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Best ways to calculate your calorie intake

Research by the Office of National Statistics data shows that a third of UK adults “underestimate calorie intake“. The analysis shows that British men eat more than 3,000 calories per day although they claim to eat 2,000. Women on the other hand claim to eat about 1,500 yet their daily calorie count is nearly 2,500. 

Calorie allowances vary from men to women. The recommended daily calorie intake for men is 2,500. Women’s recommended daily calorie allowance is 2,000. So there is a difference of 500 calories between men and women. 

Considering the underestimates in calorie intake following self-reporting data, it is evident that most people do not know the best ways to calculate their calories. 

If you are not sure how to calculate your calories, or if you want to get better tips to ensure near accuracy of your daily caloric count, follow through with this article to the end. It does not matter whether you are counting your daily calories to lose, maintain, or gain weight. All that is important is for you to know how to go about it in the best ways possible. 

How do I calculate my calories?

You must be aware of the specific amount of calories per day for men and women. Men need 250o calories per day while women need 2,000 calories per day. But how exactly should you calculate your calories? 

You can calculate your calories using the basal metabolic rate (BMR), your physical activity, and the thermic effect of food. 

Basal metabolic rate

The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of energy (in calories) required to keep your body functioning at rest, also known as your metabolism.

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is affected by factors such as anxiety, stress, illnesses, and your physical activity level. 

Basal metabolic rate also depends on one’s body mass, weight and height, and age. Gender is also another factor that affects BMR.

The basal metabolic rate can be calculated by several formulas. But the three main ones are the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation, Katch-McArdle Formula, and the Harris-Benedict Equation. 

Mifflin-St Jeor Equation

In men, BMR = 10W + 6.25H-5A +5

In women, BMR = 10W + 6.25H- 5A- 161

Katch-McArdle Formula

BMR = 370 + 21.6(1 – F)W

In the two formulas: 

W is body weight in kg

H is body height in cm

A is age

F is body fat in percentage

Harris-Benedict Equation

This is the most accurate formula for estimating your basal metabolic rate. 

In men: BMR = 66 + (6.3 x body weight in lbs.) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years) 

In women: BMR= 655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Now that you can find your BMR, how do you calculate your total daily calorie needs?

Your daily calorie needs to depend on your activity level otherwise also called activity modifier.

The table below shows the specific values for each activity. 


The acceptable activities as per the table are sedentary (little to no exercise), light active (light exercise/ sport that is 1-3 days/week), moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week), very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/week), and extra active (very hard exercise/ sports & physical job or 2x training) 

Multiply your BMR by your activity modifier. For example, if you are moderately active, multiply your BMR, say 1650 by 1.55 to get 2557.5 (the total number of calories you need per day to maintain your current weight. 

What is the best calorie calculator?

You could be wondering “I am not a math person, can’t I use a calculator?”. More still, the Harris-Benedict formula for calculating the BMR could be scaring you. Don’t worry because you definitely can use a calorie calculator to get how many calories you need daily. 

There are many available calorie calculators but here are the best options right now:

  • MyFitnessPal
  • Lose It! App
  • FatSecret
  • SparkPeople
  • Cronometer

How do I calculate how many calories I need to lose weight?

You now know how to get the daily number of calories using the BMR and activity modifiers that your body needs to maintain your weight. But well, you could be even more interested in knowing the number of calories you need to lose weight. 

You can calculate how many calories you need to lose weight once you know your daily caloric needs. 

For example, if you are moderately active and your daily calorie need is 2557.5, you can get the calorie deficit and establish how many calories you need to maintain daily to lose weight. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. If you were to lose one pound per week to cut your body weight, you will need to divide 3,500 calories by 7 days to get 500 calories per day. Thus, you will need to lose 500 calories per day to gradually lose weight.

You can choose to lose weight either through your diet or by exercising. 

Weight loss by diet would require you to cut down your daily caloric intake by 500 calories. Using 2557.5 as your daily calorie needs, you, therefore, would need to maintain it at 2557.5-500 which is 2057.5 calories. A good way of attaining this is by eating foods that are nutritious but contain fewer calories. 

If you want to lose weight using physical activity, then you will have to burn a total of 3,500 calories per week which still translates to burning 500 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight. 

Be cautious not to reduce your daily calorie intake by more than 1,000 below your required calorie levels. If this happens, you risk losing your physical energy, getting hungry very often, losing your muscle mass, and your mental energy can suffer. For example, losing more than 1,000 calories will lower your physical activity level because you will not have enough energy to exercise. 

What should my daily calorie intake be?

Your current weight could be something you are proud of. It could also be that you want to lose weight like yesterday. Perhaps your diet has lately been that of eating foods with fewer calories that have otherwise made you lose weight- and now want to gain weight to have a body shape or image you can be proud of. 

The number of calories your body needs is 2,000 calories if you are female and 2,500 calories if you are male. But these recommendations differ relative to how active you are. They also differ based on the kind of health conditions you have.

For example, people with type 2 diabetes are recommended to have between 1,500 to 1,800 calorie diets per day to avoid unnecessary weight gain. This calorie count is also useful to those with type 2 diabetes because it promotes weight loss while helping them in maintaining a healthy weight. It is worth noting that the number of calories still vary depending on age, physical activity level, current weight, and body shape or style. 

Thus, your healthy daily number of calories is dependent on your current health status, physical activity level, age, among other important factors. 

Final Thoughts

Whatever your goals of calculating your calorie intake are, you need to do it right. The BMR and activity level identifies can be used to compute your daily calorie needs. The BMR can be computed using the Harris-Benedict formula. Multiply the BMR by the value of your activity level to get your daily calorie needs. 

Remember that different foods have different amounts of calories and therefore affect your weight outcomes differently. Make a habit of reading food labels to see the number of calories so that you make sound dietary decisions per your weight plans. 

To lose weight, purpose to cut 1 pound per week which is equal to 3,500 calories. In a day, whatever method you intend to use whether its diet or exercise, purpose to have a calorie deficit of 500 calories. 

There are several online calorie calculators you can use in losing weight or even maintaining a healthy weight. 

Step out of your comfort zone and know your daily calorie count. Eat healthy foods, stay active, and monitor your progress. 

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