How Many Calories Per Day Do You Need?

How many calories a day
How many calories a day

When it comes to calorie counting, there is no right or wrong. It’s all relative. The number of calories you should consume in a day depends on your age, gender, height and build, activity levels, and health goals. It also depends on what stage of life you are in: a growing child would obviously need more calories than his or her father. A 6-feet-tall man in his 20s who is physically active would need more calories than a sedentary 60-year-old woman who is 5 feet 3 inches tall. Pregnant women need more calories than someone down with a fever. Even hormonal conditions (like a thyroid imbalance) and your metabolism need to be factored in to determine how many calories you need per day.

The Average Minimum Caloric Intake Is 1650–1900 Calories

What’s the ideal caloric intake for an individual? According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the average minimum daily caloric requirement is more than 1650 to a minimum of 1900 calories per person per day in developed countries. Though this is the average, it can vary depending on

your sex.

Women Need Up To 2400 Calories Per Day

Since women’s anatomies are slightly different from men (like a smaller heart), both have different caloric requirements. Women in the age bracket of 19 to 25 need 2000 to 2400 calories per day, depending on their activity levels. From ages 26 to 50 the caloric requirement varies from 1800 to 2200 and thereon from 1600 to 2000.

Pregnant Women Need 1800–2400 Calories Daily,  Trimester-Wise

Pregnant women need to consume more calories to support the growing fetus. This, however, does not mean eating twice the food they ate when not carrying a child.

A normal weight woman needs to consume 1800 calories every day in the first trimester, 2200 in the second trimester, and 2400 in the third.1

Do note that the number of calories and food types may vary depending on the height, weight, and health conditions of each woman.

Men Need Up To 3000 Calories Per Day

On an average, males from the age of 21 to 40 need 2400–3000 calories depending

on their activity levels. As we age, our caloric needs go down; so males from ages 41 to 75 need a minimum of 2200 and a maximum of 2600 calories per day. Thereon, it is safe for men to consume 2000–2400 calories per day based on their lifestyle. These figures are based on estimated energy requirements (EER), average height and built.2

Don’t Go Below 1000 Calories Even When On A Diet

More often than not, the reason most people start counting calories is losing weight. And many tend to go on crash diets, cutting out food groups completely. Not only is such kind of yo-yo dieting harmful for your health, it also throws your metabolism out of whack.

There is a certain bare minimum range of calories that the body must be nourished with. Ideally, even a low-calorie diet for women should not go lower than 1200. By following a 1000 to 1200 calorie diet, you can lose weight in a healthy manner.

Even if you are on

a treatment for obesity, very low-calorie diets with fewer than 800 calories is a no-no without doctor’s supervision.3

Measure Your Ideal Intake Using A Calorie Calculator

How do you ensure you get adequate calories every day? A popular formula to figure out your ideal caloric requirement is the Harris-Benedict Equation. It multiplies your basal metabolic rate (your metabolic rate at rest) with a pre-set activity level number (1.2 for sedentary lifestyle; 1.9 for very active lifestyle, etc) to give you the ideal number of calories. Though the formula is said to overestimate activity levels and also proves to differ with weight history and ethnicity, it’s quite easy to do it yourself.4

You can also use the National Institutes of Health’s calorie calculator called body weight

planner. It takes into account your age (above 18), sex (not for pregnant or lactating women), weight, height, activity levels, basal metabolic rate, existing diet, and fitness goals to compute your ideal caloric intake.

If You Want To Lose Weight, Choose The Right Calorie Source

If you want to lose weight, the math is simple: burn more calories than you consume. So to shed 1 pound, you’ll need to burn 3500 calories. Let’s say you want to lose a pound a week. That means cutting 500 calories every day. But calorie cutting and calorie counting are not the only factors in losing weight. Calories often get a bad rap; we starve ourselves and stick to “low cal” foods or eat the “high cal” foods in moderation. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.

It also matters how you’re getting the calories. While you may have figured out a magic number for the calories you can allow yourself every day, you also need to think about the source. Studies suggest that protein has a higher satiety value than carbohydrates or fats. A high-protein diet

is also associated with increased thermogenesis or heat production in the body that also contributes to satiety and increased energy expenditure. Both of these can play a crucial role in losing weight.

So, if your mission is to lose weight, a 400-calorie chicken breast for lunch would do a better job than mashed potato or rice of the same calorie.5

Now that you know the ideal calorie count and how much is too much, it is easy to achieve your fitness goals. Just remember, don’t cut the calorie too low without checking with your doc.