How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose 2 Lbs A Week


How many calories should i eat to lose 2 lbs a week? A lot of people find themselves asking this question, and that’s not uncommon. It can be confusing to know exactly how many calories you should eat in a day if you want to lose weight healthily.

Regardless of whether you want to lose belly fat or just shed a few pounds, there is a specific number of calories you need to consume every day. This term refers to the amount of energy consumed by the body through foods and beverages containing carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol. It differs from person to person and depends on age, sex, weight, height, activity level and metabolism.

How Many Calories Should I Eat in a Day to Lose 1 to  2lbs a Week?

How many calories you should eat in a day to create a calorie deficit to lose 1 to 2lbs a week depends on a variety of factors, including your height and current weight, and your activity level.

You need to find out how many calories you need to eat in a day to keep your weight stable (your maintenance weight).

From that number, you would subtract either 500 or 1000 calories (without ever going below 1200 calories a day for women and 1800 calories a day for men)  Or you could subtract anywhere from 10% to 25% of the total calories.

How Many Calories Do I Need to Lose 2 Pounds Per Week?

Fitness gym woman weightlifting kettlebell weight

It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.

Losing 2 pounds a week will require a healthy food and exercise regime, plus a ton of willpower. Don’t worry, you’ve got this! Here’s everything you need to know.


You need to cut down by 1,000 calories a day for a week to lose 2 pounds.

Your Calorie Requirements

The food you eat provides calories, or energy, that your body burns as fuel in order to survive. The number of calories you require per day varies depending on many factors, which include gender, age, physical activity level, height and weight, among others.

The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimate that adult women require between 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day while adult men require between 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day. The lower end of the range is for people who live sedentary lives, while the higher end of the range is for active people.

The USDA also prescribes different calorie counts for people of different ages. This is because you require a lot of calories while you’re growing, but as you get older, you require fewer calories because your basal metabolic rate (BMR) drops. According to the American Council on Exercise, after the age of 20, your BMR drops by 2 to 3 percent every decade.

The USDA notes that many Americans exceed the recommended amount of calories. The human body stores these excess calories that it is unable to convert into physical energy as fat.

Cutting Calories to Lose Weight

Weight management basically means striking a balance between the calories you consume and the calories you burn. In order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit where you burn more calories than you consume.

So how many calories do you have to cut out to lose weight? According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. To lose 2 pounds of weight a week, you would have to create a calorie deficit of 7,000 calories per week, which translates to 1,000 calories per day. Therefore, you have to create a calorie deficit of 1,000 calories per day for a week, in order to lose 2 pounds a week.

You can achieve this calorie deficit by increasing the amount of exercise you get and cutting down on the number of calories you eat per day, although it’s important that your calorie intake doesn’t fall below the minimum requirement for your body to survive, which is 1,200 calories per day for adult females and 1,500 calories per day for adult males.

Crash diets promise rapid weight loss, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the results are often short lived. Instead, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, it is recommended that you take a longer-term approach that requires an ongoing healthy lifestyle with permanent changes in your day-to-day food and exercise habits.

Establishing a Healthy Eating Pattern

The USDA recommends following a healthy eating pattern that not only helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight but also provides your body with all the nutrition it requires and prevents chronic diseases.

The USDA defines a healthy eating pattern as one that involves eating a lot of whole fruits and a variety of vegetables from all the subgroups, such as dark green, orange and red, legumes (peas and beans) and starchy vegetables. It also includes grains, of which at least half should be whole grains, and a variety of foods with protein, like seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products like tofu and soy milk.

The USDA recommends limiting your consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, added sugar and sodium and drinking alcohol in moderation, which is defined as a maximum of two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

A simple example of how this would work in action would be to replace the strawberry ice cream you eat for dessert with some real strawberries instead. One cup of strawberry ice cream has 254 calories whereas 1 cup of strawberries has only 46.1 calories.

How to Lose 1 to 2 lbs a Week — The Basic Formula

To lose weight (fat), you need to create what’s called a calorie deficit.   See, you gained weight because you created a calorie surplus (eating more calories than your body burned).  To reverse that, you need to create a calorie deficit — eating fewer calories than your body burns in a day

This way, your body will dig into your body fat to get the extra energy it needs.

Theoretically, to gain one pound of fat, you’d have to eat an extra 3500 calories.  Therefore, to lose one pound of fat in a week, you’d have to eat 3500 fewer calories than your body needs for that week.

To lose two pounds of fat in a week, you’d have to eat 7000 fewer calories than your body needs for that week.  (You’d multiply 3500 calories times 2 to get 7000 calories.)

It sounds like a lot at first, but if you break it down into daily calorie goals, it’s much easier to digest.  (See what I did there?)

