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Article by Corinne Kepler

Is it necessary to calculate calories to lose weight?

Updated on 3 February 2024.

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Calculate caloriesEvery time we have to calculate calories in order to lose weight, we quickly get bored and give up. In fact, this seems to be the most common reason why many diets and slimming cures are abandoned. It’s true that calculating daily food intake to create a calorie deficit is a solution that works. But is it really necessary to calculate these calories?

How about taking a little time to understand why you need to calculate calories in the first place? If you’re on a drastic diet, take some time to read our article. Who knows? It might just help you…

calculating calories for weight loss: myth or reality?

Calculating calories IntroductionAlthough it may seem a bit boring to some, calculating calories is a scientifically-proven approach. Here’s how it works, the easy way!

To function normally, our bodies need a certain number of calories per day. We’re talking about 2000-2500 calories a day, all sexes combined. More precisely, according to many clinical studies, a woman would need a range of 1800 to 2800 depending on the type of daily activity (low, active, very active, pregnant, etc.). A man would need a range from 2100 to 3500, depending on expenditure too. To lose weight, all you need to do is create what’s known as a caloric deficit: this means you’ll need to burn more calories than you consume. Logical, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s reasonable and feasible, but not necessarily easy to implement! Because other parameters come into play that make the method of calculating calories work or not.

Let’s take a quick look at the definition:
A calorie is a unit of energy worth approximately 4.18 joules, which corresponds to the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of liquid water by 1°C. In the field of dietetics, the calorie is regarded as an energy benchmark that can be used to establish a balanced diet adapted to the individual’s needs. For further information, continue on Wikipedia.

How to calculate calories to lose weight?

Calculating calories, but chemicals tooThe number of calories a person needs depends on a number of parameters: gender, age, weight, level of physical activity, type of diet, etc. It’s therefore logical that determining the number of calories to be eliminated depends on the same parameters.

In other words, when it comes to calculating the number of calories to cut, it’s important to get it right, because it’s easy to do yourself a disservice. If you were told that the general rule is :
To lose one kilogram, all you need to do is burn between 7000 and 8000 calories.
You’d quickly be tempted to abstain from a cumulative intake of two consecutive days to lose that kilo! Too easy! But…

Whether we like it or not, our bodies need to consume the minimum necessary. So you’ll have understood that losing weight by taking care to calculate calories is a process that needs to take place over time. You’ll lose weight slowly, of course, but surely and, above all, healthily.

Not all calories are the same!

That’s why it’s important to learn that there are different types of calories. And to succeed in our calorie counting, we need to take this into consideration. Calories come from three types of food:


These are the calories we need for immediate energy to make up for short-lived efforts. This is the case of sugar par excellence: we need it to “carburetor” efficiently. But we must be very careful not to eat too much, which could lead to health problems (diabetes, for example).


Or, more commonly, fat. There’s a tendency, often mistaken, to point the finger at fatty foods and say that they’re fattening. In fact, it’s not the quantity of fat ingested that makes you fat, but rather its quality. Just as there is bad fat, there is also good fat. Saturated fats are more harmful than monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.


While the first two are more energy-oriented, this third type of calorie source feeds muscle tissue in particular. Proteins are the building blocks of our cells and the very foundation of our immune system. For muscle-builders, protein intake is the most important.

By now, you’ll have understood that it’s important to guarantee this “representativeness” of sources in your daily calorie intake. It therefore seems that a good intake for a balanced daily diet should be in the following proportions:
around 55% carbohydrate, 30% fat and 15% protein.

And the best way to calculate calories?

calculate-caloriesThere really isn’t one! And while the calorie-counting method works, it’s clear that it’s not an exact science. The most “natural” method would be to consult the labels on food packaging. They will necessarily list the various calorie intakes for each 100-gram portion. It’s up to you to work out the day’s calories for the various foods.

You could also rely on the lists you find on the web, with indications of the calorific value of different foods. Most of these lists have been collected either from scientific books sold in bookshops or online, or from documented scientific studies.

Control My Weight to calculate caloriesA third method would be quite practical in our opinion: technology! You certainly have a smartphone and you’ve probably installed an app on it that calculates menstruation, or helps you exercise with a virtual monitor, … Well, there are also apps that help you calculate the calories you should be consuming or eliminating. Here are just a few examples:
MyFitnessPal, FatSecret, Cron-O-Meter, Lose It! and many others…

So, should we calculate calories to lose weight after all?

Yes and no!
It really depends on your own approach, but also on how assiduous you are when it comes to dieting. If you feel up to weighing each and every one of your portions and having to go back to lists and notes more often, go for it!

If, on the other hand, you can’t stand this kind of approach, stick to a healthy diet, rich in essential foods (remember carbohydrate, fat and protein percentages), with logical portion sizes. And, in both cases, get a minimum of physical exercise, which will always help you consume your calories.
Also read: The 5 Best Sports for Losing Weight Fast!

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