How Many Calories Does It Take To Burn an Ounce of Fat?

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: January 16, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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As a fitness trainer, I’ve always used pounds to measure the amount of calories burned within a specific period.

But since many of my clients use specialized calorie-tracking equipment, they want to have a higher resolution image of their progress, meaning smaller increments for losing fat to keep them motivated day by day.

They often ask me about the exact number of calories they should burn to lose an ounce of fat.

So, I revisited some scientific literature and discussed it with our dietitian to provide an exact answer, as well as the most effective ways to lose weight.

Quick Summary

  • To lose an ounce of fat, one needs to burn approximately 218 calories, achieved through a combination of diet and exercise.
  • The key to burning fat is creating a calorie deficit, either by consuming fewer calories or increasing calorie burn through exercise.
  • A 2021 study from JAMA Network found that 3,500 calories equate to one pound of fat, translating to about 218 calories for an ounce of fat.
  • Based on my understanding, the calorie deficit method works, but varying metabolisms and lifestyles suggest the importance of tailored fitness plans.

How Many Calories Do You Need to Burn to Lose an Ounce of Fat?

A woman performing an exercise

To lose an ounce of fat, you need to burn approximately 218 calories, as each pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories.

A 2021 study from JAMA Network shows that 3,500 calories make up one LB of fat [1].

One pound equals 16 ounces, so if losing 3,500 calories equals losing 16 ounces, that means your body needs to burn about 218 calories to lose one ounce of body fat.

How to Burn an Ounce

Measuring a woman's legs and a bowl of salad

After conducting experiments with various diet and exercise regimens, I've found that creating a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than you burn, is key to burning an ounce of fat.

You can create this deficit in two ways; by consuming fewer calories or by increasing calorie burn. Let's examine both.

Consuming Fewer Calories

A simple way to reduce your calorie intake is to eat a balanced diet and swap unhealthy calorie-filled meals with low-calorie options.

According to information found in the article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), instead of extra meat or cheese in your sandwich, substituting it with extra vegetables and salad can reduce calorie intake by up to 150 calories [2].

Per a 2012 study published in The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), I also advise my clients to use omega-9-rich oils, such as olive and avocado, for cooking. It goes a long way in preventing obesity [3].

You can also implement a time-restricted feeding regimen such as intermittent fasting if you're a beginner or OMAD (one meal a day).

These approaches can help you reduce the total amount of calories you consume by compressing your feeding window.

Burning More

Man running on a treadmill

Boosting calorie burn through exercise is another way to create a calorie deficit.

Specifically, cardio workouts for fat loss, high-intensity workouts, and resistance training. Exercising for longer periods or with greater intensity expends more energy and burns more fat. Pairing exercise with diet speeds up weight loss.

But, weight loss isn't always steady. As you lose weight, the pace slows due to your body adjusting to fewer calorie intake.

Also, many factors affect calorie burn, such as workout intensity, body composition, and metabolism, but more on that later. Now, let's focus on healthy weight loss.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight Loss

From my experience and fitness experts' advice, reducing daily calories by 500-750 can lead to healthy weight loss, shedding about 2-4 ounces of fat initially.

The 2018 NCBI study suggests this means around 1200-1500 calories daily for women and 1500-1800 for men, based on basal metabolic rate [4].

Additionally, weightlifting to burn fat, strength training, and high protein intake prevent muscle loss and maintaining or increasing lean muscle mass helps you burn more calories and fat because muscle is an energy-hungry tissue.

But to be safe, you should contact a healthcare professional before engaging in these activities, especially if you have pre-existing health problems.

Calculating Daily Calorie Burn

Top view of using a device to calculate calories burned

To calculate your daily calorie burn (TEE or TDEE), first figure out your basal metabolic rate (BMR) using age, weight, sex, and height, then multiply it by your daily activity level.

BMR is calories burned for basic functions like breathing and digestion. Per NCBI, BMR varies individually, goes up with eating due to digestion energy needs, and drops by 15% during sleep [5].

A 2013 NCBI study notes that more lean muscle mass ups your BMR [6].

“You need to consume fewer calories than you burn each day. To do that, though, you need to know how many calories you burn.”

- Anisha Shah, Interventional Cardiologist

Determining Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Top view of healthy meal with calculator

As research published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states, to calculate BMR, one of the most frequently used formulas is the Harris-Benedict formula, which accounts for body weight, sex, height, and age [7].

Here’s the formula:

  • For men, BMR = 66 + (13.7 X weight in kg) + (5 X height in cm) - (6.8 X age in years)
  • For women, BMR = 65 + (9.6 X weight in kg) + (1.8 X height in cm) - (4.7 X age in years)

Now that we have our BMR, we can calculate TDEE.

Calculating Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

To find TDEE, we simply multiply BMR by activity level. But before we even get to the calculation, we need to establish the activity level.

According to Kansas State University, activity levels can be grouped into five categories; sedentary, lightly active, moderately active, very active, and extra active [8].

Now, here’s how to calculate TDEE according to experts:

  • Sedentary (little to no exercise): BMR X 1.2
  • Lightly active (light exercises done 1-3 days a week): BMR X 1.375
  • Moderately active (exercising almost every day of the week): BMR X 1.55
  • Very active (hard exercises done every day or twice a day): BMR X 1.725
  • Extra active (training more than twice a day or training for a marathon): BMR X 1.9

FAQs

How Many Calories Does It Take To Burn 1 LB of Fat?

It takes about 3,500 calories to burn 1 LB of fat. Maintaining a healthy loss of 500 calories daily makes it possible to burn 3,500 calories and lose a pound in a week. You can achieve this by consuming fewer calories or expending more through exercise.

How Much Fat Is Burned in 100 Calories?

By burning 100 calories of body fat daily, you burn a cumulative of 1 pound or 16 ounces of fat in a month. You can do this by taking 15-minute walks, using the staircase, taking 10-minute jogs, or doing a moderate strength training session.

Effective Fat Loss

There’s no way around losing weight except by creating a calorie deficit. This often involves cutting calories to the recommended minimum and incorporating high-intensity workouts and resistance training exercises.

However, this endeavor can be tricky for many of us who are too busy. That's why we always recommend speeding things up with a fat burner supplement.

I have tested these products thoroughly and can attest to their effectiveness. You’ll experience much faster progress when you combine them with regular exercises.


References:

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/1900513
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/cutting_calories.html
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22457394/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163457/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929498/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661116/
  7. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23248180
  8. https://www.k-state.edu/paccats/Contents/PA/PDF/Physical%20Activity%20and%20Controlling%20Weight.pdf
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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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