We hear about calories all the time.
But what is a calorie really, and how much of them do we actually need?
Calories are a way of keeping track of your body’s energy budget, and we need to create a healthy balance by put in about as much energy as we lose.
Here we’ll dig deep into the question: how many calories should I eat per day? And you’ll know exactly how many calories is suitable for your body, whether you want to maintain a healthy weight, gain weight, or lose weight.
What are Calories?
A calorie is a unit of measurement used to measure energy. A calorie is a measure of how much energy any food or drink contains.
For example, when you hear a food or drink contains 100 calories, it basically describes how much energy your body will get by eating or drinking it.
If we consistently put more energy into our bodies than we burn, the excesses will gradually be stored as fat in our cells, and we’ll gain weight. But if we burn off more energy than we replenish, we’ll lose weight.
So we have to measure the energy we consume and burn, and we do so with a unit called the Calorie.
How Many Calories Should I Eat per Day?
This question’s answer depends on several factors, including height, weight, age, physical activity level, and metabolism, among others.
As a general recommendation, the average daily calorie intake is 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 calories for women.
To know exactly how many calories are healthy and suitable for you, calculate your BMI (body mass index). BMI helps to find out whether you are underweight, overweight, obese, or within range.
You can calculate your BMI here, put your height, weight, age, and gender and see which category you fall in — underweight, normal, or overweight.
If you’re underweight, follow the below weight gaining section to determine how many calories you should eat to reach your healthy weight. Or you can check out our detailed guide to put on some healthy muscle and weight in a practical timeframe.
If you’re falling in the overweight category, you need to lose some fat to get back to your suitable weight, which means you have to consume fewer calories than you eat. Follow the below section to know your correct calorie number to consume for healthily losing fat.
But when your BMI is normal means you’re in the healthy weight category. All you need to do is maintain your weight scientifically and healthily.
So, how many calories should you eat per day? Here is your plan:
To Maintain a Healthy Weight
Okay, I hope you’ve calculated your BMI, and you’re in the normal weight category. And now, to maintain your weight, first, calculate your BMR.
There are two formula used to calculate BMR [kcal/day] for men and women, respectively:
- BMR for Men:
- Metric: 66.5 + (13.75 × weight in kg) + (5.003 × height in cm) – (6.755 × age in years)
- Imperial: 66 + (6.2 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) – (6.76 × age in years)
- BMR for Women:
- Metric: 655 + (9.563 × weight in kg) + (1.850 × height in cm) – (4.676 × age in years)
- Imperial: 655 + (4.35 × weight in pounds) + (4.7 × height in inches) – (4.7 × age in years)
Once you’ve calculated your BMR, put it into the Harris-Benedict Formula, which calculates your total daily required calories to maintain your current weight. As follows:
- Little to no exercise: BMR x 1.2 = Total Calorie Need
- Light exercise (1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375 = Total Calorie Need
- Moderate exercise (3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55 = Total Calorie Need
- Very active (6-7 days/week): BMR x 1.725 = Total Calorie Need
- Extra active (very active & physical job): BMR x 1.9 = Total Calorie Need
Example: Let’s say your BMR is 1500 calories, and you working out 3-5 days per week means you need (1500 x 1.55) = 2,325 calories per day to maintain your current bodyweight.
To Gain Weight
After calculating your body mass index (BMI), if it’s less than 18.5 means, you’re underweight, and you need to gain some healthy weight, and you need to consume more calories than you use each day.
I hope you’ve read the “maintaining the healthy weight” section above and calculated your BMR. If not, calculate your BMR and multiply it by your activity level by following the above section.
Okay, let’s say you need 2,500 calories to maintain your current bodyweight. To gain a healthy weight, you need to consume 500 calories above your maintenance calories and gain 1 pound (0.45 kg) of body weight in a week.
Related: How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?
Remember, you need to eat more calories when you’re gaining phase and make sure the calories should come from healthy, nutritious foods.
The best way to do it is to consume the proper ratio of macros for muscle gain. Your macro ratio should be 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% of fat from your total daily calories.
When you workout 3-5 days per week and consume 500 extra calories in the 50, 30, and 20 percent macros ratio, you’ll not only gain weight, but its 90%+ weight will be quality muscle mass.
