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How To Calculate Daily Calories

how to calculate daily calories

Every day, our bodies perform an intricate ballet of chemical reactions to maintain life, and at the heart of this dance is energy. Calories, the units we use to measure this energy, fuel everything we do, from the mundane act of breathing to the exhilarating rush of running a marathon. To maintain optimal health and manage weight, it’s essential to understand how to calculate daily calories needs. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Tips on How to Calculate Daily Calories

1. Understand Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your BMR represents the number of calories your body needs to maintain its current weight while at rest. It accounts for essential functions like breathing, circulation, and cell production.

2. Calculate BMR

Several formulas exist to calculate BMR. The most common are the Harris-Benedict and Mifflin-St Jeor equations.


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)

Mifflin-St Jeor: calculate daily calories

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

Choose one of the equations and plug in your details. Remember to convert your weight and height into the correct units first.

3. Factor in Physical Activity

Your BMR represents the energy needed at rest. To get a complete picture, you must account for calories burned during daily activities and exercises. This is done by multiplying your BMR by the Physical Activity Level (PAL) that best represents your lifestyle:

  • Sedentary (little to no exercise): BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
  • Extra active (very hard exercise/sports & a physical job): BMR x 1.9

4. Consider Your Goal: Calculate Daily Calories

Once you know the calories needed to maintain your current weight, adjust the number based on your goals:

  • Weight maintenance: No adjustments needed. Stick to your total daily calorie need.
  • Weight loss: Subtract 250-500 calories from your daily total for a weekly loss of 0.5-1 pound.
  • Weight gain: Add 250-500 calories to your daily total for a weekly gain of 0.5-1 pound.

5. Keep Track of Macronutrients

While total calorie intake is crucial, the source of those calories matters, too. Protein, fats, and carbohydrates (the three primary macronutrients) have different calorie values per gram:

  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
  • Fats: 9 calories per gram

A balanced diet often includes 10-35% protein, 45-65% carbohydrates, and 20-35% fat. Adjust within these ranges based on individual needs and goals.

6. Reassess Regularly: Calculate Daily Calories

Your body and activity levels change over time. As you age, lose weight, gain muscle, or modify your activity levels, your caloric needs change too. Periodically reassessing and recalculating will ensure that you always have an accurate picture of your calorie needs.

7. Use Technology

Several mobile apps and online tools can automatically calculate daily calories and track daily calorie needs and consumption, making the process easier. Popular options include MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, and Cronometer.

8. Listen to Your Body

Numbers are a useful guide, but they aren’t everything. Factors like hormones, sleep, stress, and metabolic differences can influence your true calorie needs. Pay attention to hunger cues, energy levels, and how you feel overall.

9. Factor in Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) Calculate Daily Calories

Every time you eat, your body expends energy to digest, absorb, and store the nutrients from your food. This is known as the Thermic Effect of Food. On average, TEF accounts for about 10% of your total daily energy expenditure. While this might seem minor, it’s essential to understand the impact different macronutrients have on TEF:

  • Protein: 20-30% of protein calories are burned during digestion.
  • Carbohydrates: 5-10% of carbohydrate calories are burned.
  • Fats: 0-3% of fat calories are burned.

For those looking to lose weight, increasing protein intake can provide a slight metabolic advantage due to its higher TEF.

10. The Role of Micronutrients

While macronutrients contribute to energy, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) play a critical role in energy production and expenditure. For instance, deficiencies in iron, iodine, or vitamin D can impact your metabolism. Ensure your calorie sources are rich in essential vitamins and minerals to support overall health and optimal metabolic function.

11. Adaptation and Plateaus: Calculate Daily Calories

The body is an adaptive organism. When you drastically reduce calorie intake, your body may reduce its metabolic rate to conserve energy. This adaptation can lead to weight loss plateaus. If you find that you’re no longer losing weight despite a consistent calorie deficit, consider recalculating your needs, revisiting your activity levels, or cycling calories (eating more on some days and less on others).

12. Psychological and Social Factors

Our relationship with food isn’t solely physiological. Cultural, social, and emotional factors play a role in our eating habits. Social events, peer pressure, and emotional eating can lead to consuming more calories than necessary. Being mindful of these factors and planning for them can make managing your caloric intake more straightforward.

13. Importance of Hydration: Calculate Daily Calories

Water doesn’t contain calories, but it plays a significant role in metabolism and energy balance. Staying hydrated can aid digestion, promote fullness, and even increase calorie burning slightly. When considering your dietary needs, don’t forget the essential role of water.

14. Customizing Caloric Intake

Generic formulas provide a baseline, but everyone’s needs are unique. Factors like muscle mass, genetic variations, and health conditions can influence how many calories you require. It’s beneficial to consult with nutritionists or dietitians who can offer a personalized approach.

15. Long-Term Perspective

While it’s useful to calculate daily calories needs, it’s also essential to maintain a long-term perspective. Daily fluctuations in weight and calorie intake are normal. Instead of focusing solely on daily figures, look at weekly or monthly averages. This perspective reduces the stress of daily tracking and provides a more accurate representation of trends and progress.


Understanding how to calculate your daily calories requirements is a blend of science, self-awareness, and adaptability. It’s not just about numbers but understanding the various internal and external factors influencing your energy needs. With this comprehensive approach, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions about your diet, leading to a healthier and more balanced life.

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    Men’s Fit Club was started with the goal of empowering men to get the most out of their lives. This meant going beyond exercise and diet tips to really address the broad range of issues that men face on a daily basis – topics like recreation, finding love, sexual health and even sound fashion advice.