How to Determine Caloric Intake

Snacks tack on a lot of calories.

Snacks tack on a lot of calories.

You're sitting on the couch, munching on chocolate chip cookies, blissfully unaware of what you are actually eating. Had you looked at the label on the back of the cookie package, you'd know that you've eaten 600 calories in one sitting. Ouch. When it comes to weight loss, knowledge is power. Calculate your appropriate caloric intake based on your weight, height, age and activity level, and be sure not to consume excess calories. Monitoring your calorie intake will enable you to see exactly where the calories are coming from and what you can cut out to lose weight.

Determining Calorie Intake

Make note of your height in inches and your weight in pounds. If you haven't weighed yourself in a while, hop on the scale to get an up-to-date reading.

Put your weight in pounds and your height in inches into the Harris-Benedict equation to determine your basal metabolic rate: For females, BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight) + (4.7 x height) - (4.7 x age in years) For males, BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight) + (12.7 x height) - (6.8 x age in years) Basal metabolic rate tells you how many calories you would need to consume to support basic physiological processes if you slept 24 hours a day.

Assess your current activity level. Are you mostly sedentary or extremely active? Multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor. For instance, if you don't exercise, your activity factor is 1.2. If you exercise lightly one to three days per week, your activity factor is 1.375. For moderate exercise three to five days a week, multiply by 1.55. If you exercise every day of the week, multiply by 1.725 and if you have a physically strenuous job to boot, multiply by 1.9. Multiplying BMR times your activity factor will tell you how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.


  • Track your calories to make sure you are taking in the appropriate amount based on your calculation.
  • Read nutrition labels carefully. The Food and Drug Administration requires nutrition information to be printed on all packaged food. The calorie count is listed at the top of the nutrition facts label directly under serving size. If you eat more than one serving, make sure you make note of the extra calories.
  • Keep a food journal. The calories from your latte in the morning and a mindless spoonful of peanut butter in the afternoon really add up. Carry a small notebook in your purse, and write down everything you eat as soon as you put it in your mouth. At the end of the day, tally up all the calories you've consumed. Your daily calorie intake may surprise you.
  • Do your homework before you go out to eat. A lot of chain restaurants provide nutrition information -- including calorie counts -- on their websites. Others will provide menus with nutrition information upon request.

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About the Author

Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.

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