Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: If 2,000 Isn’t Right, How Many Calories Should I Consume?

Q&A Wednesday: If 2,000 Isn’t Right, How Many Calories Should I Consume?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

During HBO’s Weight of the Nation documentary – more on that later – I teased a little bit on twitter about the fact that the government’s recommended caloric intake for women is somewhere around 2,000 calories… which is interesting, because I swear I can remember that it used to be 1,700. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is vital – it is your understanding of the rate at which your body burns calories with no exercise at all. It is your “resting” rate. If you don’t have that calculated correctly, you’re kind of screwed.

Before I share ways to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), I think it’s important to highlight reasons why having one blanket number for all women — and, in a sense, differentiating between the genders – is so wrong.

Our body’s caloric needs are dependent upon countless factors – everything from your height to your weight to your age to your muscle mass, all of these numbers matter. They matter because…

1) As you age, your ability to burn calories decreases because, quite frankly, you’re no longer in your teens or early twenties. You’re not “growing” any more. Your body isn’t shutting down, so to speak, but it is coming down off the need to continuously fuel growth.

2) As you build muscle, your caloric need increases. Let’s put it this way. In order for your body to be able to thrive and function, it has to have energy to burn. Carrying different parts of the body requires different amounts of energy. Your body will burn through more calories carrying a pound of muscle than it will in carrying a pound of fat, which is what makes building muscle so necessary for someone coming down from a higher weight who is used to eating more.

3) A 28 woman who is 5’0″, 100lbs needs maybe 1,300 calories total to maintain their weight. A woman who is 6’0″, 180lbs needs approximately 1,600… and that’s not even accounting for muscle mass or activity levels** yet. A sedentary** person who is 5’0″ and 100lbs has no business aspiring to 2,000 calories. That’d put them at a weight gaining rate of almost 2lbs a week. Different sized bodies require different values of calories to maintain their current weight. Part of this is why it’s so laughable to me when people push second and third helpings on their thinner friends, telling them “Go on, eat, eat! You always eat so little!” as if to compare the thinner friend’s plate to their own. Well, no, they don’t require as many calories as you think they might to get by throughout the day. Stop trying to shovel food onto folks. Also, stop comparing your plate to folks who are smaller than you in either height or weight. Your plates shouldn’t look the same… your bodies aren’t the same and don’t have the same needs for maintaining their size.

4) If you are, in fact, that 5’0″ 100lb person and think all women should aspire to 2,000 calories? Chances are, you think simply cutting 500 from that total 2,000 is what you need to do to create your caloric deficit. However, if your basal metabolic rate is only maaaaaaaaybe 1,300 calories, you’re still going to gain weight because you’re not working with the deficit you expected.

The existence of a “recommended daily caloric intake,” for me, is laughable and always has been. It has always felt like a scam – similar to the way the sugar industry tried to get the World health Organization to say that sugar could safely be the source of 20% of one’s calories for the day (which is what it says in the US of A) instead of the 10% it says now – and a way for the food industry to manipulate our perceptions of what our bodies need… which, in turn, results in us NOT reducing our intake… which results in them reducing their profits. There’s a very long blog post in there somewhere, but the reality is that giving off any make-believe foolishness that all of our bodies could firmly maintain that glorified under-200lb ideal that we keep hearing about is nuts.

But, if we know that height, weight, and age all affect how many calories our bodies can burn, then how do we find a formula that accounts for all of those values?

Grab your calculator.

The method that I use goes as follows: 655 + (4.3 x B) + (4.7 x D) – (4.7 x F)*

In that equation, B is the stand in for “your weight in pounds;” D is the stand-in for “your height in inches;” and “F” is the stand-in for “your age.”

So, let’s take the average American woman, 5’4″ and 154lbs. Let’s make her 33. The math would look like this:

655 + (4.3 x 154) + (4.7 x 64) – (4.7 x 33) = ____

Do the math in the parentheses, and you get:

655 + (662) + (300) – (155) = ___

Do a little more math, and you get:

(655+662+300) – 155 = _____

1,617 – 155 = 1,462

Your BMR is, then, 1,462.

So…see how different that is from what’s “recommended?” See why any “recommendation” that doesn’t take your specifics into account is harmful?

You also need to factor in your activity levels, as well, though. You have to take into account the intensity of your workouts and how active you are throughout the day:

If you are sedentary every single day (meaning, stay at a desk all day, walk to and from the vending machine or cafeteria or your car, come home sit on the couch), multiply your BMR by 1.2, which would give you 1,754 as your maintenance rate, which means that in order to stay at 155lbs, you’d need to eat somewhere around 1,754 calories.

