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How Many Calories Should You Eat in a Day?

Yash Gode Nov 18, 2018
One big question haunting diet and weight conscious people all over the world is the number of calories they are supposed to consume in a day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This post makes a serious effort to clear all your doubts in this regard.

Did You Know?

Digestion of natural unprocessed food burns twice the amount of calories that are required to digest processed food.
Some of you might be confused regarding the consumption of calories. You might say, "we don't eat calories, we eat food!". Well, when we talk about calories, it refers to the energy we derive from food. The food that we consume, undergoes digestion, during which it is metabolized and broken down to yield energy.
This energy may either be consumed by the body to carry out various functions, or it may be stored in the body in the form of glycogen. This energy is measured in terms of calories, and refers to the amount of energy produced by digesting a unit mass of a food item.

Calories to Consume in a Day

The best answer to the question is that it's relative! But, if you insist on numbers, the average requirement for a woman is to consume 2000 calories a day, and that for a man, it's 2400 calories a day. But, this is completely based on the law of averages, and for those on the extremes, this data is completely incorrect.
It actually depends on quite a few factors. Here, the possible purposes also play a role in determining your daily calorie intake, and these purposes might be to lose weight, gain weight, or convalescence.
In such a case, factors like, 'how active are you physically?', 'what is the percentage of fat in your body?', and 'what is your current weight?', come into picture. It is also possible that you may wish to be physically fit and maintain your weight, instead of gaining or losing weight.
In these scenarios, one must compare one's caloric intake and caloric usage. If the intake is more than the usage it leads to caloric surplus, which causes a gain in weight. If the usage is more than the intake, it causes a caloric deficit, which causes a loss in weight. However, if the intake and usage is equal, then the weight of the body is maintained.

Steps to Determine Calorie Consumption

Step 1

First of all, you need to know how many calories you must consume to support your body weight. For that you need to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is defined as the number of calories the body uses daily to perform basic, life-sustaining functions like keeping the heart beating, breathing, maintaining kidney and liver function, etc.
One of the ways of calculating BMR is by the Harris-Benedict formula as given here:

For Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x wt in kg) + (5 x ht in cm) - (6.8 x age in years)

For Women: BMR = 65 + (9.6 x wt in kg) + (1.8 x ht in cm) - (4.7 x age in years)

Step 2

Next, you need to calculate the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). To calculate TDEE, multiply the BMR by a factor that corresponds to the level of activity you are involved in everyday. The following information gives the Amount of Exercises and their corresponding TDEE.
Here we shows the amount of exercise and the TDEE.
  • Very less or no exercise at all, mostly desk job = 1.2 x BMR
  • Somewhat active, exercise 1-3 times per week = 1.375 x BMR
  • Moderately active, exercise 3-5 Times Per Week = 1.55 x BMR
  • Heavy exercise, sports 6-7 times per week = 1.725 x BMR
  • Very heavy exercise, physical job, training twice a day = 1.9 x BMR
Now, for example if you come in the first category and your BMR is 2000, then the TDEE for you would be 2,400 calories per day. This means that you burn a total of 2,400 calories in a day of normal routine.

Step 3

Lose weight, either by reducing the daily intake or by increasing the TDEE, or using a combination of the both. That is, by marginally dropping food intake and gradually increasing fat burning exercises. Try to increase the physical activity and maintaining food intake is a highly advisable option, rather than dropping the food intake or choosing starvation.
Another option is to consume negative calorie foods. The body spends more energy on digestion, and the metabolism process of these foods, as compared to the energy generated as a byproduct of the process itself. In other words, it is an endothermic process.

Step 4

If one wishes to gain weight, calorie surplus can be maintained by, either increasing the intake, or reducing the expenditure (i.e. by decreasing TDEE). As mentioned in step 3, one can also choose a combination of the two options, which would involve doing very light, non-strenuous physical activities and consuming high-calorie or empty-calorie foods.
Empty calorie foods are those that are composed of fats and sugars, and which provide only energy nut no nutritional value. Examples of such foods include cakes, cookies, candy, butter, beer, alcohol, aerated beverages, etc.

Step 5

If you're happy with your current fitness levels and want to maintain them, then you should maintain an equilibrium between the intake and calorie expenditure. For example, if your TDEE is 2,400 calories, then without maintaining a surplus or a deficit, consume 2,400 calories per day, to sustain your current status.
We hope this information has proved useful in answering any and all your queries. The concept of BMR and TDEE should be very helpful in helping you manage your calorie intake in order to achieve your goals.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.