How To Determine Your Daily Caloric Needs

March 28, 2012

By Jenna Smith

Determining Your Caloric NeedsFood labels usually tell consumers that nutritional information is based upon a 2,000 calorie daily diet. But this calorie amount is too much for some people’s needs and too low for others. The former is often the case for older Canadians, who find themselves needing fewer of those calories allocated towards growth, activity, and physical exercise.

On that note, how many daily calories do you need? It’s an important question to ask. Knowing your daily calorie requirements can help you better plan meals and forgo certain foods. It can ensure that you are conscious of your eating habits and responsive to your individual needs. And, of course, it can make it easy to determine a “Goldilocks” dietary plan – one that isn’t too large or too small, but rather is just right.

So how can you figure out your calorie needs? Here’s a quick primer:

Step 1: Determine Your BMR

This first step helps you figure out how many calories your body needs simply to perform basic functions such as digestion, breathing, and circulation. These needs alone comprise over half of our daily requirements.

To calculate BMR, you can use the following formulas:

For women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )

For men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )

So a 60-year-old man who weighs 160 pounds and is 70 inches tall would use the formula as follows:

BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x 160) + ( 12.7 x 70) – ( 6.8 x 60)

BMR = 1544

Step 2: Determine your activity needs

Much of our remaining calorie intact is allocated towards physical needs. These are important to individually calculate, as a dedicated runner, a hobbled athlete wearing soccer braces, and a sedentary person all have highly divergent requirements.

To account for physical activity, we want to multiply our BMR by a general multiplier:

Multiply BMR by 20% if you are sedentary

Multiply BMR by 30% if you are somewhat active

Multiply BMR by 40% if you are regularly active

Multiply BMR by 50% if you are extremely active

So our man from the example above, assuming that he exercises on a regular basis, would do the following:

Activity = BMR x 40%

Activity = 1544 x 40%

Activity = 618


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Step 3: Determine total calorie needs

In this step you can simply add your BMR number (from step 1) to the activity requirement figure (from step 2). In our example:

Total caloric needs = BMR + Activity

Total caloric needs = 1544 + 618

Total caloric needs = 2162

So the man in our example actually requires slightly more than the conventional 2,000 calories per day. If he wants to lose weight he can consume less than that amount, and if he wants to maintain his figure he can try to hit that number as closely as possible. What are your needs? What number do you want to hit? Determining your caloric requirements is an important first step towards accurately managing your health.

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