6 pm.

    I’d also review my eating plan. I figure that to reach my ideal weight at 120lb. I should consume about 1200 cal/day (assuming I am not very active).
    1200 x 7 = 8400
    sat 1800
    Sun 1800
    Mon (fast till Dinner) 600
    Tue 1200
    Wed (fast till Dinner) 600
    Thur 1200
    Fri 1200

    I think that is my new plan.

    Please post up your progress. Good luck.

  • Kate

    Hi Kristin,
    It is Kate again.
    Just use your plan of 5300 cal per week to put in a “Calories Required To Lose Weight” formula.
    5300 is really very low. It will result of 10 lb weight lose in a month.
    It sounds great but not sure a woman would like losing weight too fast (ie sagging skins etc)
    Give m your thought.

  • Susan

    If you fast, your body will think you are starving it and the end result is no weight loss – especially if you are doing this on a regular basis.

    Dave is right. Use your RMR – which will surprise many of us – it is lower than we think. I just went to a dietician and she told me I could eat 1700 calories in order to lose a pound a week, based on my activity level. I know this is not correct, because my RMR is 1200-1300. I just eat 1200-1300 calories and exercise most days of the week. I have gone from 179 to 160 and am looking to reach 135. If you eat fiber from apples, whole grains and stay away from fast food extra value meals, you should be able to lose weight.

    It is important to weigh your food, find a tool for logging your food, and be as consistent as possible with exercise. I am now using a BodyBugg – and find it helpful – but you can gauge your success by using a Heart rate Monitor. Many of us are told to use 220-your age = Max Heart rate. This is not enough. I am using the Karvonen formula and this is working better for me. If you use this formula though, you should get approval from your doctor to make sure you can handle the higher heart rate targets.

    • Dave

      Hi Susan,

      Have to take issue with you on the point about fasting and starving. You said

      If you fast, your body will think you are starving it and the end result is no weight loss – especially if you are doing this on a regular basis.

      Sorry, but this is just a myth, and one that keeps getting put around the internet. I can only guess that some genius read that fasting or starvation causes metabolic rate to drop and took that to mean that skipping meals, or not eating for a day or two, would cause weight loss to stop, or as it’s often called ” starvation mode “. While I certainly don’t advise people to go without food for a day or, 2, sutdies have shown no drop in metabolism in 72 hrs. Also other studies, show an increase during the fasting fase.

      The earliest I have seen in research showing a drop is at 60 hours . So while I agree with you about monitoring calories is important, and your tips on that are great. How and when you eat those calories in relation to the timing, will not slow down weight loss. If you are eating less than you need you will lose weight no matter if you miss or a meal or not. I think I am living proof of that. ;)

  • bgd


  • DerfBoy

    Hi, first off I’d like to say how much I appreciate the time and effort you put into helping others. I’m in the same boat you were before starting your journey. Like so many others, traditional diets just don’t work for me. The thought of “giving up” bread, beer, pasta, cheese etc just seems extreme and destined to fail once you come off the diet. Add to that the struggle to stay the course when friends and family are enjoying their meals during nites out or family get togethers is difficult to say the least. I am so ready to try this. No, DO this!! It’s been a long time since I was optomistic about losing weight but I am. Thank you again!!!!!!!!!

  • Jasmine

    Hi Dave, Ive not yet stepped off from my 25 years (so far) dieting treadmill. Just so I can get something straight in my head, Im 5’5 making my RMR 1355 per day, 9485 per week. In order to lose 1llb per week I would need to subtract 3500 from 9485 leaving 5985 which is 855 cals per day if I did not fast? The cals you quote are the lowest I have seen and would like your opinion on how people lose up to 2llbs per week on more calories than this eating daily at the diet clubs (accepting that fact most dont keep it off longterm) Also, if you think there is a gendar difference in what regimes best fit each gender and where you stand on low carb eating? Is this all about the calories for you and nothing else?

    • Dave

      Hi Jasmine,

      Don’t forget this is calories to lose one pound of fat, not one pound of bodyweight. When we lose weight, we lose a combination of both fat and water. It’s also why when people think they gained 4lbs in 1 week, they actually gained mainly water. To gain 4 pounds of fat in 7 days, you would need to be eating over 14000 calories above your RMR, so it works both ways. The same reason you should not get upset by a 4lb body weight gain in one week, should be the same reason to not get upset, just because you only lost half a pound. The scales are not always the best indicator. If you had a calorie intake of say 8500 calories per week, and say did some activity like walking, you will be losing weight, and chances are when you step on the scales, you would be losing more than 1lb. Those same scales can be your enemy though when you only have a small amount of weight to lose as it is far harder to be accurate when our daily weight can move anything up to 3 or 4 lbs, just based on what we have eaten. Women of course are also more prone to water retention than men.

