# How do I calculate my calorie needs?

## Determining Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) represents the minimum number of calories your body requires to perform essential bodily functions like breathing, blood circulation, nutrient processing and tissue repair. It does not include the calories needed for daily activities and exercise. Your BMR makes up the largest portion (60-75%) of your total daily calorie expenditure.

There are a few ways to estimate your BMR:

### Harris Benedict Equation

One of the most commonly used equations for calculating BMR is the Harris Benedict Equation which takes into account your weight, height, age and gender:

For men:
BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)

For women:
BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)

This provides a fairly accurate estimate of your BMR. However, it doesn’t account for differences in muscle mass and fat percentage which can affect BMR.

### Mifflin St Jeor Equation

The Mifflin St Jeor Equation is considered more accurate than Harris Benedict because it distinguishes between lean body mass and fat mass:

For men:
BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) + 5

For women:
BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) – 161

This equation takes into account that muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. The greater your muscle mass, the higher your BMR is likely to be.

### Katch-McArdle Formula

The Katch-McArdle formula focuses specifically on lean body mass rather than total weight:

BMR = 370 + (21.6 x lean mass in kg)

Of the BMR formulas, this one is considered the most accurate because lean body mass is the main determinant of resting metabolic rate. However, it requires knowing your precise lean body mass, which can only be measured accurately through specific tests like hydrostatic weighing or a DEXA scan. This data isn’t always easy to obtain.

### Online BMR Calculators

There are many BMR calculators available online that simplify the process. You simply plug in details like your age, gender, height, current weight and activity levels. The calculator will use one of the above equations to provide estimated calorie needs. Some examples include:

– Healthline BMR Calculator
– Mayo Clinic Metabolic Calculator
– Weight Watchers Points Calculator

These calculators provide a quick and easy way to get a general estimate of your BMR without doing complex equations yourself. However, for more personalized accuracy, it’s best to work with your healthcare provider to determine your BMR.

## Factoring in Your Activity Level

Once you know your BMR, you then need to factor in your activity level to determine total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This represents the total calories burned in a day including BMR plus calories burned through movement and exercise.

Your activity level is represented by an activity factor or multiplier. The higher your activity level, the higher your calorie needs.

Activity Factors:
– Sedentary (little to no exercise): BMR x 1.2
– Lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
– Moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
– Very active (hard exercise 6-7 days/week): BMR x 1.725
– Extremely active (very intense exercise & physical job): BMR x 1.9

For example:
For a person with a BMR of 1300 calories/day who exercises lightly 1-2 times per week:

BMR = 1300 calories
Activity Factor = 1.375 (lightly active)
TDEE = 1300 x 1.375 = 1788 calories/day

To maintain current weight: This person needs around 1788 calories per day
To lose 1 pound per week: Reduce daily calories by 500 so around 1288 calories/day
To gain 1 pound per week: Increase daily calories by 500 so around 2288 calories/day

The best activity factor for you will depend on your personal level of activity. Using an online TDEE calculator can help determine your estimated calorie needs more easily based on the activity levels you input.

## Tracking Calories to Find Your Target

While BMR and TDEE formulas provide estimates, your true calorie needs can vary based on individual factors like muscle mass, age, hormones and more.

The most accurate way to find your calorie target is to track your calorie intake and weight over time to look for trends.

Here is a simple process:

1. Use a BMR or TDEE calculator to get an estimated calorie target

2. Track your calories consumed each day as accurately as possible using a food journal or app. Aim to be within 100-200 calories of your target.

3. Weigh yourself under consistent conditions (like first thing in the morning) once or twice per week.

4. After 2-4 weeks, compare your average weekly weight from the start to the end:

– If weight stayed the same = you’re eating around your calorie maintenance needs

– If weight increased = you’re eating above your calorie maintenance needs

– If weight decreased = you’re eating below your calorie maintenance needs

5. Adjust your daily calorie intake up or down by 100-200 calories as needed to achieve your goals

6. Continue tracking and adjusting until you’re consistently seeing the desired rate of weight change over several weeks (like 1 pound per week)

This trial and error process helps fine tune your calorie intake to your actual needs based on real data rather than just calculations. Monitoring your progress over the long term can account for changes in activity, muscle mass and metabolism.

## General Calorie Recommendations

While your individual calorie needs vary, some general recommendations exist for calorie intake based on age, gender and activity level:

Gender Sedentary (little/no exercise) Moderately Active (3-5 days exercise/week) Active (6-7 days intense exercise/week)
Child (ages 4-8) 1,200 – 1,600 calories 1,400 – 1,800 calories 1,400 – 2,000 calories
Teen Girl (ages 9-18) 1,600 – 2,000 calories 1,800 – 2,200 calories 2,000 – 2,400 calories
Teen Boy (ages 9-18) 1,800 – 2,600 calories 2,000 – 3,200 calories 2,400 – 4,000 calories
Adult Woman 1,600 – 2,400 calories 2,000 – 2,400 calories 2,400 – 2,800 calories
Adult Man 2,000 – 3,000 calories 2,400 – 3,000 calories 2,800 – 3,200 calories

These are just general guidelines and your individual needs vary based on your unique stats. For example, larger, more muscular individuals need more calories than smaller, less active people. Older adults also tend to require fewer calories.

Tracking your own intake and weight changes over time provides more personalized data to find your calorie sweet spot. But these recommendations give you a starting point to work from.

The right calorie target for you depends on your goals:

### Weight Loss

To lose weight at a safe, sustainable rate of 1 pound per week, you need a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day. This can be achieved through diet, exercise, or a combination of both. Anycalorie target for weight loss should not go below 1200 calories per day for women or 1800 calories per day for men without medical supervision. Slow, steady weight loss is more likely to stay off long-term.

### Weight Gain

To gain weight, you need a calorie surplus of around 500 calories per day to safely aim for 1 pound per week. Focus on getting those extra calories from nutrient-densewhole foods. Gain weight gradually over time, not all at once. For some, a 200-300 calorie surplus is enough to see steady weight gain with less fat gain. Muscle-building exercise helps ensure the weight gained is more muscle versus fat.

### Maintenance

To maintain your current weight, you need to balance calories in and out consistently. Use a calorie tracking app to find your maintenance intake and stick close to it daily. Account for changes in activity levels and adjust intake accordingly to maintain weight stability. Maintenance phases can be helpful after periods of weight loss or gain before switching goals again.

As your stats and activity levels change over time, you’ll want to recheck your calorie needs and adjust accordingly. Periodic recalculation ensures you’re fueling your body properly.

## Conclusion

Determining your ideal daily calorie intake requires a few calculations plus some trial and error tracking. Start by estimating your basal metabolic rate (BMR) using an established formula or calculator. Then factor in your activity level to get your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Use a tracking app to find the calorie intake needed for your specific goals of weight loss, gain or maintenance. Adjust as needed over time based on actual changes in body weight and activity. While general recommendations exist, your individual calorie needs are specific to your own stats, lifestyle and unique body. Consistent tracking provides the most accurate data to determine the right calorie target for you.