How Many Calories Should a Man Eat While Trying to Lose Weight?

There are probably many women who would love to escape the tyranny of weight loss advice being offered everywhere they turn. But for men, they often find themselves faced with the opposite problem — there aren't enough dieting tips geared toward them, as noted by Tufts Medical Center.

How much calories you eat to lose weight depends on several different factors.
Image Credit: YelenaYemchuk/iStock/GettyImages

Tip

Although every man will have different caloric needs based on his height, weight, age and physical activity level, most healthy men need between 2,000 and 3,000 calories. Cutting 500 calories from the number you need to maintain your weight could help you lose 1 pound a week.

In fact, a July 2017 review published by the American Journal of Men's Health notes that men are underrepresented in weight loss research. But that doesn't mean men are opposed to making an effort to lose weight. They just deserve to know the benefits of weight loss that specifically apply to men, the article states, or they want opportunities to receive advice specifically geared toward men.

So if a man is trying to drop some pounds, whether it's just a few or whether it's a significant amount, what should he know about his specific caloric needs, particularly if he's active?

Weight Loss Benefits for Men

As Tufts Medical Center points out, there are plenty of health benefits for men when they lose weight beyond reduced risk of high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. First and foremost, there's increased testosterone levels. Because body fat puts out an enzyme that makes the body produce less testosterone, men who are overweight are faced with low levels of this hormone, leaving them feeling fatigued, depressed and with a weakened sex drive. Low testosterone from being overweight can even cause erectile dysfunction.

The Mayo Clinic also points out that men tend to carry weight around their abdomen, often in the form of visceral fat, the type of fat that accumulates deep under the muscle and surrounds the internal organs. This type of fat is more dangerous than the subcutaneous fat that accumulates just under the skin. Visceral belly fat increases risk of heart disease and premature death, so it's especially important for men to lose their bellies.

Tip

If you want to get an idea of how much belly fat you’re carrying, Mayo Clinic recommends using a tape measure around your bare stomach just above the hip bone. Resisting the urge to suck in, you should pull the tape measure until it’s snug but not digging into your skin. A belly circumference greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters) indicates that you’re carrying too much weight around your middle.

As the review published by the American Journal of Men's Health points out, men achieve their best weight loss results through a combination of diet and exercise, and although it can be harder to get men to start a program, they will often find themselves committed once they actually start.

How Many Calories?

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion's 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that the number of calories a person needs will vary based on their age, sex, height, weight and level of physical activity. However, the guidelines do put forth a general idea of the number of calories a person might need.

These calorie numbers for men are based on a man who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 154 pounds. This hypothetical man would need anywhere from 2,000 calories if he is sedentary to 3,000 calories if he is active. And because people have decreased caloric needs as they age, the number of calories a man should eat will go down every decade or so.

  • A sedentary man would need about 2,400 calories up until age 40. From age 41 to age 60, he would need 2,200 calories. After that, he would need only 2,000 calories a day.
  • If he is moderately active, he would need 2,800 calories up until age 25. Then he would need 2,600 calories up until age
    1. After age 45, he would need 2,400 calories up until age 65, after which he would need 2,200 calories.
  • If he is active, he will need about 3,000 calories up until age 35, then 2,800 calories up until age 55, then 2,600 calories up until age 75.

In this context, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans explains, sedentary refers to a lifestyle that includes only the physical activity necessary for independent living. Moderate activity would be walking 1.5 to 3 miles per day at a rate of 3 to 4 miles per hour, or a comparable amount of exercise. Active refers to walking more than 3 miles per day at the same pace, or a comparable exercise.

Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Cut 500 Calories From Your Daily Diet

Calculating a More Specific Number

Those guidelines aren't especially specific, so men who are interested in having a better idea of how many calories they need could use a body weight planner, such as the one available from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. By entering specific information about his age, height, weight and activity level, a man can gauge a more specific idea of how many calories he needs. For example, a 40-year-old man who is 6 feet tall and approximately 180 pounds who does minimal exercise (works a sedentary job and engages in moderate physical activity once a week) would need 2,827 calories to maintain weight.

If this man wanted to lose 10 pounds at a healthy rate of 1 pound a week for 10 weeks, then he would need to eat approximately 2,300 calories per day. This is assuming he does not change his exercise routine. If he increased his physical activity by only 25 percent, he would not need to reduce his caloric intake as much, and he could eat approximately 2,500 calories a day to reach his goal weight of 170 pounds in 70 days.

Harvard Medical School recommends you can determine your calorie needs by multiplying your weight by 15 — this will tell you how many calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight if you do 30 minutes of physical activity every day. So for example, if a man is 160 pounds, then 160 x 15 is 2,400. That 160-pound man would need to consume 2,400 calories to maintain his weight.

But if he wanted to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, he would need to consume 500 to 1,000 calories less than that. Let's say he decides to lose 1 pound a week by cutting 500 calories, taking his daily needs to 1,900 calories. If you factor in more physical activity than the 30 minutes of moderate exercise already considered, then he would increase his calorie deficit even further.

This is important to consider, because the Mayo Clinic says that while diet can have a greater impact on a person's weight loss efforts, physical activity will have a greater impact in helping that person keep the weight off and avoid regaining it. Additionally, exercise can help a person avoid age-related loss of bone density and muscle mass.

Everyone should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (like walking or swimming) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (like running or aerobic dancing) every week. If you break this down, that would be 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week with two rest days, or 25 minutes of vigorous exercise for three days with four rest days.

Per Mayo Clinic's estimations, a 160-pound individual would burn about 314 calories when walking at 3.5 miles per hour for one hour straight. This means that if the guy who is eating 1,900 calories to lose weight wanted to add two one-hour walks to his weekly routine on top of his moderate exercise regime, he would increase his calorie deficit by 628 calories.

Harvard Medical School notes that men should not be eating fewer than 1,500 calories per day unless they're doing so under the supervision of a doctor or health professional.

Read more: 5 Tricks to Help You Estimate Calorie Counts

Making Your Diet Work

Those calorie numbers won't do you any good if you struggle to stay within that specific range. Harvard Medical School acknowledges that while some people will count every calorie they consume based on the numbers they see on packaging, other people will find it much more realistic to eat only at designated meal and snack times and to focus on low-calorie foods when they do.

An important distinction to make when you're watching how much you eat is the difference between a portion and a serving. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains that a serving is the recommended amount you should eat per the food's nutritional label. A portion is how much you actually do eat regardless of what the package says. In some cases — let's say if you're really hungry — you might enjoy a portion that's two or three times a recommended serving size.

A person who is watching what they eat can manage their portions better by serving themselves a certain amount on a plate or in a bowl rather than eating directly out of the package. They can also avoid mindless snacking by not watching TV or doing other activities when they eat. A third tip is to use smaller dishes so you instinctively take less food.

For people who are just beginning a weight loss journey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends writing down your reasons for wanting to lose weight, whether that's avoiding a family history of chronic disease or just feeling better in clothes you've outgrown.

You should also focus on setting specific goals rather than vague ones. Simply deciding to lose weight isn't as strong a goal as deciding you want to lose 20, 30 or 40 pounds. You can also break up that long-term goal into shorter-term goals, such as eating a vegetable with every meal, taking a 15-minute walk on your lunch break or finding a fun activity to engage you when you're inclined to eat out of boredom.

Read more: Cut Calories With These 9 "Pasta Poser" Recipes

Taking these tips into account and determining a caloric number that's right for you will help you as you start your journey toward a healthier weight and better overall health.

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