Calculating Daily Calorie Needs

Diet and Weight Loss Tutorial

There are two methods of calculating how many calories you burn in a day, or how many calories you need to eat to sustain your current weight:

  1. The quickest and roughest method is based on a general level of activity and can be calculated in one easy step with the BMR & RMR Calculator.
  2. For a more accurate estimate of how many calories you burn in a day, you can calculate the actual activities that you would perform over a 24 hour period with the Activity Calculator.

Note that calories burned calculations reflect the total number of calories burned during the period of time calculated. Therefore when using the Activity Calculator to calculate how many calories you burn in a day, do not add your BMR or RMR to the results. Use one method or the other.

Calculate a full 24 hours' worth of activities using your current weight. If you weigh 180 pounds, your results might look like this:

Totals: 3,130 calories in 24 hr
588 calories in 8 hr
Office Work - general
980 calories in 8 hr
Driving - light vehicle (e.g., car, pick-up)
163 calories in 1 hr
Food - preparing, at home
204 calories in 1 hr
Eating - sitting
122 calories in 1 hr
Taking a Shower
82 calories in 30 min
Cleaning - house or cabin, general
122 calories in 30 min
Shopping - groceries, with cart
94 calories in 30 min
Walking - with dog
122 calories in 30 min
Running - 6 mph
408 calories in 30 min
Dressing and Undressing
82 calories in 30 min
Watching - TV or movie
163 calories in 2 hr

Keep in mind that calories burned calculations are based on your weight. As you lose weight and activity becomes easier, you will burn fewer calories performing the same activities. Therefore as you lose weight, you will need to periodically re-calculate the number of calories you burn in a day.

In Theory

  1. If you use your current weight to calculate your activities and consume the number of calories indicated, your weight will stay the same. If you consume fewer calories than indicated, you will lose weight.
  2. If you use your goal weight to calculate your activities and consume the number of calories indicated, in time your weight will match your goal. But be careful. As explained in What It Takes to Lose It All, it is very important not to try to lose weight too fast. It will backfire.
  3. Because your body burns additional calories digesting food, you should be able to eat a little more than indicated by the calories burned calculations. You will learn more about this in The Thermic Effect of Food.

Remember that the above statements are only theoretical and that the figures are only estimates. Through trial and error you will find what works best for you.

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