How many calories should I eat for my height and age?

Determining how many calories you should eat each day can be complicated. Many factors impact your calorie needs, including your height, age, activity level and goals.

While generic calorie calculators provide estimates, your optimal calorie intake is highly individualized. Tracking your weight and adjusting your calories accordingly is the most accurate way to determine your needs.

This article provides detailed information on estimating calorie needs based on height and age. It also covers how other factors like activity level impact your needs. Read on to learn how many calories you should aim for.

What Impacts Your Calorie Needs?

Several key factors determine how many calories you should eat each day:


Your height impacts your basic metabolic rate. Taller people generally need more calories than shorter people.


As you age, your metabolism slows down. Older adults require fewer calories than younger adults. Children and teens need more calories to fuel growth.

Activity Level

People who are very physically active burn more calories each day. They require more calories than sedentary people, even at the same height/age.


If you are trying to lose weight, you need a calorie deficit. People aiming to build muscle require a calorie surplus. Your goals impact your needs.

Other Factors

Your gender, current weight and muscle mass also influence calorie needs. Pregnancy and breastfeeding increase needs. Health conditions like diabetes may also impact needs.

While height and age provide a starting point for estimating your calorie intake, many other factors fine tune your needs.

Calorie Needs Based on Height

Your height is one of the key determinants of your basic calorie needs.

Here is an overview of estimated daily calorie requirements based on general height categories:

For Females

– Under 5 feet tall: 1,400-1,600 calories
– 5 to 5’4″ tall: 1,500-1,700 calories
– 5’5″ to 5’9″ tall: 1,600-1,900 calories
– Over 5’10” tall: 1,800-2,000+ calories

For Males

– Under 5 feet tall: 1,600-1,800 calories
– 5 to 5’4″ tall: 1,800-2,000 calories
– 5’5″ to 5’9″ tall: 2,000-2,400 calories
– Over 5’10” tall: 2,400-2,800+ calories

As you can see, taller people generally need more calories. For example, a 5’2 female would require around 1,600 calories. But a 5’8 female would need about 1,800 calories.

However, these are just estimates based on height alone. Your age also modifies your calorie needs significantly.

Calorie Needs Based on Age

Your calorie requirements change dramatically throughout different life stages due to shifts in metabolism.

Here are the estimated daily calorie needs for males and females based on general age ranges:

Calorie Needs for Females

– Ages 2-3: 1,000-1,200 calories
– Ages 4-8: 1,200-1,600 calories
– Ages 9-13: 1,600-2,000 calories
– Ages 14-18: 1,800-2,400 calories
– Ages 19-30: 1,800-2,400 calories
– Ages 31-50: 1,800-2,200 calories
– Ages 51+: 1,600-2,200 calories

Calorie Needs for Males

– Ages 2-3: 1,000-1,400 calories
– Ages 4-8: 1,400-1,800 calories
– Ages 9-13: 1,800-2,600 calories
– Ages 14-18: 2,400-3,200 calories
– Ages 19-30: 2,400-3,000 calories
– Ages 31-50: 2,200-3,000 calories
– Ages 51+: 2,000-2,800 calories

Children and teens need more calories to support growth and development. Starting in your 30s, calorie needs begin decreasing due to muscle loss and a slowing metabolism.

Keep in mind these are estimates based on age alone. Your activity levels and other factors also impact your needs.

Adjusting for Activity Level

Your activity level greatly impacts how many calories you burn each day. Very active people need significantly more calories than sedentary people.

Here are some general guidelines for how activity level modifies daily calorie needs:


Little to no exercise: Reduce estimate by 200-300 calories

Moderately Active

Light exercise 1-3 days/week: No modification needed

Very Active

Moderate exercise 6-7 days/week: Add 200-400 calories

Extremely Active

Intense exercise 6-7 days/week: Add 400-800+ calories

For example, a 40 year old moderately active female would need around 2,000 calories. But if she intensely exercises 6 times a week, she may require 2,400 or more calories.

Tracking your diet and weight is the best way to adjust your calories for your activity level. Gradually increase or reduce calories until you find the right amount to support your goals.

Fine Tuning Calorie Intake

While height, age and activity provide a starting point, many other factors fine tune your calorie needs.

Here are some additional considerations when determining your intake:

Current Weight

Heavier people burn more calories each day. Underweight people may need more calories. Adjust your intake based on your current weight.


Due to differences like hormones and muscle mass, men generally need more calories than women of the same height/age.

Health Conditions

Issues like diabetes and thyroid disorders can impact metabolism and calorie needs. Consult your doctor.


Some medications affect appetite or nutrient absorption. These may alter calorie needs.


Pregnant women need about 300 extra calories per day. Breastfeeding women require 500 extra calories.

Muscle Mass

Those with more muscle burn more calories, as muscle is metabolically active tissue.

