How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose 3 pounds A Week


How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose 3 pounds A Week? Many people who want to lose around three pounds a week, do so by counting calories. The idea here is that if you eat fewer calories than you expend in energy expenditure you will lose body fat. One pound of body fat is equivalent to approximately 3500 calories. If you want to lose 3 pounds of fat each week, you’ll need to create an energy deficit of 7000 calories through caloric intake and exercise.

Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics

Even with all the diet plans out there, weight management still comes down to the calories you take in versus those you burn off during activity.

Popular fad diets may promise you that not eating carbohydrates (carbs) or eating a pile of grapefruit is the secret to weight loss. But it really comes down to eating fewer calories than your body is using if you want to lose weight.

Calories: Fuel for your body

Calories are the energy in food. Your body has a constant demand for energy and uses the calories from food to keep working. Energy from calories fuels your every action, from fidgeting to marathon running.

Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are the types of nutrients that have calories and are the main energy sources for your body. No matter where they come from, the calories you eat are either converted to physical energy or stored within your body as fat.

These stored calories will stay in your body as fat unless you use them up. You can do this by cutting how many calories you take in so that your body must draw on reserves for energy. Or you can add more physical activity so that you burn more calories.

Tipping the scale

Your weight is a balancing act, but the equation is simple. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. And if you eat fewer calories and burn more calories through physical activity, you lose weight.

In the past, research found about 3,500 calories of energy equaled about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat. So researchers thought burning or cutting 500 calories a day led to losing 1 pound a week. But this isn’t true for everyone.

In general, if you cut about 500 calories a day from your usual diet, you may lose about ½ to 1 pound a week. But this can vary depending on your body, how much weight you want to lose, your gender and activity level.

It sounds simple. But it’s more difficult because when you lose weight, you usually lose a mix of fat, lean tissue and water. Also, because of changes that occur in the body as a cause of weight loss, you may need to decrease calories more to keep losing weight.

Cutting calories

Cutting calories needs to include change, but it doesn’t have to be hard. These changes can have a big impact on the number of calories you take in:

  • Skipping high-calorie, low-nutrition items
  • Swapping high-calorie foods for lower calorie choices
  • Cutting portion sizes

Saving calories by cutting high-calorie, low-nutrition items

Skipping one or two high-calorie items is a good place to start when cutting calories. For example, you could skip your morning latte, soda at lunch or that evening bowl of ice cream.

Think about what you eat and drink each day and find items you could cut out. If you think that skipping your treat will leave you with a craving, swap it with a low-calorie choice.

Instead of this …Calories*Try this …Calories*
Flavored latte, 16 ounces268Black coffee, 16 ounces5
Chocolate ice cream, 1 cup292Strawberries, 1 1/2 cups whole69
Lemon-lime soda, 16 ounces210Sparkling water, 16 ounces0
*Actual calories may vary by brand.

Swapping high-calorie foods for lower calorie choices

Simple swaps can make a big difference when it comes to cutting calories. For example, you can save 60 calories a glass by drinking fat-free milk instead of whole milk. Instead of having a second slice of pizza, reach for some fresh fruit. Or snack on air-popped popcorn instead of chips. Eat more fruits and vegetables, which have many nutrients and are high in fiber. And they’ll fill you up more than high-fat choices.

Instead of this …Calories*Try this …Calories*
Whole milk, 8 ounces149Skim milk, 8 ounces91
Regular-crust pepperoni pizza, fast food, 2 slices (each slice equals 1/8 of a 14-inch restaurant pizza)626Regular-crust pepperoni pizza, fast food, 1 slice (1/8 of a 14-inch restaurant pizza), plus 2 cups grapes437
Ranch-flavored tortilla chips, 1 snack bag (3 ounces)426
*Actual calories may vary by brand.

Calories Per Day to Safely Lose 3 lbs in a Week

healthy breakfast with muesli and berries, top view, flat lay

Switch out starches and sodas for whole foods to help lose weight.

Image Credit: Povareshka/iStock/GettyImages

While it can be possible to lose 3 pounds a week, it may not be safe. Cutting too many calories or exercising excessively may deprive you of the energy and nutrients you need to function.

That’s why there are a few things to consider before getting started with any weight-loss program. First of all, it’s important to determine your daily calorie needs and then plan your meals accordingly. Second, focus on eating nutritious foods.

Also, most health care professionals recommend you aim for no more than 1 to 2 pounds of weight a week. Losing too much weight too quickly may lead to loss of muscle mass not fat, as well as depriving you of necessary fuel. Accordingly, talk to your doctor before embarking on any weight-loss plan.


