Calories Per Day to Lose 3 Pounds Per Week

Wondering how to lose 3 pounds a week without feeling hungry and deprived? Weight loss doesn't have to be a struggle. Simple lifestyle changes, such as giving up soda and swapping starches for leafy greens, can take inches off your waistline and boost your health.

Switch out starches and sodas for whole foods to help lose weight. (Image: Povareshka/iStock/GettyImages)

However, there are a few things to consider before getting started. First of all, it's important to determine your daily calorie needs and then plan your meals accordingly. Second, you need up clean up your diet, cut out empty calories and make smart food swaps.

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. Consult with your doctor before embarking on any weight-loss plan.

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 published 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, clean eating 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 healthy 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.

Just because a particular food or drink is healthy doesn't mean it supports weight loss. Additionally, healthy foods contain calories, too. If you overeat, you'll end up gaining weight. While you shouldn't obsess over calories, you shouldn't ignore them, either.

Creating a calorie deficit is a must if you want to lose 3 pounds a week. 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. That's a deficit of approximately 1,500 calories per day. If your daily meals provide around 3,000 calories, you must either stick to 1,500 calories or exercise more in order to burn energy.

Warning

Be careful not to go too low when determining your calorie needs for weight loss. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, women shouldn't eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day and men 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.

Create a Calorie Deficit

So what's the fastest way to burn calories? Harvard Health Publishing provides some rough estimates of the energy expended during exercise. Running, cycling, swimming, rock climbing, high-impact aerobics and vigorous weight training appear to be the most effective.

For example, a 155-pound individual will burn approximately 223 calories on the Stair Step machine in 30 minutes. The same person will torch 391 calories on the stationary bike, 298 calories when playing beach volleyball, 372 calories when jumping rope and 614 calories when running at a fast pace for half an hour. Daily activities and house chores like shopping, gardening and shoveling the snow burn calories, too.

Another way to boost your energy expenditure is high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. This form of exercise, which alternates between short, intense bursts of activity and periods of rest, has been found to reduce abdominal fat, visceral fat and total body fat mass, as reported in a February 2017 research paper in Sports Medicine. Furthermore, it may improve metabolic health and cardiovascular function.

For best results, reduce your calorie intake and engage in regular exercise. Nutrition and physical activity are equally important. By combining the two, you'll not only get leaner but also enjoy better health and keep the pounds off.

While it's possible to lose 3 pounds a week, that doesn't mean you should start binging on cookies and ice cream once you've reached your goal. Healthy eating is a lifestyle. If you commit to it, you'll find it easier to maintain your weight in the long run.

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