What Are Net Calories?

Tracking net calories can help you manage your weight.
i Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

To gain, maintain or lose weight, you will need to tip the balance scale in your favor. Since the number of calories you eat on a daily basis determines your weight, tracking calories is key to weight management or weight loss. The math is simple -- you will gain weight If you eat more calories than you burn through physical activity and exercise, lose weight if you eat fewer calories than you burn and maintain weight If the number of calories you eat are equal to the calories you burn. This means your activity level, food choices and lifestyle changes will be key in achieving your goal, whatever it may be!


Net calories represent your daily calorie budget. They are the amount of energy that your body needs for all of its physiological processes and basic physical activities, like walking, doing chores and going to work. Net calories exclude the calories you burn during exercise and just amount to your total calorie intake.


You can calculate net calories by subtracting the calories you burn through exercise from the calories you consume through food and beverages in a single day. For example, if you consume 2,000 calories from food and beverages and burn 500 calories from exercise in a single day, your net caloric intake for the day is 1,500 calories. The easiest way to determine your daily net calorie goal is to use an online calculator like myfitnesspal or keeping a food journal.


Setting and tracking a net-calorie objective can help you to achieve your weight-management goals, whether you want to lose, gain or maintain your weight. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you increase your net-calorie goal by 300 to 500 calories per day to gain weight or enlarge muscle mass or decrease your net-calorie goal by 300 to 500 calories per day to lose weight. Eating in a calorie deficit will mean you are eating less calories than being burned. One pound is about equal to 3500 calories, so if you trim 3500 calories from your normal weekly intake, you would lose one pound a week.

This may not be a realistic goal for some individuals who are calorie counting, so consult a doctor or evaluate your normal eating habits to determine what your weekly calorie burn goal is. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you may be required to eat less calories on your weight loss plan than someone who is very active. In order to achieve fat loss and reach or stay at a healthy weight, monitoring your food intake and being aware of your energy expenditure is important.


Tracking calories is a common technique used in weight management, but determining the amount of calories you should intake every day and figuring out the energy your body burns every day may take some time to perfect. Weight management is a complex process that involves making healthier food choices, increasing your physical activity and exercise levels and overcoming personal behavioral barriers. Always consult with your physician before starting a new diet-and-exercise program, and seek advice from health care professionals to determine what management strategies are best for you.


Achieving one’s weight loss goals can be complex and confusing at first, which is why many people hire nutritionists or consult a doctor to get started. If this is not an available choice for you or you cannot afford a registered dietitian, tracking and understanding your total number of calories is just as effective. Always start by taking record of your current weight and maybe choosing to weigh once, twice or three times a week on certain days to see the difference in your process numerically. If you are strength training in addition to being on a calorie diet, or you’re just a visual person, taking weekly progress pictures may be helpful as well.

the nest