Knowing the ideal amount of fat and calories you need each day helps you keep your weight in check. Although fat is an important part of your diet, not all fats are created equal. Some fats can damage your heart, so choose healthier fat options.
Calories for Women
Women generally need fewer calories than men, due to a smaller frame size and smaller percentage of lean muscle mass. Your ideal caloric intake also depends on age and activity level. Generally, a young, active person needs more calories than an older, more sedentary one. For example, women between age 20 and 50 need around 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day. If you have an office job and only get to the gym a couple times a week, you need the lower end of the recommendation. Having a job that forces you to be on your feet all day and then going to cardio kickboxing several times per week means that you probably need closer to 2,400 calories. Women over 50 generally require 1,600 to 2,200 calories. The lower end of the recommendation is for elderly, sedentary women, but you could need the higher end if you get out and walk every morning.
Calories for Men
Men between ages 20 and 50 need about 2,000 to 3,000 calories every day. As with the calorie recommendation for women, if you are sedentary and sit at a desk all day, stick to the lower end of the range. However, if you play racquetball several nights a week and golf on the weekends, you probably need closer to 3,000 calories a day. After age 50, your requirements reduce slightly to 2,000 to 2,800 calories. Even if you don't get to the gym each day, walking the dog every night, mowing the lawn once a week and gardening every Saturday contribute to a high activity level. During your golden years, you may need closer to 2,800 calories from staying active.
Fat recommendations are the same for women and men, since they are based on a percentage of your calories. Between 20 and 35 percent of your total calories should come from fat, recommends the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Calculate your needs by multiplying your calorie recommendation by .20. Divide that number by 9, the amount of calories in 1 gram of fat. For example, if you consume 2,000 calories a day, multiply 2,000 by .20, which is 400 calories. Divide 400 by 9 to get the amount of fat in grams -- 44 grams of fat. This is the lowest amount of fat you should consume for a 2,000-calorie diet. Make the same calculation for the higher end of the range, or 35 percent, to determine the maximum amount of fat you can have each day.
Types of Fat
Even though all fats provide the same amount of calories, they are not all healthful. Saturated and trans fats can negatively affect cholesterol levels, increase blood pressure and elevate your chances of developing heart disease. Because of these adverse effects, limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total calories and trans fats to under 1 percent of your total calories, recommends MayoClinic.com. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this amounts to a maximum of 22 grams of saturated fat and 2 grams of trans fat. Replace these unhealthy fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, also called MUFAs and PUFAs. These good fats, found in nuts, vegetable oils, cold-water fish and avocados, help improve cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy.
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