If you are lightly active, multiply by 1.3. That’d give you 1,900.

Moderately active that day? 1.4 is your magic number, which would give you 2,046 (now we finally break 2,000!) calories.

If you have intense exercise planned that day, then you multiply your BMR by 1.5. This gives you 2,193.

If you’re to the point where you’re training with Pinky and the Brain to take over the world, you’re looking at 1.6, which puts you at 2,339 calories.

How do you cut calories at 1,400 calories, though? You certainly don’t cut a full 500, leaving yourself with only 900 calories to eat each day. This is where exercise becomes so important.

In order to lose 1lb each week, a person simply has to maintain a 500 calorie deficit each day, whereas after seven days the requisite 3,500 calories would’ve been burned. If you cut only 200 – 250 calories and burn the other 250 in moderate exercise, and add lots of veggies in place of some other items to make up for the volume of food you might be missing on your plate, that’s a sustainable rate.

This is also a big part of why, the smaller you become, the harder you have to work if your goal is weight loss. Because the smaller your BMR becomes, the harder it is to sensibly cut calories. At some point, you can’t do it anymore without the exercise. This is also a big part of where weight loss plateaus originate… not checking your BMR as your weight decreases by grand amounts. As your body changes, so do these numbers.

Did I miss anything?

*I know this formula doesn’t account for body fat percentage, but because it’s so hard to get an accurate measure of that without hydrostatic testing, it’d only fudge the numbers more. You can also get a calorimetry test done to determine your real basal metabolic rate. You can also acquire one of those awesome band-y things that’s supposed to measure your calories burned for you… I’ve never used one, but if you’ve got suggestions, let’s hear ’em.

**Added for clarity.

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63 comments

Mylah Sai May 16, 2012 - 2:54 PM

I really appreciate this information! I know this will help me with my goals.

curlsz May 16, 2012 - 2:54 PM

man this stuff always makes my head spin – so you keep saying “that day” – do you adjust your calorie intake each day to accommodate your level of workouts – i’ve never had anyone suggest that method

using this formula i’m apparently not eating enough – ??? but i eat till i’m satisfied – how frustrating

Erika Nicole Kendall May 16, 2012 - 4:59 PM

ABSOLUTELY – I’m going to eat more to prepare for a day when I’m running quite a few miles vs days when I may just walk a couple.

I’d need to see more specifics to determine what was going on with whether or not you’re “eating” enough, I think.

SingLikeSassy May 16, 2012 - 2:55 PM

Hey, so can I plug in the weight I would LIKE to be and use that as my caloric guide? Or don’t do that?

Erika Nicole Kendall May 16, 2012 - 4:57 PM

I’d say no, because if you run the risk of cutting TOO MANY calories, then you get into a situation where your body starts believing it is in the midst of famine, and makes it harder for you to lose. Manipulate the numbers for your current BMR, not the one you WANT. You’ve got to slowly work your way down, lest you risk your other bodily functions. LOL

Z May 25, 2013 - 5:55 PM

Interesting! I calculated both, my ideal and my current. My ideal weight is about 10lbs lighter than my current weight and there was only about a 60 calorie difference between both BMRs.

Dani May 16, 2012 - 2:57 PM

Hi Erika,

Thanks for this breakdown. I’ve had lots of questions about this as I lose weight. On “Weight of the Nation” it was mentioned that if you take two people:same height let’s say 5’9, same weight (155), but one person weighed 155 due to a 10% weight loss, that person would still have to eat less (or burn more) calories per day than the person who was consistently weighs 155. What are your thoughts on that and how do you include that in this equation if you have lost weight?

Erika Nicole Kendall May 16, 2012 - 5:23 PM

This is an awesome question. I saw the same part and nodded my head profusely because it’s true, if not physiologically then at least mentally. This is also a huge part of why I cling so tough to muscle development, because though studies are venturing into this territory, nothing is for certain and muscle is a safe way around this issue. This is also a massive part of why I say that activity, as someone who came down from such a massive weight, has to be a part of my life. I couldn’t say more without seeing the exact study that WOTN referenced – there have been a few who used different methods to come to a similar conclusion, but there are studies for practically everything nowadays.

Grace @ Grace Dishes May 16, 2012 - 3:43 PM

I’m 5’1 and I definitely eat a bit more than my BMR since I workout every day and am fairly active. That being said, when I was losing weight at my highest, I stuck to 1200 give or take 100 calories during the week and the weight came off relatively steadily but truly.

