How Many Calories Do You Need to Eat Per Day?

Food contains calories. Your body uses these as fuel for weight lifting, walking, reading, … If you don’t eat enough calories, you’ll lack energy. This post will teach you how to determine your daily caloric needs.


The Simple Way.
Use the next formula to calculate how many calories you need to eat per day to maintain your body-weight.

  • Your body-weight in pounds x 18kcal = your daily caloric needs

So if you’re 200lbs, you’ll need 200×18 = 3600kcal/day to maintain your weight. Eat less/more to lose/gain weight. Extremes on both sides can lead to fat gains instead of muscle gains and muscle loss instead of fat loss.


The Cunningham Equation.
The above formula isn’t accurate if you’re very light or big. And it doesn’t take into account activity levels, food choice and body fat. The Cunningham Equation works better since it uses:

  • Lean Body Mass. Increasing your muscle mass increases the amount of calories you burn at rest and thus also your caloric needs.
  • Food Choice. Protein has the highest thermic effect: your body burns more calories digesting proteins than carbs or fat.
  • Activity Levels. You may weigh the same as your friend, but your caloric needs will be higher if you have a physical job and he has a desk job,

Forum member lovestolift has posted a guide to the Cunningham Equation and Rossi has posted a spreadsheet that calculates your daily caloric needs using the Cunningham Equation. Check these out and thank them.


Why Calories Aren’t The Key.
There’s a lot of stress on controlling your calorie intake and portion size, but not enough on food choice. Calories aren’t made equal. Each macro has its qualities.

  • Proteins. Satiate & makes you full longer. Help build & maintain muscle. Improve fat loss: your body burns more calories digesting proteins.
  • Carbs. Promote fat gains: your body stores carbs as fat if your energy stores are full. And they make you hungry again faster.
  • Fats. Satiate & make you full longer. Improve fat loss since your body stops holding fat when you eat healthy fats.
  • Veggies. Fill your stomach but often contain “negative calories”: your body burns more calories digesting them than you get eating them.

That’s why a diet rich in proteins, healthy fats & veggies but lower in carbs will make you feel full longer and less hungry while improving fat loss and muscle gains. Check the 8 nutrition rules for an example of this kind of diet.

For fat loss or maintenance, counting calories is a waste of time. If you eat the right foods, you’ll never have to count calories. Just eat your stomach full every 3 hours with the right foods and you’ll get the results you’re after.

I do, however, recommend counting calories if you want to gain weight. Skinny people often think they eat a lot but don’t. Use myfitnesspal to build awareness and keep track of a consistent caloric intake.

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