How many calories should you be eating a day?

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I have mentioned in many of my previous blogs the importance of calories. When looking at optimising a diet for either body composition improvement or for general health, there is no more important factor than calorie intake. In order to lose weight you must be consuming fewer calories than you are burning and to gain weight then you must be consuming more calories than you are burning. It makes sense then that when setting up a diet plan, working out how many calories you should be consuming should be a priority. In this article I will be outlining two different plans for working out how many calories you need!

The first method is a very simple and effective method. It will require some effort to ensure you get a high level of accuracy. This particular method works best for people who are consistent with their diet. The first thing to do is to record both your daily food intake as well as weighing yourself every morning. You will do this for four weeks to begin with, taking a weekly average of calorie intake and weight. If you can see your weekly average is variable then it is probably worth using the second method that I will be discussing but provided this number remains relatively consistent throughout the four weeks then it should be fairly simple to work out how many calories you will need to be taking in from then on. If your weight is changing in line with your goals (e.g. you want to be on a conservative weight gain phase and over the four weeks you have gained between 1 or 2 kgs) then you do not need to change your calorie intake. However, if your weight is not changing in the way that you would like then a change needs to be made to your calorie intake. If we take our example of the individual wanting to gain weight, if they are losing weight then it is fairly obvious that this individual needs to increase his or her calorie intake. This process is a continuous one and will most likely take some time to get an accurate figure but once you have this number then you should be set for a very successful diet.

The second method works well for people who have a very variable diet by giving them a rough idea of how many calories they need to be consuming however you will need to then move onto the first method once you have this number. The first thing to workout is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). The calculation for this is as follows:

For imperial measurements:

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

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

For metric:

Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)

Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)


From here you need to use the Harris Benedict Equation to take into account your activity levels. This is very simple and requires you to multiply your BMR by an activity factor. These are as follows:

If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2

If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375

If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55

If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725

If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9


If you are unsure as to where your activity lies then my advice would be: if you are trying to lose weight then pick the smaller number and if you are trying to gain weight then pick the larger number.

Once you have this number you will need to either increase, decrease or keep it the same depending on your goals. If you are going for weight loss then you need to subtract 250-500 calories away from this number depending on how fast you want the weight loss (be careful as faster fat loss comes with higher risks of muscle loss as well as a number of other negatives) and do the opposite if you are looking to gain weight. Once you have this number you need to use the first method to work out if the number is right for you and make adjustments if need it.

One last piece of advice I would give before starting this is to make sure you are consistent and you track all your food. If you want the best results then this is vitally important.

I hope this has helped you to set up a good starting point for your diet and if you would like any assistance with this then please get in touch.


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