How Many Calories Do I Need to Lose FAT?

calories to lose fat

Table of Contents

In the previous article, we discussed how to lose weight. Even if you are just looking to lose fat, I strongly recommend that you go back and read that article because many concepts explained in that article will still hold true when it comes to losing fat. 
So far you have learned the following:

  • You need a caloric deficit to lose weight/fat.
  • You create a caloric deficit by eating less calories than your body needs.
  • You do this by first calculating your daily caloric requirements then you eat less than that by a specific number of calories depending on how much weight you want to lose per week.
  • You learned that to lose 1 pound of body weight, you need to burn 3500 calories.
  • You learned how to manipulate your caloric intake and adjust it to your weight loss rate. You know what to do if you are losing weight too fast or too slow.

Now, what’s the difference between losing weight and losing fat?

People who want to lose fat, want to get rid of that ugly jiggly layer under their skin. Some of those individuals train regularly and want to get rid of that layer of fat to reveal the muscles hiding under that layer. Some just want to lose fat and maintain their lean mass for a medical condition. And some just want to look shredded or reduce their weight for a competition. All those individuals have one thing in common; they want to lose just fat and retain their muscle mass.

Why would someone want to lose just fat and maintain muscle?

Muscles are what give people their shape. They are what pushes against the skin and keeps “things” firm. Quick example:
Danny has big arms, but he only has one issue; his big arm muscles are covered with a nice layer of subcutaneous fat. Danny would love to get rid of that layer of fat and maintain his muscles to reveal a nice pair of biceps/triceps.

If someone loses weight in the form of muscle, the layer of puffy fat remains and the muscle itself shrinks. This will result in an even more unpleasant appearance since the big muscle was occupying more space and thus pressing up against the skin more so than this new shrunken muscle.

So, how do we lose fat?
We will first need to follow the steps mentioned in the previous article since it’s the same process. So, click on the link below and read that first in case you missed it:

How many calories should I eat to lose weight?

Did you read it? Done? Do you have your daily caloric requirement estimate? Good, you’re ready to move on.

When it comes to losing fat, a slower approach must be followed. The same guidelines for how fast someone should lose weight still apply here. Obese individuals will lose tons of fat by default. However, things get tricky the leaner you get.

The ideal rate of fat loss = 15%-25% below daily caloric requirements.

What does this mean?

This means that you should eat at a deficit of 15-25 percent below what your body needs per day.


Your daily caloric requirements are 2500 calories per day just to maintain your weight. Let’s say you will opt-in for a 20% deficit (a moderate deficit). So, you would create a caloric deficit where you eat 0.2 * 2500 = 500 calories LESS than your daily caloric requirement. Thus, you would need to eat 2000 calories per day to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss.

Any greater deficit for you will potentially cause an increase in muscle breakdown to be used as fuel. And we do NOT want to lose muscle, remember?

The ideal rate of fat loss is usually between 1-2 lbs. per week

So, set up your caloric deficit accordingly.

NOTE: Very lean individuals who only have a few pounds of fat to lose should follow a slower approach to maximize fat loss and minimize the risk of losing muscle mass. For individuals who have only 5-10 lbs. of fat to lose to look shredded, their ideal rate of fat loss should be 0.5 – 1 pound per week. Anything more and you increase the potential of breaking down valuable muscle tissue.

This concludes how many calories you should eat to maximize fat loss. However, we’re not done yet! This is not as simple as mindless weight loss. A few more factors are involved in maximizing fat loss.

Muscle Stimulus

A few articles ago, and more specifically in the “calories, fat loss and muscle gain” article, I explained that in order to preserve muscle mass you need something to stimulate your muscles.

This something is exercise. Ideally, weightlifting. NOTHING will preserve muscle mass as good as weightlifting will do. This is because weightlifting provides the opportunity to apply more stress on your muscles and thus send a strong signal to your body to preserve that mass.

Why do we need to stimulate our muscles?

As previously mentioned, the human body only cares about one thing; survival.

During times of being in a caloric deficit, your body thinks there is a lack of external food and to protect you from starving, it starts using the previously stored energy.

Now, your body doesn’t like to waste energy, especially during “rough” times like being in a caloric deficit. Your body prefers to break down muscle tissue to use as energy because muscle tissue breakdown uses less energy and conversion of fatty acids to energy. Now, if your body is not getting the needed amount of energy and must tap into energy storage and has an easier time breaking down muscle tissue (requires less energy), why would it break down fat to be utilized as energy when it is such an energy-demanding process? In other words, why would your body waste more energy (fat conversion) to produce energy when it can produce energy using less energy (muscle tissue)?

This is even more true when you don’t lift weights. When you do not apply external stress on your muscles (weightlifting) your body assumes that your muscles are just occupying space and using energy, thus it makes sense to get rid of it when it’s in time of danger (caloric deficit). After all, your body wants to conserve as much energy as possible.

The opposite is also true. If you provide a constant strong signal to your muscles, your body will sense that you “need” those muscles to be able to fight back against that predator you were fighting with (squats lol). Thus, your body feels like it makes sense to keep those muscles in case you face times where you need them again.
The signal must be STRONG and CONSISTENT.

Quick equation:

Muscle stimuli + moderate caloric deficit = Maximizing fat loss

The second most important factor involved in preserving muscle mass is the amount of protein and other macros you should consume. But this is another article for another day.

What now?

By now, you should have a plan of how large your deficit will be to lose a certain amount of weight. This depends on your starting point, personal preference, patience and whether you want to maximize fat loss or not.

So far so good. You should now move on to the next article:

What is protein? And why is it important?



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