# How many calories can I eat to maintain my body weight?

The number of calories you need to eat to maintain your current body weight depends on your age, sex, height, weight, activity level, and metabolism. As a general guideline, adult women typically need between 1,600-2,400 calories per day, and adult men need 2,000-3,000 calories per day to maintain weight. However, this can vary significantly based on your individual factors. The best way to determine your calorie needs is to use an online calculator that takes into account your specific stats.

## What is calorie maintenance?

Calorie maintenance refers to eating just enough calories to balance out the number of calories your body burns each day, so that your weight stays the same.

Your body requires a certain number of calories each day just to carry out basic bodily functions like breathing, digesting food, circulating blood, and repairing cells. This is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR accounts for about 60-70% of the calories you burn each day [1].

In addition to your BMR, you also burn calories through physical activity, like exercising, fidgeting, walking around, and any other movement. This is called your activity thermogenesis. Together, your BMR plus activity thermogenesis make up your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) [2].

To maintain your current weight, the calories you eat need to balance out the calories you burn through your TDEE. If you eat more calories than your body uses, you will store the excess as fat and gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.

Here is a simple overview of calorie balance for weight maintenance:

### Calories In = Calories Out = Weight Stays the Same

Calories In: The calories you consume through food and beverages.

Calories Out: The calories you burn through BMR, activity, exercise, etc.

When Calories In equals Calories Out, your weight is maintained.

## What factors affect calorie needs?

Several key factors determine how many calories your body burns each day, which affects how many calories you need to eat to maintain your weight:

### Age

As you get older, your BMR declines because you tend to lose muscle mass over time. Older adults generally need fewer calories than younger adults [3].

### Sex

Due to differences in body composition, hormones, and muscle mass, men generally have a higher BMR than women. On average, men need more calories than women [4].

### Height and Weight

People who have more muscle mass and a larger body size tend to burn more calories at rest than people who are smaller. That’s why taller or heavier people usually require more calories than shorter or lighter people [5].

### Activity Level

The more active you are, the more calories your body needs. People who exercise regularly need to eat more than sedentary people to fuel their workouts and daily activity [6].

### Metabolism

Some people naturally have a faster metabolism, meaning their bodies burn calories more efficiently. This can allow them to eat more without gaining weight [7]. Genetics, muscle mass, hormone levels, and other factors affect metabolism.

## How to Calculate Your Calorie Needs

Figuring out how many calories you burn each day can help you determine your calorie needs for weight maintenance.

There are a few options for estimating your calorie expenditure:

### Calorie Calculator

Using an online calorie calculator is the simplest way to get an estimate of how many calories you burn daily.

You input details like your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level. The calculator uses standard formulas to estimate your BMR and TDEE.

Some of the most accurate calculators are provided by the USDA and websites like Healthline or Mayo Clinic.

### Calorie Formula

You can manually calculate your approximate calorie needs using the Mifflin St-Jeor equation, one of the most commonly used formulas:

For men:

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

For women:

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

– Sedentary (little exercise): BMR x 1.2
– Light activity (light exercise 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
– Moderate activity (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
– Active (hard exercise 6-7 days/week): BMR x 1.725
– Very active (very hard exercise & physical job): BMR x 1.9

So for example, a moderately active 30 year old man who is 180 cm tall and weighs 80 kg would calculate his calorie needs as follows:

BMR = 10 x 80 kg + 6.25 x 180 cm – 5 x 30 years + 5 = 1765 calories
TDEE = BMR x Activity Factor
= 1765 x 1.55 (moderate activity)
= 2735 calories per day

Therefore, this man needs approximately 2735 calories per day to maintain his weight.

### Wearable Trackers

Devices like Fitbits and Apple Watches can track your movement 24/7 and use that data to estimate your TDEE. They aren’t 100% accurate but can provide a ballpark daily calorie expenditure.

### Metabolic Testing

Getting a metabolic test done by a doctor or nutritionist is the most precise way to measure your resting and total daily energy expenditure. However, this expensive test is usually reserved for elite athletes or research studies.

For most people’s needs, an online calculator or wearable device provide reasonably accurate TDEE estimates.

## Recommended Calorie Intakes

As a general guideline, the average sedentary adult needs approximately 15-20 calories per pound of body weight to maintain their current weight [8].

So for example, a sedentary 150 pound person would need between 2,250 and 3,000 calories daily to maintain their weight.

Here are some standard recommended calorie intakes based on age, sex, and activity level [9]:

Age Sedentary Moderately Active Active
19-25 year old male 2,400-2,600 calories 2,800-3,000 calories 3,000-3,200 calories
19-25 year old female 1,800-2,000 calories 2,000-2,200 calories 2,400 calories
26-50 year old male 2,200-2,400 calories 2,600-2,800 calories 3,000 calories
26-50 year old female 1,800 calories 2,000-2,200 calories 2,400 calories
51+ year old male 2,000-2,200 calories 2,400-2,600 calories 2,800-3,000 calories
51+ year old female 1,600 calories 1,800 calories 2,000-2,200 calories

However, keep in mind these are just general estimates. Calorie needs can vary significantly based on individual factors.

