Since each woman has unique characteristics that determine how many calories she needs to eat, a “normal” calorie intake for women doesn’t necessarily exist. In fact, Weight Control Information Network reports that about 64 percent of women in the U.S. are overweight or obese, which means many women may be scarfing down too many calories. If you want to estimate your individualized calorie needs, break out your calculator.
Calorie Requirements by Age
Due to decreases in metabolism that occur with age, older women need fewer daily calories than their younger counterparts to maintain weight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 estimate that women ages 19 to 30 need between 1,800 to 2,400 calories, females ages 31 to 50 require anywhere between 1,800 to 2,200 calories and women older than age 50 need between 1,600 to 2,200 calories each day for healthy weight maintenance. Specific calorie needs depend on a woman’s body weight and activity level.
Women who are sedentary need about 13 calories per pound of body weight every day to maintain a healthy weight, according to Harvard Medical School. For example, a 130-pound woman who has a desk job needs about 1,690 calories each day, while a 140-pound sedentary woman requires about 1,820 calories per day to maintain her weight.
Moderately Active Women
A moderately active woman requires slightly more calories to maintain a healthy weight. For example, Harvard Medical School reports that a woman who weighs 125 to 155 pounds can burn 135 to 167 calories walking for 30 minutes at a pace of 4 miles per hour. Moderately active women need approximately 15 to 16 calories per pound of body weight each day, according to Harvard Medical School and the University of Washington. Therefore, a 130-pound moderately active woman requires 1,950 to 2,080 calories, while a 140-pound moderately active woman needs 2,100 to 2,240 calories each day to maintain her weight.
An active woman may burn quite a few calories exercising regularly, which affects her calorie needs. For example, a woman who weighs 125 to 155 pounds burns about 450 to 558 calories jogging for 45 minutes at a pace of 6 miles per hour. Active women need 18 calories per pound of body weight each day, which is equivalent to 2,340 calories for a 130-pound woman and 2,520 calories per day for a woman who weighs 140 pounds. Women athletes who regularly participate in endurance exercises may require even more calories for weight maintenance.
Calories for Weight Loss
If you’re overweight or obese, you will get yourself to a healthier weight by eating 10 calories per pound of your ideal body weight, according to the University of Washington. For example, if your ideal weight is 125 pounds, you need about 1,250 calories each day to move toward your goal weight.
- Weight Control Information Network: Overweight and Obesity Statistics
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Harvard Medical School: Good Nutrition: Should Guidelines Differ for Men and Women?
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
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.