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How Much Calorie Do I Need Per Day?

The calories required per day depend on several factors, including metabolism, age, height, lifestyle, degree of physical fitness, and the type and quantity of food you eat. 

The average recommended daily calories for men and women is 2000 and 2, 500/day, respectively.

What are Calories?

Calorie denotes a unit of energy that you derive from the food and drinks you consume and the amount of energy you use to perform various physical activities. 

The more calories a food product has, the more power/energy you can get from consuming it. And when your calorie count exceeds the range of calories your body needs, your body deposits those additional calories as fat.

The calorie count of different food items varies. It means that the three macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats your body needs, do not have the same number of calories. Here is a breakdown of calories:

Calories per gram in macronutrients

  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories/gram
  • Protein: 4 calories/gram
  • Fat: 9 calories/gram

For example, you can get 150 calories by munching on a candy bar or 30 cups of lettuce. The bottom line is to understand that all calories are not the same. It will help you make better dietary choices.

How many calories should you eat on average? 

The answer to this question will vary from person to person, depending on various factors, such as height, weight, age, metabolism, overall health, and physical fitness. The one-size-fits-all approach does not work here. An example will help you understand this. 

If you want to lose weight, you should keep your calorie consumption 500 calories less than your body needs. This practice will help you maintain your current body weight in the long run. The calories you should consume in a day varies.

Women

  • Moderately active women between 26–50 years need around 2,000 calories/day.
  • Active women (who walk around 5 kilometers a day) will likely need 2,200 calories/day.
  • Women in their early 20s need more calories, around 2,200 calories/day or more, to manage their weight. 
  • Women who are more than 50 years old need fewer calories, around 1,800 calories/day.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the above chart might not be suitable for you. Discuss your options with your doctor.
AgeCalorie requirements
2-4 years1000-1400
5-8 years1200-1800
9-13 years1400-2200
14-18 years1800-2400
19-30 years2000-2400
31-59 years1800-2200
60+ years1600-2000
Women Calories Requirement by age

Men

  • Moderately active men between 26–45 years need 2,600 calories/day.
  • Active men (who walk around 5 kilometers a day) need about 2,800 to 3,000 calories/day.
  • Men between 19 to 25 years need approximately 2,800 calories/day.
  • Men between 46–65 years need 2,400 calories/day.
  • Men above the age of 66 will likely need 2,200/day.
AgeCalorie requirements
2-4 years1000-1400
5-8 years1200-1800
9-13 years1400-2200
14-18 years1800-2400
19-30 years2400-3000
31-59 years2200-3000
60+ years2000-2600
Men Calories Requirement by age

Children

  • The calorie requirement of children varies widely. 
  • While an average toddler may need 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day, moderately active teenagers will likely require 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day.

How many calories should I eat a day by age? 

Refer to the below chart to find out how many calories you need to have per day:

SexAge GroupLevel of Activity
ActiveModerately ActiveSedentary
Males19 to 3030002600-28002400-2600
31 to 502800-30002400-26002200-2400
More Than 502400-28002200-24002000-2200
Female19 to 302400200-22001800-2000
31 to 50220020001800
More than 502000-220018001600
calories Required a day by age

Calories Required Per Day: Calorie Intake

Whether you want to gain, lose, or maintain your current body weight, counting calories is crucial. The pointers given below will help you understand your calorie requirements according to your specific needs. 

  • Losing weight: Generally, dietary recommendations state that you need to reduce your total calorie intake by 500 calories per day if you want to lose one pound a week. It means if you need 2,000 calories/day, you should reduce it to 1,500 calories/day to lose 1 pound a week. However, as losing weight is a slow process, it is highly advisable to be patient and work with your dietician to find a suitable diet plan for you.
  • Gaining weight: If you want to gain weight, try not to do it yourself and seek professional help. An expert dietician can chalk out a weight-gain diet plan according to your body’s needs to help you healthily gain weight.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Your daily calorie intake for maintaining a healthy weight depends on various factors. It includes the following:
  • How old are you?
  • How physically active are you?
  • What is your BMI or Body Mass Index (ideally, the BMI for women is 21.5 and men is 22.5)? 

How to reduce calorie intake?

While calorie reduction is known to cause weight loss, it’s important to achieve this without any nutritional deficiencies. To cut down on calories, many people make the mistake of avoiding food altogether, leading to deficiency in vitamins, minerals, and other important micronutrients.

Hence, it’s recommended to switch to nutrient-dense food sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, eggs, etc., and avoid high-caloric food sources with low nutritional value, like soft drinks, chips, biscuits, etc. 

Some of the most effective ways to reduce your calorie intake include:

  • Avoid sugary beverages and fruit juices
  • Include more protein in your diet
  • Keep yourself adequately hydrated
  • Exercise regularly
  • Decrease carbohydrate (refined) intake

Calories Required Per Day: Basic Weight Loss Tips

Limiting calories is an effective way to lose weight. However, there are other easy methods through which everyone can lose weight in a sustainable, long-term way:

  • Stick to natural food sources – Fruits, vegetables, eggs, organic meat are all sources of essential nutrients, which aids in losing weight. 
  • Prepare meals in advance – It’s hard to control a person’s food intake, especially if they are hungry and starving. Hence, it’s a good practice to plan and prepare your meals in advance to limit binge eating. 
  • Mindful eating – Limiting distractions and focusing on what you eat is known to reduce hunger cravings, and helps regulate a healthy level of appetite. 
  • Rely on social support – Losing weight with a family member or a friend is an effective way to ensure you stick to your weight loss plan. 

What are the potential downsides of counting calories?

Consistently counting calories can be challenging, as people can experience hunger pangs, mood swings and irritability if they do not meet their daily calorie requirement. It’s also important to understand that the body’s caloric requirement changes day-to-day. Hence, keeping a close watch of calorie intake can be detrimental to a person’s overall well-being.

Hence, it’s recommended to stick to clean, organic sources of nutrition, and avoid highly-processed, high-sugar food sources. Exercising and increasing your overall physical activities can also help in burning calories and promote a healthy appetite towards food. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I calculate my daily calorie needs? 

The number of calories you need per day depends on your age, height, weight, physical fitness, and health condition. You can use a calorie calculator online to track the numbers. 

Is it safe to only eat 1200 calories a day?

A 1200 calories diet is a restrictive diet in which you need to keep your daily calorie intake to 1,200. In some cases, this figure can be too low and is likely to cause malnourishment. Therefore, make sure to seek professional help before getting started.

How many calories should you eat for breakfast?

There is no fixed number of calories that’s required to be consumed for breakfast, and this number depends from one person to another. Depending on the individual’s caloric requirement for the day, some people may prefer to consume around one-third or one-fourth of their daily calories for breakfast. 

How many calories should you eat for lunch or dinner?

This can change from person to person, but as a general rule, it’s always good to keep dinners light, and also avoid late night meals. 

How many calories should you eat to gain muscle?

To gain muscle, a person should be on a calorie surplus diet, and increase their intake of protein. This needs to be combined with regular physical workouts as well.

References:

https://www.apollohospitals.com/patient-care/health-and-lifestyle/understanding-investigations/total-protein-test
https://delhi.apollohospitals.com/dietetics-and-clinical-nutrition-overview/
https://www.apollohospitals.com/events/what-one-needs-to-know-about-diabetes-and-diet-plan/
https://www.askapollo.com/physical-appointment/dietitian-nutritionists

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Verified By Dr Manoj Kishor Chhotray
MD (Medicine), Senior Consultant - General Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Bhubaneshwar
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