Generally speaking an adult human needs about an average of 2000 calories per day, but this varies from person to person. How many calories you personally should eat depends on a variety of factors such as height, age, gender, and how much physical activity you partake in daily.
To find out how many calories you need per day, there are 3 main factors involved:
1. Base Metabolic Rate (BMR)
The BMR is the bare minimum of calories your body needs to survive. The BMR tells you the number of calories your body needs to carry out the most basic organ functions like breathing and keeping your heart pumping. Believe it or not, your body actually burns about 1500 calories a day even if you just sat there all day doing nothing.
A normal average sedentary person will need about 2000 calories a day. The extra 500 calories or so come from you moving around throughout the day, walking, getting up, going up stairs…etc
Men generally have a higher BMR than women and so that’s why men needs to eat more food than women. But everyone’s BMR is different, and there are many online BMR calculators out there that will calculate your BMR for you, all you have to do is plug in your height, weight, and age.
Here is one I like to use: BMR Calculator
2. Level of Physical Activity
How much sport do you do? Are you sedentary? The more physical activity you do the more calories your body will burn, and so the more calories you’ll need to eat in a day to maintain your current weight.
3. Dietary Induced Thermogenesis
After you eat food, it takes calories to digest it, and this is what’s known as dietary induced thermogenesis. So let’s say you ate a big meal of 1000 calories, it will take your body a lot of energy to digest that food, roughly 10% of it (100 calories) will be used up right away to digest that food. Less energy will be needed to digest lighter foods like fruit and vegetables, and more will be needed for heavier foods like meat and most other animal products.
What About Weight Loss?
Everyone knows the classic formula of weight loss… it’s eating less, and doing more. Why is that? It’s because by eating less and doing more physical activity you will result in what’s known as a calorie deficit.
So let’s say you’re an average joe who uses 2000 calories a day. Now if you eat 2000 calories a day, you won’t gain weight but you won’t lose weight either, you’ll stay the same. If you’re doing physical exercise and burn 500 calories a day, you’ll have a 500 calorie deficit. You’ll lose 1lb for every 3500 in calorie deficit, and the opposite is also true, you’ll gain 1lb for every 3500 above your needs.
So by this knowledge alone you can easily figure out how many calories you’ll need per day to maintain your weight, lose weight, or gain weight. Using that same calculator I provided above, you can also calculate this easily.
Using myself as an example, I’m a 31 year old male, I’m 5’7” tall, and weigh 160lbs. Accordingly to the calculator my BMR is 1639 calaories. If live a sedentary lifestyle I can expect to maintain my currently weight by eating 2000 calories a day. If restrict my calories to 1500 a day, I’ll lose 1lb a week, if I only eat 1000 calories a day then I’ll lose 2lbs a week.
Of course, I don’t recommend anyone eating only 1000 calories a day! But personally I have done calorie restricting in the past for weight loss, it wasn’t fun, but it sure is effective. I was around 160lbs (same as current) when I was in high school, I managed to lose about 30lbs by eating only around 1200 calories a day for 3 months.
So to find out how many calories you need a day really depends on a variety of factors. But there are many online calculators that will help you determine your BMR, and tell you how many calories you need per day to maintain weight, lose weight, and gain weight.
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