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What Should My Calorie to Exercise Ratio Be to Lose Weight?

By Skyler White ; Updated July 18, 2017

If you’re trying to lose weight, following a simple mathematical formula to get you to your goals may be beneficial. The general rule of thumb is to expend more calories than you consume. Although this seems easy enough, without monitoring your caloric intake, you could be eating much more than you may think. Although diets may provide some initial benefit, the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to make a lifestyle change, which means watching what you eat and partaking in regular physical activity. Consult your physician before starting a new regimen.

  1. Calculate your basal metabolic rate, also known as BMR. This measurement shows how much energy your body needs to function, with approximately 60 percent of consumed calories contributing to necessary bodily activity, like breathing. For adult women, you will need to multiply your weigh by 4.3 and your height in inches by 4.7. Add these totals together and add 65. From this total, subtract the sum of your age in years multiplied by 4.7. For men, you will need to multiply your weight by 6.3 and your height by 12.9. Add these figures together and add 66. Then, multiply your age in years by 6.8. Subtract this number from the prior.

  2. Figure out your level of activity and food processing rate. Once you arrive at your BMR, you will need to multiply it by your activity level. For a sedentary lifestyle, multiply your BMR by 1.2; for an lightly active lifestyle -- you exercise one to three times a day -- multiply by 1.4; moderate activity of three to five days a week, multiply your BMR by 1.6; if you are active with exercise six to seven days a week, multiply your BMR by 1.7; and if you’re extremely active, like you work a manual labor job or training for an athletic activity, multiply your BMR by 1.9. Your final number is your active metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories you should eat a day.

  3. Count your calories for each meal and snack. To maintain your weight, you will want to eat the number of calories calculated from your active metabolic rate. To lose weight, you will want to create a deficit or a calorie-to-exercise ratio. A single pound of fat is approximately 3,500 calories. So to lose that pound, you will need to reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories a day, or 3,500 calories a week. If you have a BMR of 1,500, for example, you will need to burn off at least 2,000 calories a day to meet your deficit. To lose 2 lbs. a week, reduce your daily intake by 1,000 calories, which will require you to burn off 2,500 calories a day if your BMR is 1,500.

  4. Tip

    Aim to lose weight over an extended period of time. If you starve yourself, you'll lose lean muscle and water rather than fat.

    Exercise regularly by doing a range of activities. This will keep you motivated and engaged.


    Certain health conditions will affect your weight loss, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis and certain cancers. You should always consult your physician before making changes to your diet because you may worsen your condition.

    Caloric intake should never be lower than 1,200 for women and 1,500 for men, unless you’re on a medically supervised diet. If you fail to consume this basic calorie amount, you may experience signs of food deprivation, which can actually make you gain weight, Medline Plus says.

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