Good tips and good rules of thumb. I definitely think everyone should be calculating BMR just to get an IDEA of where you should be at. It’s also astounding the amount of calories an average person consumes without thinking. They add up QUICK especially if you eat out!

Have a wonderful Week 🙂

kiesh May 16, 2012 - 5:39 PM

Thanks for posting this – makes perfect sense now.

Vee May 17, 2012 - 9:07 AM

A person who is 5’0″ and 100lbs has no business aspiring to 2,000 calories.

Excerpted from Q&A Wednesday: If 2,000 Isn’t Right, How Many Calories Should I Consume? | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

I so agree Erika. I am 5’1 and I weigh 139lbs. I finally beat my plateau of 144-145 yeah!! but I agree I stick to around 1,200-1,300 per day 🙂

Kaila Heard May 17, 2012 - 10:58 AM

When I first calculated my BMR, I couldn’t believe it. The number just seemed wrong. I have the 1200 daily caloric goal etched in my brain so ANYTHING above it feels wrong. But I’ve been reading about weight lifting and the suggestion that I should be eating sounds right even if it feels wrong. Right now I compromised and added more calories (protein) to my snacks. Will see how this goes.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 17, 2012 - 11:18 AM

I think protein-heavy snacks is the best thing anyone could go with.

Mia May 17, 2012 - 2:27 PM

So, to create a deficit we must add additional exercise plus cut calories on top of what our activity level allotment is? What I mean is that if I am a moderately active person, I calculate my bmr with that as a factor and then decrease that number by 500? Thank you for the info!

Erika Nicole Kendall May 17, 2012 - 4:13 PM

I think I’m confused now, lol.

To lose weight, you have to create a deficit – calories burned has to be more than calories consumed.

To lose one pound a week, you have to average a deficit of 500 calories a week.

You can try to cut 500 calories a day, but there is a point where that gets unhealthy. Therefore, you make up that deficit by eating a sensible amount and burn calories in exercise. You cannot “healthily” starve the body, and you need energy (calories) to fuel your activity.

Does that make it a bit clearer?

Mia May 17, 2012 - 8:41 PM

lol Im not sure. I think I worded my question wrong. I was trying to confirm that if I do this “Moderately active that day? 1.4 is your magic number, which would give you 2,046”

Then this means if I am not losing weight, then I must be eating this number. right? and if I want to lose 1 lb a week, I would need to burn an additional 500 calories to make that happen, even though I am already a moderately active person.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 18, 2012 - 9:40 AM

Right. You need to have a caloric deficit in order for a loss to occur.

Alexandrea Ward May 17, 2012 - 11:04 PM

Thanks for sharing this. I don’t have my calculator with me right now but I saved this link so I could do it when I find out. I let my sister borrow it and she loses everything :(.

Rosie May 19, 2012 - 12:07 PM

Wow! I am the 5ft woman (113lbs) and my caloric intake should be 1300. I always thought 2000 was the standard. Its good to know but i don’t count calories anyway. I think your method of clean eating works best! I see women at work who skip on fruit because of the calories but then drink Diet Pepsi. smh

Vee May 20, 2012 - 3:13 PM

@Rosie,

I have seen woman do the same thing drink diet sodas but say no to fresh fruit..it does not make sense calorie/nutrition wise. I would rather consume natural sugar vs. artificial sugar any day.

SingLikeSassy May 23, 2012 - 11:15 AM

OK, so I did the numbers for my current weight and found that I have been doing it all wrong!! I would cut down to 1200 calories and then do all this cardio and be starving and, of course, I would fall off the wagon.

Now with the formula I see what I need to do.

Kenyetta June 13, 2012 - 2:27 PM

Im confused, so I did the formula and my BMR is 1727. At this point I am doing intense boot camp or spinning every day, so my BMR with the exercise is 2590. I have been eating 1500 or less calories. Should I be eating more? Or is that a good number?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 14, 2012 - 8:45 AM

I mean, you have to determine whether or not it’s working for you. Are you seeing results? Are you getting your heart rate up and keeping it up? (Some boot camps bore me to bits, and some spin classes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.) I mean, intense is a bit relative, and I don’t have your specifics to be able to determine whether or not you’re doing the calculations correctly. All I can advise, is that I’d take a second look at being THAT active and eating less than 1500 a day… especially if it says your BMR, with the activity, is 2590. You might find yourself in a position where you could lose more with eating more.

Kenyetta June 18, 2012 - 12:46 PM

Thanks, it has been working so far, I lost 5.3 pounds last week. But if I hit a stand still then Ill definitely consider eating more. Luckily, I have a really good boot camp that pushes me past my walls and I found a really good spin class teacher that takes the time to actually push me, then I have my friend who made it her mission to train me and she’s killer. Dead after I work out with her. Im pretty lucky to have all them.