To build muscle scientifically and healthily, I highly recommend you to download our FREE muscle building plan, which includes some critical steps, a proper workout, and a diet plan.
To Lose Weight
After calculating your BMI, if it’s 25 or above means you’re overweight. It would be best to consume fewer calories than your body use each day to lose weight (which is fat, basically).
Now calculate your BMR and multiply with your activity level by following the ‘maintaining the healthy weight section’ above.
When we’re trying to lose weight, the general rule of thumb is to reduce 500 calories from your required daily calories (maintenance calories). This will help to lose around 1 pound (0.45 kg) of weight in a week.
For example, your BMR (including activity level) is 2000 calories to maintain your current body weight. To lose weight, you need to consume 500 fewer calories, totaling 1,500 calories, for losing about 1 pound (0.45 kg) of body weight in a week.
Crucial Things You Should Know Before Calories
When we’re talking about calories, you should know that it depends on many factors, including height, weight, age, metabolism, and activity level.
For example, women need around 1,800 or fewer calories, and for men, it’s probably around 2,200 or fewer calories to lose weight.
But here’s the thing you need to know — if your diet 2000 calories of sugar, you’ll gain weight (not healthy). On the other hand, if your diet is 2,000 calories of carbs, protein, and fat, you’ll probably lose a little bit of weight or become healthier.
So, it just depends on your macros. Here I’m going to share the principles you need to follow to become healthier and make your calorie calculation right. Let’s dive in!
1. Eat Real Foods
The first thing you need to know and do is you should eat natural foods. No matter your macros or calories, all you need to do is eat whole natural foods.
Foods like apples, blueberries, bananas, kale, broccoli, kale, salmon, beef, tuna, walnuts, almonds, and lots of other healthy foods you should include in your diet to become healthier.
2. Eat Balanced Diet
You need to be aware that getting a balanced diet consistently means your meal should contain some carbs, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
But if you’re following a keto or any challenge program, it’s going to be a little different for the time being. But for most people, the macro ratio maybe 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% of fats or something like that.
So, it would be best if you ate a balanced diet with natural foods and you’ll get really healthy.
3. Keep Your Portion in Mind
Let’s say you have a plate, have your proteins, have your vegetables or have your fats or carbohydrates, whatever it is, have it as a typical healthy plate.
Don’t try to make it complex by adding some cookies, chips, or unhealthy snack options to make your belly full. So pick the healthy foods and make a balanced plate with all the macros, vitamins, and minerals and enjoy it.
4. Consume Nutrient-Dense Foods
The fourth thing I would recommend you is to focus on consuming more nutrient-dense foods. Eat lots of vegetables, green salad, fruits, or something like that high in vitamins, minerals, and a healthy amount of macros.
Pro Tip: Generally speaking, the key to getting healthy is eating lots of vegetables and salad. Include some fruits in your breakfast like blueberries, blackberry, apple, banana which are nutrient-dense fruits that don’t have empty calories.
5. Eat Slowly
So many times, we’re just rushing, rushing, and rushing, and we ended up by two to three times more calories at a time which is not healthy actually.
So when eating, make sure you’re just relaxed and chewing slowly and adequately. That helps to improve your digestion and overall health in the long run.
6. Don’t Eat Fast-Food
The roughest thing you can do to your body is by overeating fast-food. Fast-foods are full of empty calories, full of hydrogenated oils, and lots of unhealthy ingredients. That’s what you’re getting when you’re eating out at these fast-food restaurants.
Or you’re going to get your coffee in the morning, you’re adding whipped cream, sugar, and all that sudden stuff, and when you’re looking into calories, it has turned into a 1000+ calorie shake. That’s how all the things are gone wrong.
So when you’re going into any coffee shop or fast-food restaurant, you should be really conscious there, and a little bit of organic, clean coffee or green tea can be significant for so many people.
It would be best to consume specific calories a day according to your body type, although it also depends on your goal, whether it is maintaining, gaining, or losing weight.
If you’re not interested in counting calories, I recommend you to eat three meals a day (including one to two snacks) with natural foods on those meals. And you’re well on your way to better health.
If you’ve any questions regarding how many calories should I eat per day? Feel free to ask in the comment section below!