How Many Calories Do I Need?


Ah the life of a nutrition student. The first part of any nutritional consult includes calculating how many calories does this particular person need to maintain their current weight. Before you can begin discussing what they might need to do to lose or gain weight (yes, some people do need to gain) you first need to know what their current intake should be to maintain weight.

We have a couple of calculations we use to determine what is called basal or resting energy expenditure. This is the amount of caloires that a person needs to take in to simply sit around like a couch potato and still have their brain and vital organs function. Calories increase once you begin to add in any type of activity. The average person doesn’t deal with these equations. Instead they usually look at a chart to figure out how many calories they should have such as this one:

Calorie chart

This gives you are very basic idea of how many calories you need daily based on your age and sex. But it’s not calculated specifically for you which means that you could be over eating or not eating enough. Knowing how many calories that YOU specifically need can help when it comes to active weight loss, the dreaded weight regain or even for those who need to gain a bit of weight. I know it’s hard to believe but after WLS some people actually lose too much weight, become underweight and need to gain.

So now you might be wondering exactly how many calories do I need? Here’s a nice calculator that takes into account your height, current weight, age and activity level: Weight Maintenance Calculator For Women  and here’s the Weight Maintenance Calculator for Men.

When I used the calculator based on my activity level during school (lots of brisk walking to classes and from the distant parking lots) my calorie intake to MAINTAIN my current weight is almost 2,200 calories. Right now I’ve been on school vacation since Christmas. Sure I did some extra indulging over the holidays but my weight has slowly begun to creep up again. My biggest problem is I’m less active now but have still been eating pretty much the same way as I did while at school. Going back to the weight calculator and changing the activity level to something that represents the fact that I’m walking less and sitting around more while catching up on movies that I’ve had saved in Netflix for months now I see that I would need to eat a little over 1,800 calories to maintain my weight. Wow….that’s a 400 calorie difference! Add in a little extra snacking (one of the 5 rules that I often struggle with) and it’s no wonder the scale is slowly creeping up.

Knowing what it takes to maintain your current weight is super helpful. Want to lose weight? Then you’ll need to reduce the amount of calories you are eating. Need to gain weight? You’ll have to increase the number of calories your eating. 500 calories a day is the number that you need to change to either lose or gain a pound in a week. For weight loss you don’t just have to reduce calories. If you increase your activity while slightly decreasing your calories then you’ll lose weight. For example, if I wanted to continue to eat 2,220 calories and still lose weight I would need to do enough activity to burn about 500 calories a day. Or I could decrease my calories by 200 and increase activity to burn 300.

TIP: As your weight goes down and you hit the dreaded plateau you might want to check with the calculator again. A smaller sized body needs fewer calories to run. For example: if I weighed 20 lbs more than I do now it would now take a little over 2,300 calories to maintain the same weight. What if I were 20 lbs lighter than my current weight? It would actually only take 2,000 calories to maintain my weight. If your weight loss has stalled you might discover it’s because your actually eating the correct number of calories to maintain your weight.



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