More and more people are starting to read nutrition labels and can even accurately estimate the amount of calories in their favorite foods.
But, do you know how many calories you should eat a day?
If not, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Studies show that nearly 9 out of 10 people have no idea how many calories they require.
And, the answer isn’t always so simple.
How Many Calories Should I Eat?
The amount of calories you need every day really depends on your goals, age, activity levels, gender and so on.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines For Americans has devised a chart that estimates the amount of calories needed to maintain energy balance for various gender and age groups at three different levels of physical activity.
The estimates are rounded to the nearest 200 calories and were determined using the Institute of Medicine equation, described below.
Things of note:
1. These levels are based on Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrients report, 2002, calculated by gender, age, and activity level for reference-sized individuals. “Reference size,” as determined by IOM, is based on median height and weight for ages up to age 18 years of age and median height and weight for that height to give a BMI of 21.5 for adult females and 22.5 for adult males.
2. Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
3. Moderately active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life
4. Active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
Of course these are just estimates and your daily needs will most likely vary depending on your goals.
The Bottom Line
You could ask ten different professionals and get ten different answers to how many calories you should be eating.
But, what it comes down to is your goals!
You can use the estimates in the chart above as a starting point. After a month or so of eating that amount of calories per day are you happy with the results? Has your weight stabilized, but you still want to lose a few pounds? Then check out our guide on how many calories to lose weight you should consume.
Just keep in mind that for optimal health you will want to keep your BMI within a healthy range of 18.5 to 25. If you’re unsure what your BMI is then use this BMI calculator and adjust your calories until your body weight falls into the healthy range.
Seriously Though, Who Wants To Constantly Count Calories?!
Counting calories is a proven way to lose weight, but who has the time or desire to count every calorie they consume for the rest of their lives?
In fact, this is the single biggest complaint of following a calorie controlled diet plan.
Luckily, you don’t have to count every calorie you consume! By simply adopting a few simple healthy habits, like following a meal plan, eating a lean protein at every meal, drinking more water and more you can effectively reduce the amount of calories you consume, without tediously counting each and every one.