## Setting a Calorie Intake Goal

Once you know approximately how many calories you burn daily, you can set a calorie intake goal for weight maintenance.

Aim to consume around the same number of calories that you burn each day. Do not cut calories too low, as this can slow your metabolism over time.

Be sure to re-calculate your calorie needs every few months, or if your activity levels or weight changes significantly.

Here are some tips for setting an appropriate calorie goal:

– Use a calorie calculator or formula to estimate your normal calorie expenditure
– Reduce the estimate by 100-200 calories to allow for inaccuracies
– Adjust based on your individual activity level, metabolism, and hunger levels
– Avoid cutting calories by more than 500 per day
– Re-evaluate your needs frequently and make changes as needed
– Focus on eating nutritious whole foods within your calorie budget

Tracking your calories for a few weeks by using a food journal app can also help you determine the intake that maintains your weight.

## Foods to Eat for Calorie Maintenance

To meet your calorie needs for weight maintenance, focus on eating a balanced diet filled with various nutrient-dense foods.

Here are some healthy nutrient-rich foods to include:

### Lean Proteins

Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, edamame.

Proteins take more calories to digest than carbs or fats, helping you burn slightly more calories [10]. They also promote feelings of fullness.

Aim for 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So around 90 grams of protein daily for a 180 pound person.

### Fruits and Vegetables

All types of fruits and vegetables are great for weight maintenance. They provide filling fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with very few calories.

Aim for at least 2-3 servings of each per day. Options like broccoli, peppers, berries, leafy greens, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, apples, oranges and bananas are excellent choices.

### Whole Grains

Like oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and barley. Whole grains give you steady energy and plenty of nutrients.

Aim for 3-5 servings daily or make at least half your grain servings whole grain.

### Healthy Fats

Nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon provide filling fats and essential fatty acids.

Aim for 25-35% of your calories from healthy fats to help regulate hormones and curb hunger.

### Low Fat Dairy

Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and kefir are full of protein and calcium. Opt for low fat versions when possible.

Aim for 2-3 servings per day, such as a glass of milk, yogurt, or ounce of cheese.

## Sample Meal Plans

Here are a couple 2,000 calorie meal plans that provide balanced nutrition for weight maintenance:

### Sample Meal Plan 1

Breakfast: Oatmeal made with milk, berries, toast with peanut butter (500 calories)

Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich, carrots, apple (650 calories)

Dinner: Veggie and brown rice stir fry, edamame (600 calories)

Snacks: Cottage cheese with pineapple, trail mix, Greek yogurt (250 calories)

### Sample Meal Plan 2

Breakfast: Egg white scramble with peppers and cheese, fruit, toast (450 calories)

Lunch: Turkey and hummus wrap, salad with vinaigrette, berries (600 calories)

Dinner: Salmon, quinoa pilaf, asparagus (600 calories)

Snacks: Cottage cheese and apples, whole grain crackers, raw veggies (350 calories)

Play around with different foods and meals to create a plan that fits your calorie goal and tastes. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods and include plenty of variety to get a range of nutrients.

## Exercise Recommendations

To complement your calorie intake, aim for 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise per week, along with a couple days of strength training. This amount of activity can help with calorie balance and weight maintenance over time.

Try activities like:

– Brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming (aim for 30-60 mins most days)
– Strength training with weights, resistance bands, calisthenics 2-3x per week
– Yoga, pilates, barre 1-3x per week for strength and flexibility
– Sports and active hobbies like basketball, tennis, hiking, dancing
– Household chores and yardwork also count!

Focus on finding exercise you enjoy and can stick with long term. Even small amounts of activity all throughout your day can make a difference. Moving your body regularly provides many health benefits beyond just burning calories!

## Tips for Success

Here are some top tips for successfully maintaining your weight through calorie balance:

– Weigh yourself 1-2x per week to monitor changes. Adjust calorie intake if needed.
– Use a food tracking app to quantify calories and nutrients.
– Prepare healthy snacks and meals in advance to control portions.
– Choose nutritious whole foods instead of processed items.
– Stay hydrated with water and unsweetened beverages.
– Limit alcohol intake which provides empty calories.
– Be consistent with eating and exercise habits. Track progress.
– Get enough sleep and manage stress levels.
– Make changes slowly and be patient. Small tweaks create big differences over time!

## Conclusion

Determining the right amount of calories to eat for weight maintenance requires some trial and error. Pay attention to your weight, hunger levels, activity, and other cues to fine-tune your intake.

Aim to consume a balanced diet focused on whole foods that meets your individual calorie needs. Combine this with regular exercise you enjoy to achieve long-term weight maintenance and better health.

Consistency is key – stick with healthy eating and activity habits at least 80% of the time. Be patient through ups and downs, and remember that small changes add up over months and years. Checking in with your healthcare provider periodically can also help provide guidance tailored to your health status and body.