      It is all about calories for me, but in relation to low carb eating, which I have done in the past, I look at it that in my weekly diet, I still cut carbs, or have low carb days, simply because of and I.F. day. Again I have no problem with anyone who likes doing low carb, if it works, then you stick with it. To what level you cut carbs is a personal choice.

  • Jasmine

    Hi Dave, thanks for the quick response! It true, sometimes I happen to gain 4llbs in a weekend when I know I cant have eaten 4llbs of fat/cals. Its v interesting and thanks for keeping up this blog

  • ryan

    I weigh 194lb and i am 16 i want to lose 10 to 15lb. Ive been eating about 1000cal a day for 3 days ive also been running about a 10th of a mile each day for the past 3 days about how long should it take to reach my weight loss goal of 10 to 15lb. And no im not starving myself.

  • Selina

    Hello, I’m 12 and my sister is 11 of 2011. Well, we’ve read most of your..essay, and lose one pound of fat in one week? My sister and I are running/jogging/walking but mostly jogging. Two miles in the morning and also doing arobics that my school has been teaching me. For like I’d say..mmm.. About 10-15 minutes. And we’re doing the same thing after school,but we’re gonna jog until my mom gets home. So, we get home around 4:15 pm and mother comes home around 6:30Pm . But well be repeating it daily..we’d probably rest once every two weeks, but we wanna lose about 20 pounds before the end of April. Oh,yeah. And we are gonna start watching what we eat. Like no candy and drink lots of water before breakfast, lunch, snacks, and supper. But we’re not gonna starve ourselves and be anerecsic, and we don’t want people to think that.. Also, we’re jogging outside and I estimated my land and it equals about a mile and one lap.:) hopefully I didn’t forget anything? My sister and I wanna lose weight bc were going to Mexico during the end of June. And I wanna make my family down there proud of me:) I weigh 139 sister weighs 123 pounds:) may you please help us?!?

    • Dave

      @ Selina

      Hi Selina, as you are and your sister are both young and still growing, I would suggest you talk to your doctor, I am in no way qualified to give you advice that is best for you. Please get some personal advice locally.

  • Byanka Gomez

    Hell dave I am looking foward to this year and I really want to loos weught.
    I am 22 years young. I weight around 270, 5’6. I want to weight around 160. Can u help me or give me any advise…
    Thank you.

  • Trina

    Hello :) thank u for all the wonderful information! I am a nursing mother and wonder how that factors into all this? I am 5’6 191lbs and would love to lose a lbs/wk till i get down to about 160.

  • Victoria

    Hey Dave,

    So I am 145 lbs and 5″6 and I don’t understand why I am not able to loose weight. I have cut out gluten and dairy, I exercise every day, I do not eat dessert (except for some dark chocolate occasionally) and I snack and eat very healthily. (Oatmeal at breakfast and salads for lunch and dinner with fruit veggies nuts and some sort of protein.) My weight has barely fluctuated at all and I don’t understand why. Any advise?

  • mikey

    I’ve been using myfitnesspal app to track my calories and i’ve lost 4 pounds in two weeks. Its super easy to use and my wife gives me a hard time about it. hope it helps someone else (i’ve got 16 pounds to go). it only lets you lose upto 2 lbs a week. Now when I can’t eat as much as i used to before getting full which is a nice change. Also been jogging on treadmill and biking 30 minutes every other day which i log for calories.

  • Julie

    Hi my name is Julie and I was hoping that you could help me find my RMR numbers. I am 23 years old 5’9” and have been looking at how I can lose body fat from my stomach that has acumilated from my years of getting a BS. I exercise usually 3 times a week but have not really watched to cut callories. What would you suggest a good plan for me would be?

    • Dave

      Hi Julie,

      First, check out the chart here You can see form this, that at 5’9 you RMR calories are around 1500 per day. So look to be below that number to lose weight.

      You can’t spot target where you lose weight from, I wish we could !, so the fat from your stomach just comes off as you lose, but there is nothing you can do that means you only lose from there.