Daily Calorie Deficit to Lose 1lb Per Week
3500 / 7 = 500 fewer calories per day

Daily Calorie Deficit to Lose 2lbs Per Week
7000 / 7 = 1000 fewer calories per day

You can create a calorie deficit in three ways:

  1. Eating fewer calories (less food).
  2. Burning more calories (more exercise).
  3. A combination of eating fewer calories and burning more calories through exercise.

A combination of eating fewer calories along with moving more is usually the best for most people.  It’s difficult to decrease the amount of food you eat by 500 to 1000 calories a day, just as it’s difficult to increase your exercise  by 500 to 1000 calories burned a day, especially if you don’t exercise at all.

To lose 1lb a week through a combination of eating fewer calories and exercising more,  you could eat 250 few calories per day and exercise enough to burn an extra 250 calories.

-250 + -250 = -500 calorie deficit To lose 2lbs a week through a combination of eating fewer calories and exercising more,  you could eat 500 few calories per day  and exercise enough to burn an extra 500 calories.-500 + -500 = -1000 calorie deficit

Building an Exercise Routine

It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. For additional health benefits, including weight loss, you should increase your aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.

Brisk walking, swimming, dancing and bicycling are some examples of moderate-intensity exercises whereas jogging, playing singles tennis and bicycling uphill are a few examples of vigorous exercise.

Additionally, it is recommended that you do resistance training exercises that strengthen all your muscle groups at least two times a week. An exercise routine that combines cardio and resistance training can help you achieve significant weight loss, concluded a study published in January 2014 in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.

The number of calories you burn when you exercise varies depending on factors like the type of exercise, the intensity and your weight.

Here are some estimates of calories burned that can give you a rough idea: A 160-pound man would burn 314 calories an hour while walking at a speed of 3.5 miles per hour, 606 calories an hour while running at a speed of 5 miles per hour and 292 calories an hour while bicycling leisurely at a speed of under 10 miles per hour.

Consistency is the key to building an exercise routine and losing weight. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine in April 2015 concluded that you need to exercise four times a week for a minimum of six weeks in order to build an exercise habit. The authors of the study recommend keeping the exercises simple and fun for people who are new to exercise, to help the habit stick.

Building a regular exercise routine may mean waking up early in the morning or turning down social commitments in the evening to work out. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests planning your physical activities with a friend so that both of you are more likely to stick with the routine once you’ve committed to it — and each other.

How to safely and effectively create a calorie deficit for weight loss

What is a calorie deficit?

a person choosing salad leaves from a shelf
Image credit: d3sign/Getty Images

A calorie deficit occurs when the number of calories a person consumes in a day is smaller than the number of calories they burn.

The body needs to burn a certain number of calories to perform all its functions each day.

How many calories a person needs each day varies based on their:

  • sex
  • age
  • physical activity levels
  • height
  • weight
  • body composition

Here are some estimated calorie needs for adults aged 19 years and over:


A person can create a calorie deficit by reducing the number of calories they eat, increasing their activity levels, or both.

Is a calorie deficit enough to lose weight? 

Maintaining a calorie deficit is an important part of weight loss, but it is not the whole picture. This is because calories are not the only thing to affect weight.

To lose 1–2 pounds (lb) per week, a person would need to eat 500–1,000 calories fewer than the number of calories their body needs per day.

If a person is sedentary, meaning that they only move as much as they need to live independently but do not exercise or engage in other physical activities, they should start to get 30 minutes of exercise each day, if possible.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source state that cutting calories does not necessarily mean feeling unsatisfied at meals.

A person can replace some higher calorie foods with lower calorie foods, increase their water intake, and eat more fiber to feel full.

Risks of eating too few calories

If a person cuts too many calories and does not get enough necessary nutrients, they can experience some health problems.

The body needs a minimum number of calories to function properly. Cutting too many can increase the risk of health issues, including:

  • not getting enough nutrients, which can interfere with gaining or maintaining bone mass
  • depriving the brain of necessary energy
  • decreasing metabolism
  • increasing the risk of developing gallstones

Some symptoms of not consuming enough calories include:

  • getting sick frequently
  • being unable to lose weight
  • experiencing negative changes in mood or behavior
  • having difficulty sleeping
  • experiencing constipation

Before cutting calories, a person should talk with their doctor or nutritionist. People with specific health conditions, such as diabetes, may need specialized diets to help them manage their condition.


Creating a calorie deficit may be helpful if a person wishes or needs to lose weight. A person can do this using a combination of diet and exercise.

They should try to focus on eating highly nutritious foods, drinking more water, and exercising regularly.

Formulas and online calculators are available to help people estimate how many calories they burn per day. From there, a person can estimate how many calories they should eat to create a calorie deficit.

A person should aim to lose no more than 1–2 lb per week to avoid potential health issues associated with not getting enough nutrients.

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