Friday, 2 September 2011

How Many Calories do I Need to Maintain My Weight?

The number of calories needed to maintain weight is unique for each of us. Although general calorie guidelines advise the average female needs 2,000 calories a day and the average man needs 2,500, this is a broad generalisation. No two people need exactly the same amount of calories and it can vary enormously from person to person.

If you’re not eating the right number of calories, you’ll either gain weight or lose it. And judging by the growing obesity problems facing westernised societies, it seems many of us have got it wrong somewhere along the line. So how can you work out how many calories you need to maintain your weight?

It’s not difficult working out your calorie needs. And once you have, it’s relatively easy to keep track of how many you’re eating because so much of the food we buy is labelled with the calorie count. And even if you grow all your own fruit and vegetables or buy your meat and fish from a butchers or fishmongers, there are plenty of calorie guides to help you out.

The number of calories you need on an individual basis depends on your weight, height, age and activity levels. A reasonably accurate way of working out the number of calories you need each day is to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) then add on the calories you use up during the day. This includes all activities such as sports and even walking or sitting down watching TV.

An easy way of finding your BMR is to use a body fat monitor such as those featured in this post. Alternatively, you can use an online calculator such as this one from Boots/WebMD. You’ll need to enter your height, weight, age and gender to find out your calorie needs.

As an example, the chart below provides an overview of the different number of calories needed for a lightly active woman who is 5’5” tall. It shows the changes in calories needed depending on her age and how much she weighs.

Average Daily Maintenance Calories

* based on a 5ft 5” (1.65m) female who is 'lightly active' - definition given below.

As you can see from the table above, two 30 year women who are both 5’ 5” tall, one weighing 7 stone and the other weighing 15 stone, have a daily calorie need difference of 700 calories. And looking at the change in calories needed according to age, a 10 stone, 20 year old needs 1930 calories, but once she’s aged 70, she only needs 1600. This is displayed in the graph below.

Daily Maintenance Calories for a 10 Stone Woman Aged 20-70

As you lose weight, you’ll need to keep readjusting your calorie intake to match your new weight. Since eating progressively fewer calories is unlikely to appeal, the best way to increase your calorie needs is to move around more and exercise. This helps to build muscle which increases metabolic rate, which increases the amount of calories you need to stay the same weight!

If you’re more used to working with kilograms or pounds, then here’s the conversion:

To work out your required daily calorie intake online, this handy calculator does it for you. Just enter your age, height, gender, current weight and your activity levels.

The definition for 'lightly active' is as follows:

1. At work - you walk a lot
2. At home - you keep yourself busy and move a lot
3. Exercise - you participate in light exercise or take long walks.

Finding out how many calories you need on a daily basis to maintain your weight may surprise you. But once you have an idea of your own average calorie needs, it can make all the difference to your weight maintenance programme.

© Diets and Calories 2011.


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