How to Figure Out How Many Calories You Should Eat Per Day

You can calculate how many calories you need based on your weight, gender and activity levels.
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Calories provide energy to your body. You gain calories through fats, carbohydrates and proteins in your diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates how many calories an average person needs, based on age and gender. However, recommendations that are more specific depend on activity level and your current weight as well. Most adults need to consume 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day.

Maintain Your Current Weight

    Step 1

    Find your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. This will allow you to figure out a more accurate calorie count than just using your weight alone. You can use an online calculator or use the following formula.

    Step 2

    Multiply your weight in pounds by 4.35 if you are a woman. Multiply your height in inches by 4.7 and your age by 4.7. If you are a man, multiply your weight by 6.23, your height by 12.7 and your age by 6.8.

    Step 3

    Add the weight and height results plus 655 for females or 66 for men. Subtract the age results to get your BMR. For instance, a 130-pound, 35-year-old woman who is 5 foot 6 inches has a BMR of 1,366.2.

    Step 4

    Gauge your activity level. If you get little or no exercise most days, you lead a sedentary lifestyle. Slightly active people do light exercise one to three times a week. If you are moderately active, you exercise moderately three to five times a week. Active people do heavy exercise six to seven times a week.

    Step 5

    Multiply your BMR by 1.2 if you are sedentary to get your total daily calorie count to maintain current weight. Slightly active individuals should multiply their BMR by 1.375, while those who are moderately active should use 1.55 as a multiplier. Multiply your BMR by 1.725 if you are active.

Lose Weight or Add Weight

    Step 1

    Figure out your daily calorie intake based on the formula above. To lose weight or gain weight, you will need to adjust the calories you consume daily. One pound of body weight equals 3,500 calories.

    Step 2

    Eat 500 calories less a day than recommended in the formula in order to lose a pound a week.

    Step 3

    Conversely, eat 500 more calories per day to gain a pound a week. Be sure that you eat healthy; do not get the extra calories from sweets or junk food.


    • Talk your physician or a registered dietitian if you need help determining your specific calorie intake.

    Things You'll Need

    • Calculator

    • Pencil

    • Paper

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