Fabubbw June 13, 2012 - 2:30 PM

I must say that this information was VERY helpful. I recently lost almost 100lbs by severely restricting my diet and decided I didn’t want to live that way anymore. So, I totally dropped those restrictions and began eating whatever I wanted to, gaining some of that loss back. I don’t want to gain it all back and I had no inkling of how many calories I should be eating prior to this post, now I know, and knowing is half the battle 🙂

AshleyJ June 13, 2012 - 3:13 PM

Thanks! Even the online calculator on my gym’s web page gave me the wrong BMR!It was off by about 50 calories!

SHARQUITA June 13, 2012 - 6:34 PM

So, my intake suppose to be 2061cal a day accourding o the formula. If I want to lose weight i will have to drop 500cal a day?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 14, 2012 - 8:41 AM

You have to incorporate a caloric deficit of 500 each day in order to achieve a 1lb per week weight loss, yes. If that’s through cutting 200 calories a day and burning 300 additional calories through exercise, then fine. If you decide to cut 500 calories, burn an additional 500 and lose 2lbs a week, fine, as well.

SHARQUITA June 18, 2012 - 2:05 AM

Ok thanks for that advice. I am 6’1 and 278lbs I suppose to be 180 accourding to the doctors.. I have lost 22lbs already with diet and exercise but I am at a stand still.. I hope this will help me get over this hump!

Rosalind August 1, 2012 - 6:31 PM

I’ve found myfitnesspal.com as a great tool that comes close to showing me what is my BMR (very close to this calculation by +/- 20 calories). I need to eliminate pounds. Also, depending on how much I want to eliminate per week, it shows you how much of caloric deficit you need (from either food only, exercise or both) to get to your target amount per week.

BrainyBabe September 5, 2012 - 1:37 PM

This is such fantastically useful and easy-to-understand information. And what a great way to help stave off the dreaded plateau. Thanks!

Arianna Gordon November 8, 2012 - 11:25 AM

Oh Man.

I am struggling with this as we speak.

I calculated my BMR, and it is 1650. Multiply that by my light activity level and I get 2268.75. My problem comes in with the next part. If I have a 500 calorie deficit, the number comes to 1770 which is great, however, I will eat breakfast and lunch, then exercise. Usually this excercise will put me back 250-270 calories, and what I normally do is eat back the calories I burned to get back to a total of 1770 calories consumed. No more. Is this method also correct, or do I need to focus on eating 200 calories minus my total BMR and exercise off 300 calories a day? I am so confused 🙁

Erika Nicole Kendall November 8, 2012 - 1:58 PM

I mean, let’s be clear. A consistent caloric deficit is still a consistent caloric deficit. If it’s not 500 a day, you’ll still see weight loss, but at a slower rate than 1lb/week. It might be more like 1lb every 10 or so days.

That being said, if you burn to the point where your deficit is more than 500 calories, then you can feel free to eat more. Your body will need it. 🙂

Arianna Gordon November 8, 2012 - 2:31 PM

Thank you for the speedy reply!

So, basically, it really doesn’t matter how, but I just need to make sure that I have a 500 calorie deficit from my total BMR regardless of how that happens, whether it’s exercise alone, eating and exercise or eating alone.

Your blog is a gift from god BTW. I love the helpful information here. Ive been reading it for far too long. Now’s the time for me to ACT!

Leelo November 28, 2012 - 2:26 PM

Good Article….BUT..

With there being different formula’s for the BMR…how does one know which is truly accurate?

I’m so confused with all of these numbers and so forth. I’m just trying to lose weight…lol The number that I get from your equation is what – how many calories that I burn by doing nothing or the base of daily caloric intake before adjusting our diet plans?.

How does knowing your BMR help with weight loss if its just telling you how much you burn without exercise.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 28, 2012 - 3:02 PM

There are, in fact, multiple formulas… and to have the most accurate figure, you’d need to do the hydrostatic testing or the inBody assessment.

That being said… having a more accurate starting point, you’d probably want to take all three formulas and do the math to get an average.

The number you get from the equation above is how many calories you burn each day just with your body’s natural regular functions. You use that number as a part of the REMAINDER of the math, which requires the following:

You also need to factor in your activity levels, as well, though. You have to take into account the intensity of your workouts and how active you are throughout the day:

If you are sedentary every single day (meaning, stay at a desk all day, walk to and from the vending machine or cafeteria or your car, come home sit on the couch), multiply your BMR by 1.2, which would give you 1,754 as your maintenance rate, which means that in order to stay at 155lbs, you’d need to eat somewhere around 1,754 calories.

