How many calories do I need to eat to stay my weight?

Quick Answer

The number of calories you need to eat per day to maintain your current weight depends on your age, gender, height, weight, activity level, and metabolism. As a general guideline, adult women need around 2000-2400 calories per day, while adult men need around 2400-3000 calories per day to maintain weight. However, this can vary significantly based on individual factors. The best way to determine your calorie needs is to use a calorie calculator or work with a nutritionist. You may need to adjust your calorie intake up or down over time to find the right balance for maintaining your weight.

How Many Calories Does the Average Adult Need?

The number of calories needed per day varies from person to person based on a number of factors including age, gender, height, weight, activity level, and metabolism. Here are some general calorie guidelines for adults:

For Women

– Sedentary (little or no exercise): 2000 calories
– Moderately Active (light exercise 3-5 days/week): 2200-2400 calories
– Active (moderate exercise 6-7 days/week): 2400-2600 calories
– Very Active (hard exercise 6-7 days/week): 2600-2800+ calories

For Men

– Sedentary (little or no exercise): 2400 calories
– Moderately Active (light exercise 3-5 days/week): 2600-2800 calories
– Active (moderate exercise 6-7 days/week): 2800-3000 calories
– Very Active (hard exercise 6-7 days/week): 3000-3200+ calories

So on average, active adult women need around 2400 calories per day, while active adult men need around 3000 calories per day to maintain weight. However, many factors can raise or lower your calorie needs.

Factors That Affect Calorie Needs

Several key factors determine how many calories you need each day to maintain your current weight:


As you get older, your body’s metabolism slows down, meaning you burn fewer calories. Older adults may need 200-300 fewer calories per day to maintain weight compared to younger adults.


Due to differences in body composition, men generally have more muscle mass and a faster metabolism than women. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, even at rest. As a result, men tend to require more calories than women.

Height and Weight

Larger and taller people need more calories than smaller people. A bigger body size requires more energy for basic functions like breathing, circulating blood, and maintaining tissues.

Activity Level

People who are very physically active through sports, exercise, or manual labor burn the most calories. Sedentary people with desk jobs burn the fewest calories. Adjust your calorie intake based on your activity level.

Lean Body Mass

The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. Resistance training can help boost lean body mass.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions like diabetes and thyroid disorders can slow metabolism, meaning fewer calories are burned.


Some medications like steroids and antidepressants may increase appetite and calorie intake. Others may cause fatigue and decrease activity.

Genetics and Metabolism

While genetics play a role, most people have a moderate metabolic rate. Only about 5% have an ultraslow or ultrarapid metabolism outside the norm.

How to Calculate Your Calorie Needs

To determine a more personalized calorie target for maintaining your weight, consider using an online calorie calculator or meeting with a nutritionist.

Here are some options for estimating your calorie needs:

Simple Calorie Formula

A simple formula for calculating maintenance calories is:

For men: Body weight (in pounds) x 15 calories
For women: Body weight (in pounds) x 13 calories

So for example, a 150 pound woman would need around 1950 calories per day. This is just a rough estimate.

Mifflin St Jeor Equation

The Mifflin St Jeor equation is considered one of the most accurate formulas for calculating calorie needs:

For men:

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

For women:

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

This formula accounts for age, gender, height and weight. You can convert pounds to kg and inches to cm to use this calculator.

Online Calorie Calculator

Online calorie calculators allow you to enter details like age, gender, weight, height and activity level to estimate calorie needs. They often provide a range based on activity level.

Some reputable calorie calculators include:
– USDA SuperTracker
– Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Calculator
– MyFitnessPal app

Metabolic Testing

Metabolic testing measures your resting metabolic rate via indirect calorimetry. This gives you a very accurate measure of how many calories your body burns at rest. From there you can factor in activity.

Work with a Nutritionist

For a tailored calorie target, meet with a registered dietitian or nutritionist. They can help analyze your health, lifestyle, body composition and goals to determine optimal calorie intake. This may provide the most accurate recommendation.

Adjusting Your Calorie Intake Over Time

Once you have a calorie target, you may need to adjust your intake up or down over time to account for changes:

– Weigh yourself weekly under consistent conditions.
– If your weight goes up or down more than 2 pounds, adjust calories up or down by 200-300 per day.
– Every 4-6 months, recheck your calorie target as activity, body composition and other factors can change.
– As you age, gradually reduce calories by 50-100 per day each year to account for slower metabolism.
– If you are still gaining or losing weight after adjustments, see a professional to reevaluate your calorie needs.

Tips for Maintaining Weight

Here are some tips beyond calorie counting to help maintain a stable weight long-term:

– Focus on whole, minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. These promote satiety.

