daily calorie intake

How many calories should I eat per day?

Written by: Kelley R. Hill, MSN, RN-BC

In a Nutshell

  • Daily calorie ranges vary from person to person depending on age, weight, height, gender, physical activity status and other factors
  • Insufficient calorie intake can make you weak and sick; likewise, excess calorie intake makes you obese and vulnerable to health issues.
  • Regarding weight loss, diets that focus on healthy foods (not calorie restriction) tend to work best

Calories are energy

Calories are a measure of how much energy is packed in a particular food or drink. The calories we consume helps in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Our daily calorie requirements depend on various factors such as age, gender, height, and the level of physical activity.

Ideal calorie requirement depends on the basal metabolic rate and level of physical exertion. Basal metabolic rate i.e. BMR is energy expenditure while performing fundamental functions of life at rest such as breathing, respiration, digestion etc. Younger, taller, and energetic people have higher BMR, also men have higher BMR than women

- As 70 percent of our total calorie count fuels BMR, it is essential to consume adequate calories to perform all vital function of the body smoothly.

- The remaining 30 percent varies depending on the level of your physical exertion. Calorie requirements for active people are higher as they need more energy.

Estimated daily calorie requirement

Ideal food intake balances both BMR as well as daily physical activity.

The estimated daily calories needed by a healthy individual is mainly governed by the lifestyle (or activity levels). For instance, an adult 5 feet 10-inch male (weighing 154 pounds) or an adult 5 feet 4 inch female (weighing 126 pounds) should follow these recommendations per their activity status.

- Very active: Highly dynamic individuals who spends a lot of time in working out (about 3-4 miles per day at 4 miles/ hr. speed) requires higher calorie intake. For highly dynamic women, the calorie requirement is between 2000 to 2500 calories/day and for highly dynamic men 2500 – 3000 calories per day are generally recommended.

- Moderately active: If your activity level is moderate (about 2-3 miles/ day) the average calorie requirement is 1900 calories per day for women and 2500 calories per day for men.

- Slightly active: The lesser your physical activity level the lower is your calorie requirement. Individuals who walk about 5000 to 8000 steps per day are classified in this group. For slightly active female 1800 calories and for slightly active male 2200 calories are required on daily basis.

- Sedentary: individuals who spend most of their time in sitting are classified in this category. Sedentary males should not consume more than 1800 calories per day, and sedentary women should consume about 1600 calories per day.

Follow a balanced calorie intake

According to healthcare professionals, calorie intake of less than 1600 calories is not recommended unless your height is under 5-feet 3 inch and you are a female. Insufficient calorie intake can make you lose weight (in the short term), compromise your energy levels and productivity, and also lowers your immunity. The weight loss is short-lived as your body adapts through cravings and a slowing of your basal metabolic rate.

On the contrary consuming more than the recommended calorie intake can lead to weight gain and fat deposition that in turn can aggravate your risk of developing serious health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac illness etc.

Nuances/ Safety

It is ideally recommended to speak to a dietitian or healthcare professional to see how much calories you should consume for your age, height, current weight, activity status and other factors.

Strength of Evidence: A
The recommendations made in this article are based of guidelines by Health.Gov. however, individual calorie requirement depends on several confounding factors, which must be considered.

Our Ruling:

The amount of calories you should consume per day varies significantly, depending on several factors. Therefore, we cannot provide specific numbers beyond the ranges listed above. This is because we all have different metabolic rate and and daily activity.

Our Sources:

  1. Dietary Guidelines - 2015-2020
  2. Int'l Journal of Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders: Diets
  3. Calorie restriction and promoting health longevity
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