Although determining your calorie needs seems like a daunting task, you can estimate your body’s calorie requirements using just your body weight. If shedding pounds is your goal, use your ideal body weight to estimate your needs. Your activity level is also a good indicator of how many calories you should eat daily for healthy weight management.
If your goal is to drop a few pounds, a reduced-calorie diet is in order. Washington State University suggests overweight and obese women eat 10 calories for each pound of their desirable body weight. Therefore, if your goal weight is 130 pounds, aim for 1,300 calories daily. If your desirable weight is 120 pounds, shoot for 1,200 calories a day to reach that goal. A good place to start is by eliminating sugary drinks, desserts, other sweets, high-fat meats, full-fat dairy foods and refined grains – such as white bread.
If you’re at a healthy weight but don’t work out, you need about 13 calories for each pound of your body weight to maintain your weight, according to Harvard Health Publications. For example, if you’re inactive and weigh 120 pounds, you’d need about 1,560 calories daily to maintain your weight. If you’re sedentary and weigh 130 pounds, aim for about 1,690 calories a day for healthy weight maintenance. Inactive 140-pound women need 1,820 calories daily to maintain their weight.
Boosting your calorie expenditure means you can eat a little more – but still maintain a healthy weight. If you’re moderately active, aim for 15 calories per pound of your body weight daily. However, if you regularly exercise at a strenuous intensity, shoot for 18 calories per pound of your body weight daily to maintain your current weight. For example, a 130-pound woman who is moderately active needs about 1,950 calories daily, but 2,340 calories a day if she is active on a regular basis.
Women athletes who train at high intensities on a regular basis may need extra calories to keep up with the demands of intense physical training. Female athletes require 20 to 23 calories per pound of their body weight daily, reports the University of Missouri Extension. Therefore, a 130-pound athlete often needs 2,600 to 2,990 calories daily to maintain her current body weight. You can also estimate your protein needs using your body weight. The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests active adults need 0.64 to 0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily, which is 83 to 118 grams of protein per day for 130-pound female athletes.
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- University of Washington: Weight Management
- University of Missouri Extension: Female Calorie Needs
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.