I personally try to stay away from counting calories because I tend to get a little obsessive with it, however that is not the case for everyone. Some people do benefit from counting calories to help them lose weight, maintain weight, or gain weight. Even if you aren’t into counting calories, it is still beneficial to know how many you need in a day. But before we get too far into that, what are calories exactly? Calories are a unit of measure used to measure energy, specifically the energy content of food and beverages. If you eat more energy than you expend then you will gain weight, and if you eat less energy than you expend then you will lose weight. The goal for some people is to eat just enough energy each day to maintain their weight.
When you look at a nutrition label you will see that the comparisons on the label for percent daily value uses a 2000 calorie diet. This is only an average of calories people eat and is not meant to be a recommendation for how many calories you should eat. The amount of calories you need depends on you age, gender, height, weight, and activity level. I am a 26 year old, slightly active female, standing about 5’ 4” and my estimated calorie needs are around 1700-1800 calories a day to maintain my weight. My husband on the other hand is a 27 year old, slightly active male, standing about 6’ 3” and his estimated calorie needs are around 2500-2600 calories a day to maintain his weight. That’s right, he gets almost 1000 more calories each day than I do. As you can see, there is no one size fits all when talking about the magic number of calories you should consume each day.
You may only want a rough range of the number of calories you should eat each day without using a calculator. An adult female needs anywhere between 1600-2400 calories a day and an adult male needs 2000-3000 calories a day. If you are more sedentary, start at the low end and if you are more active, try starting closer to the high end. For a more accurate reflection of your daily calorie needs, try using one of the calculators below.
Work with a registered dietitian if you would like a more detailed information on your calorie needs, protein needs, and more.