How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day?

Although it’s common knowledge that a caloric deficit is the surest way to weight loss, it’s essential to know your basic caloric needs. Each person’s caloric needs vary based on weight, age, gender, and underlying health concerns. For example, caloric intake and nutrient levels may vary for higher blood pressure, obesity, vitamin deficiencies, or specific fitness goals.

Fortunately, there are tools to help you determine how many calories you should eat daily. Keep reading to break down these tools and what factors impact your caloric intake.

Calculating Your Calorie Needs

The Harris-Benedict Equation is the base for most online calorie calculators. These calculators ask for age, gender, height, and weight to calculate baseline calories and your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). 

Calculating BMR is only the first half of the equation. The amount of physical activity (i.e., how much you moved each day) helps determine your intake rate. The Harris-Benedict Equation only accounts for average BMRs, excluding those with slower or faster metabolic rates. The 

Quality Over Quantity

Different factors determine how many calories you need. The most important thing begins with what you eat. When it comes to calories, quality is preferable to quantity. Even for experienced athletes, macros only matter if they are high in nutrients (e.g., protein, fiber, healthy fats). Plus, quality food tastes better.

Instead of fixating on numbers alone, consider the nutritional value of what you eat and how long it takes to metabolize. Higher-quality foods leave you feeling fuller longer – which is especially helpful if your fitness goals include a caloric deficit. So it’s essential to fuel your body even when aiming for weight loss.

The more nutrient-dense foods you consume, the easier it is to stay healthy and cut calories. Digestion time depends on your nutrition and whatever combinations you eat them. For example, bodies burn through carbohydrates fastest, while proteins and fats take more time to digest. As a result, high-fiber foods digest more slowly, leaving the body feeling fuller longer. Fullness curbs cravings and afternoon drowsiness if you’re retraining your eating habits and diet.

Factors Affecting Daily Caloric Intake

The many elements affecting your daily caloric need, age, height, weight, and activity level are not the only ones. So let’s break down how different factors impact how many calories you should eat each day.

Age, Weight, and Height

The three factors are simple; age is simple. First, growing bodies need more food for brain health, muscle tissue, bone density, etc. Our metabolism slows, resulting in a consistent caloric intake. Finally, our BMR varies with increased muscle mass.

Although many rely on body-mass index (BMI) to determine weight goals, this scale may not be the most accurate. For example, calorie calculators and BMI are great tools for deciding ideal weights based on weight and height alone. However, although these tools provide an excellent average, they do not account for bone density and muscle-fat ratio. These are very important for specific, individualized BMR and calorie needs.


Typically, men have faster metabolic rates than women. This also depends on muscle ratios, height, and age. For women, here’s the average daily caloric intake by age:

  • 19-30 years: 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day
  • 31-59 years: 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day
  • Over 60 years: 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day

For men, these numbers are naturally higher. And for men looking for extreme muscle gain, these numbers are even more significant. Here are daily caloric rates for men by age:

  • 19-30 years: 2,400 to 3,000 calories per day
  • 31-59 years: 2,200 to 3,000 calories per day
  • Over 60 years: 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day

Of course, gender only sets standards for average calorie intake if you exercise or live a very active lifestyle.

Activity Level

The range of activity used to measure your BMR varies from sedentary to very active. This is based on the number of times you exercise each week and the intensity of the physical activity. Depending on how busy you are, you may need more calories to maintain muscle.

Fueling Your Body

Caloric intake varies from person to person. As the primary fuel that gets us moving each day, we all need calories. Calories come from nutrient-dense and nutrient-poor foods. So the healthier your food, the further your caloric intake goes. But, regardless of fitness and health goals, every person has a base caloric intake to make sure they fuel their bodies.

The best way to have a fit body is a well-fueled one. It’s more challenging to get fit on fad diets and low-quality calories. Discover other helpful ways to fuel your fitness with our blog.

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