      A good plan for you really is one you can stick to. I know that sounds a bit obvious, but it’s true. You don’t need any specific type of diet at this point, just make your focus getting used to no more than 10- 11,000 calories per week. Get your calories in check, and the weight will come off.

  • massah

    hey i weigh 155 pound and 5’7 .trying to loose 20 pounds i gained about a year ago.I do drink a lot of water. whats are your suggestions to help me loose that weight

    • Dave

      @ Massah,

      Look to work on 1200 calories a day, or 8,400 per week. Ad in some exercise that you enjoy, even if it’s just walking each day. Still really is about eating less and moving more than you do now.

  • Diane

    My husband and I started our weigh loss journey 6 weeks ago, we are in week 7 now. I didn’t see the RMR chart before today and I was surprised how close we were to the means numbers when we started the journey. I want to get down to 150lbs and my husband’s goal is 180lbs. So, I set my calorie limit to 1500 and his was 1800 daily. We began tracking all the calories we ate and came up with eating every 2hrs starting at 8am and ending at 6pm. So on average, we eat a meal every 2hr that equals about 100-200 calories for all the meal between 8am-4pm. The last meal would average between 250-350 calories, and then we would add a skinny cow ice cream every evening, about 140 calories. After the 2nd week I convinced my husband that we needed a cheat day and we added this into our program. Every Sunday morning we weigh in and that evening we had a cheat dinner (or breakfast). We had pizza, McDonalds, Chinese buffet, and an Easter home cooked meal. One more thing, we starting walking almost daily.
    Here are the results:
    Me – Starting weight – 179lbs (height is 5ft 7in)
    Current weight – 165lbs (after 6 weeks)
    Total lost – 14lbs
    Husband – Starting weight – 204lbs (height is 5ft 10in)
    Current weight – 188lbs (after 6 weeks)
    Total lost – 16lbs

  • Dylan

    So.. Just wanna say that if you work hard enough it’s DEFINITELY possible to lose more than a pound a week. I just started a strict marine corps diet and have been running,biking, and lifting daily. I have been drinking at least 3 liters of water a day (about 1 gallon) so I know it’s not just water weight that I’m losing.. Anyways. I was 211.8 5 days ago, currently weighing 203.4 on a full stomach.. I try to burn at least 600 calories per workout. Probably eating around 700-900 calories a day and I feel better than ever. I’m 5 ft 9 and am overweight still, my goal is 180 pounds, and hopefully I’ll reach that soon.

  • Grace

    This website was extremely helpful! Also for people on the go try downloading an app that serves as a diet diary, it’ll help you keep up with calories while your on the go or out to dinner.

  • Perezjoel54

    Hi how.woukd I know how much of total calories for me through whole.week to eat 5.5 rmr is 1200 threw 1600

  • Ladyhazefinest

    hi my name is lene and i wanna lose 50 pounds and dont know how to keep a diet. i gain 50 pounds in a years and before i gain the weight i waz 147 now im 198 i really need to help myself but dont have a clue where to start

    • Dave

      Hi Lene,  You have to start with having some idea of the maximum number of calories you need. If you are under that number, you start losing. So instead of wondering what you should or should not be eating, first jsut get an idea of how much ( in calorie terms ) you can eat.  This chart will help you

      look to be under the number in yellow to help you.

    • Rosagarciausa

      We have the same problem. I don’t know how to lose the extra 50 pounds I have. Are you doing a special diet?

  • Kaleah

    This  was extremely helpful! I kept wondering why I couldn’t lose weight even though I jog 3-4 miles 5 times a week with some strength training. I’m very petite so I’ve been following the incorrect RMR. And of course knowing how many calories I need to consume was really helpful. Thanks!! 

  • Rosagarciaperu

    So if I eliminated 500 calories a day I will lose a pound in a week?

    • Dave

      Only if you are below what you need. if you eat 4000 calories a day and cut 500, you would not lose anything, as you would still be eating too many calories to lose weight.

  • Julie Stanton

    Food does _not_ ferment in your stomach. Your stomach, which holds gastric acid, has an average pH of 3.0, close to that of hydrochloric acid. The microbes that need to thrive in order to initiate fermentation need a pH of around 7.0 which is neutral. The stomachs environment is substantially more acidic. I wish people would stop passing around the urban myth of fermenting food in your stomach! Who started that anyway????

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