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Recommended Calories Per Day to Lose Weight

author image Sam Ashe-Edmunds
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.
Recommended Calories Per Day to Lose Weight
Eat fewer calories and exercise more to lose weight effectively.

Based on your age, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends you eat between 1,600 and 2,800 calories per day. According to the Mayo Clinic, you'll need to burn 500 more calories each day than you take in to lose a pound per week. Decreasing calories alone may be too drastic a means for effective weight loss for many people, so a mix of caloric reduction and exercise which increases calorie burning may be the most effective weight-loss strategy for you.

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1,600 Calorie Plan

The USDA recommends at least 1,600 calories per day for children ages 2 to 6, inactive women and some seniors. If you are in this group, a 500-calorie daily deficit would require you to eliminate more than 30 percent of your daily nutritional intake. The American Heart Association's recommendation of 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise, such as brisk walking, five days per week, would be appropriate for you, and might help you burn 250 calories each day, reducing your caloric-intake reduction number to 250, or about 15 percent of your daily diet. If you would like to lose 26 lbs. during the course of year, or half a pound of weight per week, you can cut these numbers in half.

2,000 Calorie Plan

Children over the age of six, teen girls, active women and some inactive men should eat 2,000 calories per day, according to the USDA. A 500 calorie deficit would come to 25 percent of your daily intake—still a large percentage. Adding the AHA's recommended exercise program of 20 minutes of vigorously intense exercise, such as aerobics, three times per week, would significantly raise the number of calories you burn and reduce the number of calories you'd need to forfeit on your exercise days, but still require eating 500 fewer calories on off days.

2,800 Calorie Plan

The USDA recommends that teens boys and active men get up to 2,800 calories per day. A deficit of 500 calories per day would decrease your intake by about 18 percent. If your goal was to lose 26 lbs. per year, you'd need to reduce your daily caloric intake by less than 10 percent per day. A 30-minute, aerobic exercise would be more than enough to create your entire caloric deficit.

Calorie Burning

To decrease your amount of daily caloric reduction, you can raise your metabolism to burn more calories. In addition to the types of exercise recommended by the AHA, you can increase your muscle mass to help raise your metabolism. A pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat throughout the day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Add resistance training to any exercise program to improve your weight-loss efforts. Additionally, eating your calories in smaller portions spread over five to six meals and snacks, as opposed to eating the same number of calories in two or three daily meals, keeps your metabolism raised throughout the day, helping you burn more calories.

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