How Many Calories Do You Really Need A Day?

Everything you do — from sleeping to eating a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream — burns calories. Likewise, every bodily function, like digestion, blood circulation, and breathing, takes effort. The energy, or calories, your body burns just to keep you alive is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

For simplicity's sake: Your BMR expresses many calories you would burn if you did nothing but lie on the floor all day (sans- eating, that is!). But your specific calorie needs take into account other factors, such as activities of daily living (otherwise known as ADLs). See below to calculate your energy needs.

How to Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate

Women: (10 x weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x centimeters) - (5 x age in years) - 161

Men: (10 x weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x centimeters) - (5 x age in years) + 5

That said, take your "number" with a grain of salt. Your BMR will vary based on genetics, muscle mass, age, and gender, so one single number is rarely accurate. Instead, your energy needs will always vary, so staying within a 200 calorie range of your daily burn rate can help you maintain your current weight.


How to Calculate Calories to Lose Weight

While there's a lot of debate on the topic, estimating about one pound of body weight as 3,500 calories can be helpful if you're looking to lose weight. So, if you need 2,000 calories a day to maintain your weight, subtract 500 from that (about 1,500 calories) and you'll have the number you should consume each day to still lose a pound in one week. 

How to Calculate Calories to Gain Weight

Likewise, to gain one pound per week, you'll need to add 500 calories to your diet each day.

How to Improve Your Metabolism

While cardio exercises like running and swimming will raise your heart rate and torch calories, they won't change the rate at which you burn them. Building lean muscle mass from strength training at least three times a week can give you a slight metabolism boost.
Plus, don't forget to eat! Skipping meals, especially for prolonged periods, can make your metabolism sluggish, so be sure to eat a meal or snack every three to four hours.

The Bottom Line

Calorie-counting can often do more harm than good. In fact, I'd argue that calorie-counting is passé these days. Instead, focus on how you feel when you eat. Does a meal make you feel stuffed? Satisfied? Full, but not satisfied? The key is to eat meals with whole foods, filling fiber, and lean protein to keep you satiated and your appetite in check. Sounds more delicious than "dieting" doesn't it?

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