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

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico | Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Last updated: August 9, 2023

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

  • Roughly 218 calories are required to burn an ounce of fat, but a lot of effort is required to make this a reality.
  • Consuming fewer calories, and burning more calories is the key secret to burning more calories.
  • The combination of high-intensity workouts, and cutting calorie intake is the best way of burning fat.

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

A woman performing an exercise

You need to burn about 218 calories to lose an ounce of fat.

Here’s how we arrived at this figure.

Research by Max Wishnofsky 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

To burn an ounce of fat, you need to create a calorie deficit. This simply means consuming fewer calories than you expend.

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.

For instance, 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].

I also advise my clients to use omega-9-rich oils for cooking, such as olive and avocado. 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

Another way to create a calorie deficit is by increasing the calorie burn rate through exercise.

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.

Combining both diet and exercise can make the weight loss process even faster.

However, it's important to note that weight loss is not constant over a continuous period.

As you progress in your weight loss, you’re bound to lose weight at a slower pace as your body adapts to the changes in the number of calories taken in.

Second, the calorie burn rate may depend on several factors, such as workout intensity, body composition, metabolism, genetics, and much more, but that's a topic for another day. For now, let's examine how you can lose weight healthily.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight Loss

To maintain a healthy weight loss, fitness professionals suggest a modest reduction in energy intake by 500-750 calories. That should equate to 2-4 ounces of fat daily, at least in the beginning.

This roughly translates to a daily diet of about 1200-1500 calories (5-7 ounces) for females and 1500-1800 calories (7-8 ounces) for males, depending on the basal metabolic rate [4].

More on this later.

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.

Here’s how to calculate your daily calorie burn.

Calculating Daily Calorie Burn

Top view of using a device to calculate calories burned

When calculating your daily calorie burn, you're essentially calculating your total energy expenditure (TEE). Sometimes, TEE can be substituted for total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

With that out of the way, let's begin:

To calculate your daily calorie burn (TEE or TDEE), you first need to determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by using factors such as age, weight, sex, and height, and then multiply BMR by an activity factor (how much you move throughout the day).

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns to perform normal body functions such as breathing, heart beating, digesting food, maintaining body temperature, and other metabolic processes.

BMR varies from person to person. It increases every time you eat since the body needs the energy to digest food and reduces by 15% when sleeping [5].

A high lean muscle mass percentage also increases 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

Now, 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


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.

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


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