One calculator says 1200 Cal/day, the other 2030 Cal/day to lose weight, which is correct?

ask our dietitian your question todaywhich choice is best for weight loss


I need help regarding how many calories I need to lose weight. I am 5’9″ and 220 lbs. I work a sedentary job, and I try to work out hard at least 4 times a week. I also got into jogging and running; training for half marathons and 5Ks.
Some calorie calculators say I should eat 1200 a day for weight loss, while others say I should get around 2030 a day. Which is better? Also I find it very hard to eat healthy and get in 2030 calories without going overboard on carbs. But when I eat around 1200 a day, I find myself binging on the weekends. – Christine L.


Christine, your exercise is to be commended! In regards to how many calories you need to lose weight…

The calorie calculators I use as a professional are based on basal energy expenditure, plus activity factor. For you they indicate 2150 calories for weight maintenance for a 30 year-old female. Reduce by 50 calories for each decade older. Subtracting 500 calories for weight loss yields 1650 calories per day. So you really should be between the two endpoints you mentioned. In fact, a range of 1500-1800 calories would be fine given you need to eat more on heavy workout days.

I’d agree that bumping up calories requires more carbohydrates and that too severe a caloric restriction will cause rebound eating. There is a saying that “dietary abandon follows dietary restraint.” The body knows it needs to make up for a significant deficit. (That’s a major reason why binge-purge cycles fail.) Simply put 1200 calories is too low for you, as evidenced by your hunger swings.

Weight loss is only successful if regular healthy meals and beverages are consumed more often than not. Just hitting an average caloric target is not enough. Behavior change is critical to long-term success. The food choices that make up the calories matter greatly.

As I’ve replied to many members before, here are the key points to focus on:

  • Focus on complex carbohydrates
  • Eat plenty of vegetables
  • Choose lean protein and low-fat dairy
  • Opt for plant sources of fat
  • Avoid fried food, candy, junk food, alcohol and soda

You’re sure to lose weight with as much physical activity as you’re doing, provided you eat healthy within your energy needs!


– Debbie J., MS, RD


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Debbie James is a registered dietitian. Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or recommendations of Fitness International, LLC.

Posted on July 31, 2014, in Ask Our Dietitian, Health, Helpful, Nutrition, Weight Loss and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Deb, Can you share the calculator you used to come up with her daily cals?

  2. I use either the Harris-Benedict equation or the Mifflin-St Jeor formula. Some convenient online calculators such the one from the Mayo Clinic, use the Harris-Benedict.

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