– Include fiber, protein and healthy fats with meals and snacks to feel full. They help regulate appetite hormones.

– Stay adequately hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Sometimes thirst disguises itself as hunger.

– Manage stress through meditation, yoga, social connection, therapy, or other strategies. High stress can influence hormone balance and weight.

– Get enough sleep, as lack of sleep is linked to increased hunger and calorie intake. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.

– Weigh yourself weekly to identify small fluctuations and make timely calorie adjustments before weight changes drastically.

– Be mindful of portion sizes, especially with calorie-dense foods. Use measuring cups and food scales to help with portions.

– Cook meals at home frequently to control calories and nutrient quality. Practice meal planning and batch cooking.

– Practice mindful eating by paying close attention to food and avoiding distractions. Eat slowly to allow satiety signals to activate.

– Manage emotional eating by addressing underlying causes of stress, anxiety, depression, or boredom with alternate healthy habits. Seek support as needed.

– Stay consistent with eating and exercise habits day-to-day and week-to-week, rather than having huge variations in intake and output.

Sample Meal Plan for Weight Maintenance

Here is an example 2000 calorie meal plan suitable for an average woman looking to maintain her current weight:

Breakfast (400 calories)

– 1 cup oatmeal cooked in water (150 calories)
– 1 cup milk (120 calories)
– 1 cup blueberries (85 calories)
– 1 tbsp peanut butter (95 calories)

Lunch (500 calories)

– Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread (400 calories)
– 1 medium apple (95 calories)

Snack (200 calories)

– 1 oz pistachios (160 calories)
– 1 tsp honey (20 calories)

Dinner (600 calories)

– 4 oz baked salmon (250 calories)
– 1 cup brown rice (220 calories)
– 1 cup steamed broccoli (55 calories)
– Salad with oil & vinegar dressing (75 calories)

Snack (300 calories)

– 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (130 calories)
– 1/4 cup granola (170 calories)

This provides balanced macronutrients of 45% carbs, 30% fat, and 25% protein. The meal plan is around 2000 calories, suitable for an average moderately active woman looking to maintain weight. The calories and portions can be adjusted to meet your individual needs.

Common Reasons for Weight Fluctuations

It’s normal for your weight to fluctuate within a few pounds from day to day. However, if you notice more significant unexplained weight gain or loss, here are some potential causes:

– Eating too many or too few calories – Track your intake and adjust as needed. Don’t drastically restrict calories for prolonged periods as this can backfire metabolically.

– Fluid retention – Changes in hormone levels, medication use, high sodium intake, premenstrual syndrome and other factors can temporarily cause fluid retention.

– Muscle loss or gain – Strength training helps maintain muscle. Inactivity can cause loss of muscle and thus metabolic rate.

– Bowel habits – Constipation or diarrhea can cause temporary fluctuations on the scale. Aim for regularity.

– Inaccurate tracking – Double check that you’re accurately tracking all calories consumed and burned. Underestimating can be common.

– Medical issues – Certain conditions like thyroid disorders can disrupt weight. See a doctor if fluctuations persist.

– Life stresses – High stress, poor sleep, job changes, relationship issues or other life disruptions can influence eating habits, activity and weight control.

– Normal aging – Metabolism naturally slows over decades resulting in small gradual weight gain if calories aren’t adjusted.

If you’re consistently gaining or losing weight despite calorie adjustments, have a medical checkup. Maintaining a stable weight long-term requires consistency, patience and troubleshooting.

When to See a Professional

In some cases, it may be helpful to meet with a registered dietitian, nutritionist or doctor for assistance with weight maintenance:

– If you aren’t sure how many calories to eat each day after using calculators and guides
– If your weight is fluctuating despite diligently tracking and adjusting calories
– If you have a medical condition like diabetes or thyroid disorder that affects metabolism
– If you need specialized nutrition advice for managing a health condition
– If you think emotional or binge eating is sabotaging your weight control
– If you need motivational support to improve your eating and exercise habits
– If you feel lost on how to manage your weight on your own and need expert guidance

Nutrition pros can help personalize your calorie target, offer accountability, provide counseling for overcoming hurdles, and supply evidence-based strategies tailored to your unique needs. An investment in your health is often money well spent.


Finding the right calorie intake to maintain your current weight relies on a number of individual factors including age, gender, body composition, activity level, and metabolism. While calorie calculators can provide estimates, you may need to fine tune your intake over weeks and months to find the calorie “sweet spot” for your body. Adjusting calories as life changes occur can help you sustain a stable weight long-term. Support from a nutrition professional can optimize your chances of success if you feel stuck. With patience and consistency, balancing the calories going in and out can help you maintain your weight.

Leave a Comment