Be careful not to go too low when determining your calorie needs for weight loss. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, people assigned female at birth shouldn’t eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day and people assigned male at birth no less than 1,500 calories.

Going too low may impair your ability to get all the vital nutrients your body needs to function at its best, so don’t try to lose this much weight unless under a doctor’s recommendation and supervision.

Not All Calories Are Equal

Weight loss isn’t all about calories in versus calories out. While it’s true that calories drive weight gain or loss, food quality matters most. Protein, carbs and fat — the three macronutrients in food — have a direct impact on metabolism, body composition, exercise performance and overall health.

As the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health points out, calories are just one part of the puzzle. In a 20-year study with over 120,000 participants, those who consumed refined grains, red meat, sugary beverages, chips, white potatoes and processed foods on a regular basis gained the most weight. Whole and minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts, were associated with weight loss.

For example, 300 calories worth of turkey breast and veggies are not the same as 300 calories worth of French fries. Turkey breast and vegetables provide a hefty dose of protein, fiber, slow-digesting carbs and micronutrients. French fries contain mostly simple carbs and have little nutritional value.

One serving of turkey breast has only 125 calories and more than 25 grams of lean protein. It also supplies:

  • 1.8 grams of fat
  • 13 percent of the DV (daily value) of zinc
  • 6 percent of the DV of magnesium
  • 16 percent of the DV of phosphorus
  • 47 percent of the DV of selenium
  • 14 percent of the DV of vitamin B12
  • 62 percent of the DV of niacin
  • 40 percent of the DV of vitamin B6

Broccoli, kale, cabbage, spinach and other veggies are loaded with fiber and phytonutrients. One cup of cooked kale, for instance, provides 36 calories, 2.5 grams of protein and 7.3 grams of carbs, including 2.6 grams of fiber. It also boasts a whopping 98 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A, 59 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C intake and 885 percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin K.

French fries, on the other hand, contain 166 calories, 2.5 grams of protein, 5.1 grams of fat, 27.5 grams of carbs and 2.3 grams of fiber per serving (about 3 ounces). They are significantly lower in vitamins and minerals compared to a meal consisting of turkey and veggies. Depending on the recipe, this popular fast food item can exceed 331 calories and 11 grams of fat per serving.

The calories in French fries and other processed foods are not the only reason for concern. These products can affect cardiovascular health, put you at risk for diabetes and take years off your life.

A June 2017 cohort study in the ​American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ has linked fried potato consumption to premature death. Eating as little as three servings per week can increase diabetes risk by up to 19 percent. Boiled, baked or mashed potatoes increased this risk by only 4 percent.

Lose 3 Pounds a Week

Whether you want to lose 5, 10 or 30 pounds, eating nutritious food can make a world of difference. Make sure your daily calories come from whole foods, such as fresh fruits, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, fish, lean meat, nuts and seeds. Swap sugary beverages like cola, cappuccino, cocktails and fruit juices for plain water, fruit-infused water, unsweetened herbal tea and green smoothies.

Fruit juices, for example, may seem like a solid option. Despite their high nutritional value, however, they’re not the best choice for weight loss.

These beverages are rich in fructose, a natural sugar that contributes to obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other ailments, according to a review published in the ​Journal of Obesity & Eating Disorders​ in April 2017. Whole fruits, on the other hand, contain dietary fiber, which slows the release of sugar into your bloodstream.

Creating a calorie deficit is a must if you want to lose 3 pounds a week (though remember — only aim for this amount of weight loss if your doctor recommends it). There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. Therefore, you need to create a 10,500-calorie deficit to drop three pounds in seven days.

These numbers are not set in stone, though. Your daily energy expenditure depends on several factors including your body weight, fitness level, metabolic rate and hormones. Additionally, the source of calories influences how they are digested and processed, as the experts at Harvard Health Publishing note.

However, you may use the 3,500-calorie rule to estimate your daily calorie needs. Assuming that this theory is valid, you should burn an extra 10,500 calories or cut 10,500 calories from your diet to lose 3 pounds a week.

But that’s a deficit of approximately 1,500 calories per day, which is not recommended unless medically necessary.

How Many Calories Do You Need to Lose Weight?

The number of calories you can eat to lose weight depends on 6 factors:

  1. Whether you are male or female
  2. How much you weigh now
  3. Your background activity level
  4. How old you are
  5. How tall you are
  6. How quickly you want to lose weight (or how hard you want to make it!)

Each of these 6 are explained below, along with charts showing the calories needed for weight loss at different rates, so you can work out a ball-park figure for yourself.