Stress Level

Chronic stress and elevated cortisol can increase calorie needs. Manage stress for optimal health.


Not getting enough sleep may increase hunger hormones and calorie needs. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.

Fine tune your calorie intake based on your unique health status, lifestyle factors and goals. Track your weight, hunger levels, energy and other indicators to guide adjustments.

Determining Your Calorie Target

Here are some tips for determining your ideal daily calorie intake:

– Use height, age and activity level formulas as a starting point
– Adjust up or down based on your weight, muscle mass, health status and other factors
– Use a calorie tracking app to determine your needs based on your current intake and weight trends over time
– Aim to consume at least 1,200 calories per day for females or 1,500 for males as a minimum
– If trying to lose weight, reduce calories by about 500 per day to start. Adjust as needed.
– If trying to gain muscle, add about 300-500 calories a day and assess muscle growth.
– Focus on your hunger levels, energy, cravings and other indicators to guide calorie adjustments
– Re-evaluate your calorie target every 4-6 weeks as your needs may change

Be patient and consistent with tracking your calorie intake and weight over time. This will provide the data you need to determine the optimal amount for your body.

Sample Calorie Plans

Here are some sample calorie plans for different height, age and activity levels as a guide:

Teen Female Athlete

Age: 15 years old
Height: 5’5″
Activity level: Very active athlete in training

Calorie needs:

– Base needs for height/age: 1,800 calories
– Add extra for very active teen: +400 calories
– Total daily needs: 2,200 calories

Sedentary Middle-Aged Man

Age: 45 years old
Height: 5’10”
Activity level: Desk job, no regular exercise

Calorie needs:

– Base needs for height/age: 2,200 calories
– Reduce for sedentary activity: -300 calories
– Total daily needs: 1,900 calories

Active Senior Woman

Age: 68 years old
Height: 5’2″
Activity level: Light aerobic exercise 5 days/week

Calorie needs:

– Base needs for height/age: 1,600 calories
– No adjustment needed for moderate activity
– Total daily needs: 1,600 calories

Track your own intake and weight over time to determine the right calorie target for your unique situation.

Foods to Support Calorie Intake

What foods you eat to meet your calorie needs also matters. Here are some tips:

– Focus on whole, minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats
– Include a protein source at each meal to support muscle mass and keep you fuller for longer
– Limit added sugar, refined grains and fried foods which provide excess calories without nutrition
– Stay hydrated with water and other unsweetened beverages
– Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables to provide volume and nutrients
– Incorporate heart healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds
– Enjoy treats in moderation by budgeting them into your calorie target
– Prioritize nutrient dense foods to meet vitamin, mineral and antioxidant needs

A calorie calculator provides a starting point, but your food choices have a big impact on your health. Focus on nourishing whole foods within your calorie budget.

Should You Count Calories Long-Term?

Tracking calories can provide useful data to determine your body’s calorie needs at a given time. However, calorie counting long-term can be unrealistic and lead to an unhealthy obsession for some people.

Here are some pros and cons of counting calories in the long run:

Potential Benefits

– Helps determine personalized calorie target
– Increases awareness of calorie intake
– Can be motivating and teach portion control skills
– Provides quantifiable data to inform diet adjustments
– Useful initially for weight loss or muscle gain goals

Potential Drawbacks

– Time consuming and difficult to sustain forever
– Can trigger disordered eating in susceptible people
– Reduces enjoyment of food
– Leads to obsessive behaviors and stress around food
– Doesn’t teach intuitive eating skills

Calorie counting is best used as a time-limited tool. Relying on it long-term is unlikely to be realistic or mentally healthy for most people.

Focus on developing more intuitive skills like listening to hunger/fullness cues, building meal balance, and moderating treats. This creates a healthier relationship with food.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Here are some tips to determine and achieve your ideal calorie intake:

– Use a calculator as a starting point only
– Track intake accurately for 1-2 weeks to determine your needs
– Adjust calories gradually based on hunger, energy and weight changes
– Re-evaluate your needs every few weeks
– Focus on food quality, not just calories
– Avoid drastic restriction
– Practice mindful eating
– Develop intuitive eating habits you can sustain long-term
– Stay active to support calorie balance
– Focus on health, not just weight
– Be consistent and patient – adjusting intake takes time

Determining calorie needs requires trial and error. Stay focused on your overall health and wellbeing, not just reaching a certain number. Develop balanced eating habits you can maintain lifelong.

The Bottom Line

How many calories you should eat each day depends on many factors like your height, age, activity level and goals. While calculators provide starting estimates, your needs are highly individual.

Track your intake and weight over time to determine the right amount of calories to support your health. Focus on developing sustainable, intuitive eating habits rather than counting calories forever. Reaching your personalized calorie target and optimal health requires consistency, patience and self-compassion.

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