How To Calculate Your Caloric Needs

Your caloric needs are the number of calories you need to eat each day to sustain your body at your current activity level. It depends on a few demographic factors, as well as how much exercise you routinely get. Here’s how to calculate your caloric needs:

1. Understand that it’s relative. Your caloric needs are very personal, and may change from day to day depending on your activity level. Plus, there are many other factors that simply can’t be included in the formula. It’s impossible to pinpoint an exact number, but you can be aware of the approximate number of calories you need.
2. Learn how it’s calculated. The formula for determining your caloric needs includes your height, weight, age, sex, and activity level. Around 60 percent of the calories that you need go to basic bodily functions, like breathing. The rest depend on your activity level, including how much exercise you get. This formula will consider both how many calories your body burns when at rest, and how many calories you are burning through exercise.
3. Use the formula to calculate your base number. For women, the formula is 655 + (4.3 times your weight in pounds) + (4.7 times your height in inches) - (4.7 times your age in years). For men, the formula is 66 + (6.3 times your weight in pounds) + (12.9 times your height in inches) - (6.8 times your age in years). This is the approximately number of calories you need if you are sedentary (not getting any exercise). It is how many calories you would burn off with no activity at all.
4. Add in your activity level. If you are fairly sedentary, add 20 percent of your base number. For light activity, add 30 percent. If you exercise most days of the week, add 40 percent. If you are very active, exercising a lot on a daily basis, add 50 percent. For those who are in athletic training or work in hard labor, add 60 percent of your base rate.
5. Understand the results. Your base rate plus your activity level equals the approximate number of calories your body uses each day. If you are trying to lose weight, take in fewer calories than this number. If you are trying to maintain your weight, this is the number of calories you should aim for.

Although determining your caloric needs is not an exact science, this formula will get you pretty close. If you change your activity levels or lose or gain weight, you’ll need to reevaluate your caloric needs. There are also numerous online calculators that use this information to determine your caloric needs, although they each use a slightly different formula, the results should be about the same no matter which of these calculators you use.