How many calories should you be eating a day? This is a question that many people ask themselves, and it has been debated for years. The answer will vary depending on the person’s goals. If you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle, then the answer is simple: you need to eat less or more calories, respectively. However, if your goal is simply to be healthy and maintain average weight, it can get confusing as many factors are involved.
What Is A Calorie?
A calorie, in technical terms, is a measure of energy. When you eat something, your body breaks it down into its component parts: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These are then used to provide energy for different bodily functions. The number of calories that a food contains is determined by how much energy it provides. For example, one gram of protein or carbohydrate contains four calories, while one gram of fat contains nine.
Calculating Calorie Needs
Now that you know what a calorie is, how do you calculate how many you need each day? The Harris-Benedict equation is the most commonly used formula to determine the basal metabolic rate (BMR), or the number of calories your body needs to function at rest. This equation takes into account your sex, weight, and height.
Once you have your BMR, you then need to factor in your activity level. If you are sedentary (little or no exercise), add 20 percent to your BMR. If you are moderately active (exercise one to three times per week), add 30 percent. And if you are very active (exercise more than three times per week), add 40 percent.
Now that you have your BMR and activity level, you can use this information to calculate how many calories you need each day. To do this, simply multiply your BMR by the appropriate number from the table below.
Activity Level | Calorie Needs Per Day
- Sedentary | BMR x 20%
- Moderately active | BMR x 30%
- Very active | BMR x 40%
So, for example, if you are a moderately active woman who is five feet tall and weighs 125 pounds, her calorie needs would be 1650 per day (BMR x 30%). This is the amount of energy she would need to maintain her weight. If she wanted to lose weight, she would need to eat fewer calories per day.
Breakdown Of A Day’s Worth Of Calories
Once you have determined how many calories you need per day, the next step is to break that number down into grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds; all you need is a food scale. If you eat three meals per day, each containing 300 grams of total food, then your diet would look like this:
- Breakfast (300 kcal): 50 g protein, 75 g carbs, 25 g fat
- Lunch (300 kcal): 50 g protein, 75 g carbs, 25 g fat
- Dinner (300 kcal): 50 g protein, 75 g carbs, 25 g fat
So as you can see, it’s not difficult to figure out how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats you are eating in a day. If you want to make sure you’re hitting your daily calorie goals, just multiply the number of grams by the caloric value listed above. For example, if you have a yogurt for breakfast that contains 20g of protein and 100 kcal, then you would add 400 kcal (20×100) to your daily calorie goal.
It is also important to note that these numbers are just guidelines. Everyone’s needs vary based on activity level, weight goals, and other factors. So if you find that you are consistently struggling to hit your calorie goals or maintain your weight, you may need to adjust your numbers up or down.
Some Weight Loss Tips
If you are trying to lose weight, here are a few tips to help you out:
- Try to eat mostly whole foods and avoid processed foods. These tend to be high in calories and unhealthy fats.
- Make sure you are getting enough protein. Protein helps keep you feeling full and prevents cravings later in the day.
- Eat vegetables. They are high in fiber, low in calories, and can fill you up fast.
- Avoid eating large portions.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks like soda and juice. These beverages are high in calories and can quickly add up throughout the day.
- Get moving! Exercise is an essential part of any weight loss plan, and it’s also great for your overall health.
The Bottom Line
If you are trying to lose weight, it’s important to know how many calories your body needs each day. The Harris-Benedict equation is a great place to start when determining this number. You can then break down these calories into grams of protein, carbs, and fats based on your activity level throughout the day. Finally, make sure that you eat mostly whole foods while avoiding processed snacks and drinks to prevent cravings later in the day! Remember to be patient; weight loss doesn’t happen overnight!