How Many Calories Does it Take to Lose One Pound?

Weight Loss
16 Mar

Last Updated on May 22, 2023 by Michael Brockbank

A lot of us are heavy calorie counters when it comes to losing weight. And many are quite successful at it. But how much do you need to burn in order to lose one pound of fat? In reality, it’s not just the calories you should pay attention to.

Let me start by stating that everyone’s physiology is different. How one person burns fat doesn’t necessarily mean it will work perfectly for another. You also need to consider there are many things that can cause a scale to fluctuate.

Average Calories in a Pound of Fat

Lose One Pound Fat
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According to experts, a pound of fat is about 3500 calories. This means you need to burn 3500 calories more than you consume to lose one pound.

Based on these averages, you would need to burn 5500 in a single day if you stuck to a 2000-calorie diet. To put this into perspective, I can burn just over 9 per minute during a 20-minute walk at a pace of 3.5 hours. If I stuck to a 2000-calorie diet, I would have to walk for just over 10 hours every day.

That’s not really feasible…at least to me.

Calories Don’t Equal Nutrition


It’s not just calories you need to pay attention to. The overall nutritional level of the food will determine health as well. For instance, you can’t base a normal diet on nothing but Walmart cupcakes. It’s the fats and sugars that would wind up doing the most damage to you.

This doesn’t mean you have to dump your favorite fattening foods, though. Personally, I still eat what I want throughout the day. I just make sure I:

  • Can afford the number of calories based on my tracking in MyFitnessPal.
  • Add some healthier options when eating meals and snacks as well.
  • Reduce the number of portions of the junk food throughout the day.

In this strategy, I’ve lost 60 pounds so far.

Best Ways to Lose One Pound

Physical Activity

So, what are the best ways to burn the calories to lose one pound? That really depends on your goals. If you want to lose it sooner, it’s going to take a lot more work. However, you need to take care of yourself. Burning off too much too soon could put your body into shock…especially if you have a problem with low blood-sugar levels like I do.

How to Burn Off 3500 Calories in a Week

Burning off a pound a week is actually quite easy. On average, people can lose as much as three pounds just by keeping their meals to proper portion sizes and eating less junk food.

To lose one pound in seven days, theoretically you would need to burn 500 calories more per day than you’re intake. So if you stuck to a 1500-calorie diet, you would need to burn off 2000 per day.

At my heaviest, I burned about 2300 just by being alive. That’s because humans will burn calories even while they sleep. However, this number is extremely low when compared to actual exercise.

For instance, right now I burn about 1.4 calories every minute while sitting at my desk. But I can burn up to 13 per minute while playing tennis on the Xbox Kinect.

The hardest part is making sure you stick to your intake goals. It’s difficult for many people not to dive into a snack from boredom eating like I do.

How to Burn Off 3500 Calories in a Day

It’s far more difficult to lose one pound in a single day. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for many people. Not because they lack willpower or because they like being fat. But because it’s physically not possible to sustain that kind of loss over a long period.

In fact, losing weight too quickly often comes with a myriad of health risks. And some of these can deliver long-lasting or permanent problems within the body. I don’t recommend it, and I hope you’re patient enough to avoid instant gratification.

With that being said, you would need to burn off 3500 calories more than you’re intake. Unfortunately, this causes problems because your body is trying to create energy and sustain itself without having enough fuel and components to do so.

To burn off enough calories and still maintain a proper diet, you would need to subject yourself to some grueling physical activity. For me, I would have to play 70 holes of golf to burn that much. That’s just under four 18-hole rounds. Essentially, I’d have to play golf all day long without a break…which I wouldn’t scoff at. However, I know it would wipe me out.

Easiest Ways to Cut the Calories

Proper Portion Sizes

Avoiding the calories to lose one pound isn’t all that difficult. In fact, you could begin shaving off the weight right now just by getting up and walking around the house for 10 minutes.

Some ways to drop calories quickly include:

  • Eating smaller portions.
    A lot of people, especially in the United States, are incredibly overfed. Stick to proper portion sizes of food and reduce your intake. You might not even have to alter your diet much.
  • Getting more physical activity.
    You don’t have to start going to the gym or subjecting yourself to intense workouts. While these things would help, it’s all about physical activity. I lost most of my weight playing the Xbox Kinect.
  • Choosing “lighter” foods.
    Most of today’s markets are full of healthy alternatives to meals we all love. For example, I have an affinity for the healthy fudge bars from Costco, which are one-third the calories of regular ice cream.
  • Getting out of the house and being social.
    Going out and being social goes along the lines of increasing physical activity. Go bowling, hang out at the park or walk around the mall for a bit. Get some fresh air and live a little.

How do I lose weight? I rely heavily on apps like MyFitnessPal. It helps me record my intake while pulling calorie-burn data from Fitbit. This gives me an idea of how much I can eat in any particular day to stay within my goals.

My Next Case Study

I like conducting case studies on myself as it gives me a solid reason to focus. Plus, I find it fun to collect data. At any rate, my next case study will involve calorie intake versus output to see how much I can lose over a two-week period.

I doubt I’ll lose one pound per day, but I would be interested to see how much I would have to burn to drop a certain amount of weight. If you want to follow along, I’ll post the requirements and such.

Why am I doing a case study for calorie burn? To demonstrate how everyone is different and how the foods you consume will skew the results. Don’t assume 3500 calories is the end-all, be-all for losing a pound. There are many factors that will personally come into play.

All it Takes is Effort

It really doesn’t take much to lose one pound. Simply changing your snack from three peanut butter chocolate cups to a cup of sliced oranges could reduce your intake by 150 calories. How quickly you’ll lose weight is dependent on how serious you are about doing so.

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