Determining your daily calorie need is essential for losing -- or gaining -- weight. You can get out your calculator and use the Harris-Benedict formula to determine your best daily calorie count. You'll need to know your current height and weight, plus you'll have to gauge your daily activity levels.
Or you can do it the easy way and use one of my online calculators:
You'll need to know your height, weight (and how much you'd like to weigh) and activity levels to use my calculators, but you won't have to do the math. Plus I'll tell you how many grams of protein, carbs and fat you need.
What's the Formula?
I use the Harris-Benedict formula to calculate your basal metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you need to be awake, but not much more than that. Then, you adjust that number by your activity level.
First, determine your basal metabolic rate:
Women: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Next, take that number and multiply it by the number that corresponds to your daily activity level:
- Sedentary (little or no exercise) - 1.2
- Lightly active (light exercise/work 1-3 days per week) - 1.375
- Moderately active (moderate exercise/work 3-5 days per week) - 1.55
- Very active (hard exercise/work 6-7 days a week) - 1.725
- Extra active (very hard exercise/work 6-7 days a week) - 1.9
The final number you have is the number of calories you need per day to maintain your current weight. If you want to gain weight, you'll need to consume more calories, or burn fewer calories, and if you want to lose weight, you'll need to eat fewer calories or burn more calories by increasing your physical activity.
Calculating your calorie need is just one step. Fill your daily diet with healthy foods -- mostly plant-based foods because they're lower in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Keep track of the foods you eat in a food diary. Studies show that people who keep food diaries are more likely to lose and maintain their weight. And don't forget about exercise -- burning calories through aerobic exercise helps you drop the extra fat, and resistance training builds muscle.
Lose or Gain, Then Maintain
- How to Follow a Low-Calorie Diet
- What Not to Do on a Low-Calorie Diet
- Watch Portion Sizes When You Eat
- Healthy Ways to Gain Weight
- How to Stick to Your Diet
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "In non-obese individuals, what is the prediction accuracy and maximum overestimation and underestimation errors compared to measured resting metabolic rate when using the Harris-Benedict formula?" Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. Published March 2005.
"Food Intake Patterns." United States Department of Agriculture. Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Accessed May 10, 2011. http://www.mypyramid.gov/downloads/MyPyramid_Food_Intake_Patterns.pdf.