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The Calorie Question | Diets Deep Dark Secret

One of the most frequent questions I get from my clients is "How many calories should I be eating a day" in order to:

  1. Stay at my current weight
  2. Lose weight
  3. Gain weight (yes...these people do exist surprisingly)

First, lets talk about roughly how many calories are required a day for different activity levels for both males and females.  First, we determine the activity level which is either:

  1. Light....for example walking on a flat surface at 2.5-3 miles per hour
  2. Moderate...for example walking 3.5-4 miles per hour
  3. Heavy...for example running at 5-6 miles per hour

From there we factor in gender.  Males have higher caloric needs due to higher % of lean muscle mass and other factors as compared to women.  So here are the calories both a male and female should be consuming per pound of body weight based on activity level:

Light activity: Male - 17 calories/pound, Female - 16 calories/pound

Moderate activity: Male - 19 calories/pound, Female - 17 calories/pound

Heavy activity: Male - 23 calories/pound, Female - 20 calories

As an example take a 150-pound male who exercises at a moderate intensity.  To roughly calculate his caloric needs we take his body weight (150 pounds) x 19 calories/pound (moderate activity) = 2850 calories/day.  This would be the amount needed to maintain his current body weight based on his activity level.

In order to lose 1-2 pounds/week (losing more than this amount usually involves losses of lean tissue and not just fat) this individual would need to cut his calorie consumption by 500-1000 calories/day to accomplish his goals...so 2350 to 1850 calories/day total.  On the same token for this individual to gain 1-2 pounds of lean mass per week he would need to increase his calorie consumption by 350-700 calories a day...so 3200-3550 a day/total.