How Many Calories Should You Eat in a Day?

how many calories should you eat per day

Nutrition fact labels are based on a “2,000 calorie diet” – so is that the correct number of calories for you to aim for each day?

Not necessarily, the amount of calories you should eat varies from person to person. An adult typically needs to eat 1600 to 2400 calories each day depending on their body and lifestyle.

Harvard reports that women commonly need 1600 to 2000 calories per day while men need 2000 to 2400 per day to maintain their weight. This slightly differs from the US dietary guidelines which cites a range of 1600 to 3000 daily calories. ()

Age, height, and weight also play a role in how many calories you should consume. See the Mayo Clinic calculator to get a rough idea.

How Many Calories Does Your Body Need to Function?

The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the energy your body uses for basic life functions like breathing, digestion, and blood circulation. This accounts for 60% to 70% of the energy your body uses.

You can calculate your basal metabolic rate using the Harris-Benedict calculator. Then multiply your basal metabolic rate by one of the following numbers to find how many calories you are currently burning. This is the amount of calories you would try to consume if you wanted to maintain your weight.

  • Sedentary (BMRx1.2): minimal or no exercise
  • Light active (BMRx1.375): 1 to 3 days of light exercise weekly
  • Moderately active (BMRx1.55): 3 to 5 days of exercise weekly
  • Very active (BMRx1.725): 6 to 7 days of hard exercise weekly
  • Extra active (BMRx1.9): 6 to 7 days of very hard exercise weekly

Do you Need to Count Calories?

No – or at least it is unlikely. Obsessing over every calorie is not healthy, rather it is best to be aware of calories and have a general idea if you are consuming the quantity you are intending.

If you do count calories according to what appears on nutrition fact labels, evaluate your serving sizes too. You may find that the servings you are accustomed to eating are much larger than what is defined on the label. Simply lowering your serving size of staple foods could help you lose weight.

It’s important to note that drastically reducing your calories as a means to lose weight may not be safe or effective. By reducing your calorie intake substantially, you may not be getting enough nutrients.

This is why only slight reductions in calories combined with physical activity to burn calories are often recommended to help someone lose weight.