October 7, 2021

How Many Calories Should You Eat a Day?

Calories counting can make eating boring and take away the fun from it. It can, however, help us to be more mindful of our daily calorie needs and make better food choices. Self-awareness is the key to your health and wellness.

We enlisted two top nutritionists to help us understand how to calculate daily caloric intake. They will guide you through the calculations and each factor to be considered when calculating how many calories we should eat per day.


  • Kim Bowman MS, CNP is a sports nutritionist who specializes in nutritional science. She is F45 Training’s resident sports nutritionist.
  • Lisa Richards, CNC is a nutritionist who also wrote The Candida Diet. She has expertise in gut health, inflammation and how to create individual nutrition plans.

The History of the Recommended Calorie Count

Calories were first created in the 19th century by French physicists. A Calorie is the amount of heat required to raise a kilogram of water by one degree centigrade. This might be something you learned in chemistry class. A Calorie can also be described as a source of potential energy.

Scientists introduced the concept of calories at the beginning of the 20th century as a way to measure dietary intake. Lulu Hunt Peters (MD) published the widely acclaimed Diet & Health With Key to the Calories in 1918. This book, which was a bestselling bestseller, helped to develop a scientific understanding of calories. Peters developed the concept of counting calories to help you gain or lose weight. Peters popularized the idea that you can lose weight if you consume more calories than you store.

Calorie counting was a popular trend in the 1980s. The methodology for calculating calorie intake was not as sophisticated as it is today. Richards explains that the general system for determining how many calories a healthy person should consume each day was not based on specific characteristics such as gender, age and activity level. The system was more like a baseline than the nuanced ones used today.

Bowman and Richards stress the importance of taking into account individual metrics such as gender, age and height to determine daily calories. Richards says that dietitians will use different equations to calculate these information. This is a sign that a single scale does not make sense for understanding individual needs. It is important to take into account any possible physical conditions, health issues or diagnoses. A person with COPD will burn more calories than someone who has healthy lungs. An amputee, on the other hand, will need less of a specialized calculation.

Further Information

Many nutritionists currently determine daily calories intake using an equation that measures the Basal Metabolic Ratio (BMR), and Total Daily Energy Consumption (TDE) for each individual. Bowman explains that the Mifflin–St Jeor equation is the most commonly used method to calculate daily recommended calorie intake.

She also said that long-term goals and health can help you reach that magic number. Bowman says that the daily calorie needs of an individual who wants to build lean muscle are different from those who have a goal of fat loss or overall weight reduction. Understanding your daily calorie requirements and the breakdown of those calories as macronutrients (carbs/fats, proteins) is crucial for creating structure in one’s daily food habits.

How to Determine Your Recommended Calories Count

There are many apps that can help you determine your recommended calorie count. Bowman suggests to search for a calculator that takes into account gender, age and height as well as weekly activity levels. You can then generate a daily “calorie estimation” that will allow you to plan meals and a healthy eating schedule.

Richards suggests the following equation for calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). She explains that it is a generalization of how many calories you should consume depending on gender and activity. Bowman says that BMR refers to the amount of calories needed for daily functioning at rest.

Adult male: 66 + (6.3% x bodyweight in pounds) + (12.9 inches x height) + (6.8 years) = BMR

Adult female: 655 + [4.3 x weight (in pounds)] + [4.7 x height (in inches) + (4.7x age (in years) = BMR

Multiply your BMR with the appropriate activity factor as follows:

  1. Calorie-Calculation = BMRx1.2 if you are sedentary (no exercise or little).
  2. Calorie-Calculation = 1.375 x 0.25 for those who are not very active (light exercise/sports, 1-3 days/week).
  3. Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports, 3-5 days per week): Calorie-Calculation = RM x 1.55
  4. If you’re very active (hard exercise/sports 6 days per week), Calorie-Calculation = bmr x 1.725
  5. Extra active: Calorie-Calculation = X 1.9

Bowman says that your weekly activity ranges from very light (one to three times per week) and extremely active (six to seven daily). Bowman notes that a higher level of weekly activity requires a greater amount of calories than a low-activity or sedentary lifestyle.

Lifestyle plays a major role in determining how much calories you consume each day. Bowman explains that an athlete who is focusing on nutrition will have a different weekly diet than someone who is training to lose weight.

Other Considerations For Calories

To accurately assess your daily caloric intake, you should also consider lifestyle factors. Bowman notes that lifestyle factors like sleep and hydration play a significant role in reaching your target goals. Although they don’t directly impact one’s daily caloric intake, they can help you to make long-term progress with training.

Richards explains that it is important to keep track of calories by looking at nutrition labels and checking the nutritional content of all whole foods. Add each calorie in every food or drink consumed throughout the day.

Bowman emphasizes the importance to use a macronutrient ratio to break down calories. This will allow you to have a dynamic view of your calorie intake. Nutritionists and dieticians can provide an estimate of an individual’s daily macronutrient ratio (carbs/fats/protein) to help them achieve their goals of weight loss, muscle development or maintaining good health. A person who wants to build lean muscle and reduce fat intake would benefit from high-protein meals that contain little or no processed carbohydrates. She emphasizes that calories should not be equated. She says, “It is important to have a general understanding about your daily calorie requirements and the type of food that will help you achieve your long-term goals.”

Further Information

When determining daily caloric intake, another factor to consider is the gut microbiome. Bowman explains that our nutritional choices can have an impact on our gut microbiome over time and influence how our body responds to certain foods, especially carbohydrates. Bowman explains that each person’s body uses carbohydrates and fats differently. We can become more conscious of how many calories we need each day and be more accountable for eating healthy meals.

Last but not least, counting calories may not be for everyone. Richards says that anyone with a history or disordered eating should not count calories. This can lead to triggering behavior. Bowman says that people with a history or disordered eating habits should be more focused on food quality than a number.

Final Takeaway For Calories

Calorie counting can be understood best as a general estimation and must be compared with other lifestyle factors. Richards says that while the practice is useful, it’s not necessary. She says that as long as you eat a healthy diet and are active, there is no need to worry about calorie counting.