1 – Male VS Female Calorie Needs

These calculations are for a man and a woman of the same age (40), weight (13 stone), height (5’6) and background activity level (moderately sedentary), to lose a pound, one and a half pounds or 2 pounds a week.

Men VS WomenDaily Calories to Lose:
1lb/wk 1.5lbs/wk2lbs/wk

The simple fact is that men burn more calories than women, even when all other factors are the same. This is because men have more muscle than women – and muscle burns calories even while you are asleep.

2 – Calories Based on Your Weight Now

Your Starting weight has a big impact on the how many calories you can eat to lose weight.

Calories by Start Weight for Women

This table is based on a 30 year old woman who is moderately sedentary and 5’5 in height.

Women at Starting Weight:Daily Calories to Lose:
1lb/wk 1.5lbs/wk2lbs/wk
12 Stone154612961100*
14 Stone172114711221
16 Stone189516451395
18 Stone207018201570
20 Stone224419941744
22 Stone241921691919
24 Stone259423442094

*1100 calories per day is the minimum recommended by wlr for maintaining a healthy diet with sufficient nutrients and variety of foods.

You can use the lose a stone calulator to see an estimate of how long it would take for you to lose a stone, based on your gender, current weight and height.

Calories by Start Weight for Men

The men’s chart is based on a moderately sedentary 35 year old man of 5’9 tall.

Men at Starting Weight:Daily Calories to Lose:
1lb/wk 1.5lbs/wk2lbs/wk
13 Stone191416641414
15 Stone208918391589
17 Stone226420141764
19 Stone243821881938
21 Stone261323632113
23 Stone278825382288
25 Stone296227122462

The number of calories required for you to lose weight gets lower as your weight goes down.

People sometimes blame some variation of ‘starvation mode’ when the number of calories needed to maintain their 2lb a week weight loss goes down. But this doesn’t happen when you are losing weight at a maximum 2lbs a week.

As you can see from the chart, it’s just that you naturally need fewer calories at a lower weight. 

3 – Your Background Activity Level

In this chart the woman is age 30, 5’4 tall and weighs 13 stone 3lbs. The man is 38, is 5’10 and weighs 14 stone 7lbs.

Background Activity Level:Daily Calories to Lose:
1lb/wk 1.5lbs/wk2lbs/wk
Very Sedentary135911091100*
Mod. Sedentary163013801130
Mod. Active190116511401
Very Active217219221672
Very Sedentary172214721222
Mod. Sedentary204717971547
Mod. Active237121211871
Very Active269524452195

Background activity level is your average level of day-to-day activity. These calculations exclude extra calories for specific periods of exercise.

If you do exercise that is not accounted for in your background activity level, you should add the extra calories burned to your calorie allowance for that day.

What’s Your Level?

Choose the level that most closely resembles how active you are on normal days.

  • Very Sedentary – you don’t move around very much, sitting or lying down for most of the day, maybe due to ill health or a disability.
  • Moderately Sedentary – you work in an office or other job that doesn’t involve much physical movement like driving. Or stay at home with relatively small amounts of time doing light household tasks.
  • Moderately Active – you are a parent looking after home and young children, or maybe doing a job that requires a fair amount of moving around but not normally a big physical effort, like nursing, shop or warehouse work.
  • Very Active – you are someone doing heavy physical work, for example a bricklayer or agricultural worker doing strenuous work on their feet for most of the days

How Many Calories Burn To Lose 3 Pounds A Week

How Many Calories Burn To Lose 3 Pounds A Week?

calorie deficit for 3 weeks. Your goal should be 3 pounds per week (though do not aim for it unless your doctor has urged you to). A pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. To lose three pounds in seven days, you’ll have to cut down on 10,500 calories per day.

Weight Loss: Safely 3 Lbs A Week?

Most experts recommend 1 to 2 pounds of loss per week. 45–0. A 10 kilo rate. When you lose more than that, you may develop a variety of health issues, including osteoporosis, gallstones, nutritional deficiencies, and a loss of metabolic rate.

Approximately How Much Physical Activity Do I Ort 3 Pounds A Week?

Most days, you should exercise your cardiovascular system for at least 30 minutes. In order to stay healthy, you should engage in moderate cardiovascular activity for 150 minutes each week. If you are however trying to lose weight, you may still have to perform more physical activity. You should try to stay as focused as possible over five days out of the week.

Does It Seem Realistic That Losing 3 Pounds A Week Is Doable??

Losing weight too quickly will cause gallstones, muscle loss, and fatigue and other side effects. Moderate weight loss of 1–3 pounds (0.6–11% of body weight) is recommended by experts. 45–1. About 6% of your daily calorie intake is accounted for by the 33kg you weigh every week.

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