Calories Per Day to Safely Lose 3 Lbs in a Week

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest


Be careful not to go too low when determining your calorie needs for weight loss. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, people assigned female at birth shouldn't eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day and people assigned male at birth 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, so don't try to lose this much weight unless under a doctor's recommendation and supervision.

Not All Calories Are Equal

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No.232 - Pigmentation & Blemishes

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.

Read more: 7 Unexpected Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

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.

  • 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.

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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.

Lose 3 Pounds a Week

Whether you want to lose 5, 10 or 30 pounds, eating nutritious food 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.

Creating a calorie deficit is a must if you want to lose 3 pounds a week (though remember — only aim for this amount of weight loss if your doctor recommends it). 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.

Read more: The Metabolism Whisperer Shares Secrets for Burning More Calories

ishonest No.231 - Pigmentation & Blemishes

No.231 - Pigmentation & Blemishes

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.

But that's a deficit of approximately 1,500 calories per day, which is not recommended unless medically necessary.

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.

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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.

For best results, reduce your calorie intake and engage in regular exercise, as nutrition and physical activity are both important.


Just because it's possible to lose 3 pounds a week doesn't mean you should do it or that it's safe. Instead of focusing on weight loss specifically, eat nutritious foods and engage in activities you love to find your body's "happy" weight range.

Read more on: livestrong

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