How Many Calories Do You Need Each Day?

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

There’s an App for this!

Knowing how many calories you need each day will help keep you energized while you are training for your event and doing all the things you need to do each day: work, manage a family, take care our your home or lose weight.  There are some FREE apps that you can use to help to determine how many calories you need each day.

A FREE app, My Fitness Pal, for your smart phone or online at can help to determine how many calories you need each day: www.myfitnesspal.com/tools/bmr-calculator and how many calories you burn when playing soccer or lifting weights: www.myfitnesspal.com/exercise/lookup. Add the calories plus the calories you burned practicing to get how many calories you need on most days.

Once you determine how many calories you need each day, the timing of your food intake is also important. Eating 5 – 6 times per day will help give you bullets of energy but keeping the calories in line with your overall calorie needs will maximize your performance. Never skip breakfast.

Other excellent apps and websites to determine calories are: LOSE IT! (www.loseit.com), SPARK PEOPLE (www.sparkpeople.com).

The Old Fashion Way to Determine Your Calories

To determine how many calories you need each day, you can calculate the calories the OLD FASHION WAY by using the HARRIS BENEDICT EQUATION to determine your resting metabolic rate (RMR) then choosing an activity factor to estimate the total calories per day.

Harris Benedict Equation

MALE:

RMR = 88.362 + [1.889 X HT (in)] + [6.089 X WT (lbs)] – (5.677 X Age)

FEMALE:

RMR = 447.593 + [(1.219 X HT (in)] + [(4.20 X WT (lbs)] – (4.7 X Age)

HT = height in inches   WT = weight in pounds   age = age in years

Activity Levels

Very Light-seating and standing activities, driving, no regular exercise.

Light – child care, walking on a level surface 2.5 – 3 miles per hour, some regular exercise.

Moderate – walking/running 3.5 to 4 mph, cycling, regular exercise 3 to 4 times/week -30 to 40 minutes duration.

Heavy – walking uphill with a load, basketball, soccer, regular exercise 4 times/week 40 minutes or more in duration.

Very Heavy – distance running, hiking with backpack up and down hills, regular exercise 5 times/week for at least 1 hour in duration.

TABLE 1.  Activity Factors. Choose your activity level from the table below. Then do the math.

EXERCISE

FACTOR

Little to no exercise

RMR X 1.2

Light (1 – 3 days per week)

RMR X 1.375

Moderate exercise (3 -5 days/week)

RMR X 1.55

Heavy exercise (6-7 days/week)

RMR X 1.725

Very heavy (twice/day heavy workouts)

RMR X 1.9

Example, 1300 X 1.55 (moderate) = 2015 calories/day

You can also determine how many calories you burned by wearing a heart rate monitor that determines calories burned during exercise. (Not all heart rate monitors calculate calories). Then you can add those calories to your resting metabolic rate calories to get an estimate of active calories burned while exercising.  Example, 1300 X 500 calories = 1800 calories.  So, you could safely eat at least 1800 calories without gaining weight.

Again, it’s just an estimate. Weigh only once a week about the same time.  I suggest weigh after the first void in the morning before drinking anything with as few clothes as possible.

 Using Oxygen Consumption to Calculate your Personal RMR

The BodyGem Resting Metabolic Rate device is the handheld, portable and an effective tool that gives you an accurate RMR measurement result in 10 minutes or less. To perform a measurement, you simply breathe into the indirect calorimeter, which measures their oxygen consumption (VO2), the resulting RMR number is clearly displayed on the device’s LCD screen. It has been validated against the gold standard Douglas Bag, and other commonly used metabolic carts. The test costs anywhere from $75 to $150 per test. For the best results, you should take the test when you are fasted. But you still need to estimate the active calories you burn.

Body Media FIT™ On-Body Wellness Core Armband Monitor

The BodyMedia FIT CORE which is promoted by Biggest Loser is another way to determine how many calories you burn each day. The CORE’s biggest plus is that it track calories burned for 24/7. It cost about $119.  Unlike other fitness trackers, which estimate calories burned using an algorithm of steps and weight, the CORE uses special sensors to track not just your activity but also your body’s reaction to that activity. This makes it much more accurate as a calorie tracker, so you can realistically see how many calories you’re burning. But you have to buy subscription-based Activity Tracker in order to find out how many calories you have burned in the 24 hours.  The CORE Armband does not display any information on the device itself.  That will cost you  $6.95/month or you can opt to purchase a $69 optional display, which syncs with the CORE and lets you see a quick view of progress toward your daily goals. If you want to track your progress, you’ll still need to purchase the Activity Tracker.

What’s the Take Home Message?

I think it’s helpful to know how many calories you need each day so you can manage your health. In today’s world, lifestyle is the major contributor to increasing your risk of many diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.  Lifestyle includes your diet and also your daily activity.

Image from: www.greatist.com

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition, www.DayByDayNutrition.com, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, www.KentuckianaHealthWellness.com. Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for www.LiveStrong.com as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 13 grandchildren.    

 

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