If you are lightly active, multiply by 1.3. That’d give you 1,900.

Moderately active that day? 1.4 is your magic number, which would give you 2,046 (now we finally break 2,000!) calories.

If you have intense exercise planned that day, then you multiply your BMR by 1.5. This gives you 2,193.

If you’re to the point where you’re training with Pinky and the Brain to take over the world, you’re looking at 1.6, which puts you at 2,339 calories.

Completing the full equation shows you how much you SHOULD be taking in, and helps you determine how much of a caloric deficit you can safely pull off without starving yourself and potentially affecting your bodily functions. If you now know your BMR is at 1600, and you do the math and find out that, for your lifestyle, you only need 1800 calories to get through every day, you can cut 300 calories and then burn an additional 200 to help you burn one pound each week.

Vanity January 26, 2013 - 7:09 PM

Okay. I am 25, I weigh 251 pounds and I’m 5’7. So my BMR is 1922. I work Ramp service for an Airline which 5 days out of the week requires constant movement and lifting about 6 hours out of the day so my activity level is moderate. My number is 2690 per day that I work (I work on average 6 days a week) and 1922 for days I dont. Would dropping down to 1800 calories a day, and incorporating an hour of extra activity daily be too drastic? In your opinion?

Erika Nicole Kendall January 27, 2013 - 1:01 PM

To me, that’d be FAR too drastic. I’d say start with 2100, and see where that takes you.

Vanity January 27, 2013 - 5:23 PM

Thank you so much!!! For all the info you share!!!

Alagia F. February 27, 2013 - 10:13 AM

Hi 🙂 I’m currently at 320 lbs, I’d like to get down 100lbs. Im in that yoyo stage because I’ve yet to really change what I eat. I’m working on it though. I follow your blog and I know you’ve done it! Congratulations! You inspire me.

Should I make building muscle my priority? I feel like the weight become solid and doesn’t really go away. When I do a lot of cardio, which was my focus for a long time, at first the weight was melting off, now it feels like I’m stuck. What should be my area of focus?

Erika Nicole Kendall February 28, 2013 - 9:02 AM

Well, weight can’t “become solid” to the point where it “doesn’t really go away.”

Your workout plan should, in essence, have both… but strength training is about more than just dumbbells and barbells. It should have your heart rate up, as well. Lots of moves like burpees and mountain climbers cover both the strength aspect AND get your heart rate going. A workout plan full of moves like that can make a difference.

CocoV March 8, 2013 - 11:47 PM

Hey Erika I need to know if my math is correct from I got I should only be eating 1321 calories to lose 2 pounds a week…weight 203 age 39 height 5’6

El March 28, 2013 - 1:17 AM

This may sound a bit silly, but I’m a line cook. I’m on my feet eight or more hours a day, and have to go up three flights of stairs and down Em again at least seven times in a shift. Is it safe to say I’m moderately active, even without gym time?

Erika Nicole Kendall March 28, 2013 - 10:29 AM

Absolutely. And nothing about that sounds silly. I did my time working in a restaurant – FOH, though – so I know that struggle. I bet you’ll have great legs after everything is said and done, though. LOLOL

Dee April 21, 2013 - 12:22 AM

“A 28 woman who is 5’0″, 100lbs needs maybe 1,300 calories total to maintain their weight. A woman who is 6’0″, 180lbs needs approximately 1,600…”

That’s clearly their BMI, not maintenance calories. I’m only 5ft2 and maintain 115lb on approx 2000 calories a day with moderate activity. I could easily lose weight on 1500 calories and maintain 100lb on 1900 calories.

I’m actually fed up with the misconception that all short women somehow have the calorie needs of a small child. Many people underestimate their calorie intake and then wonder why they are gaining weight.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 21, 2013 - 8:26 AM

Of course you meant “BMR,” and not “BMI,” right?

I don’t understand the weird fascination with connecting small-statured people to children. You’re adults. Act like it.

You’re not going to have the same caloric needs as someone 10% taller and 50% heavier. You’re not. That has nothing to do with being child-like, and everything to do with physiology.

Because the article EXPRESSLY states that you have to do multiplication in order to accommodate for just how much daily activity you participate in as an individual, I’m going to assume that you were too attached to the idea of it being insinuated that you’re childlike in this regard and overlooked the rest.

Quite honestly, I’m happy that you’re finding what works for you! But, the reality is that if your day, schedule and routine were to change and you were to become much more couch potato-ish, if you still ate 2000ish calories – are you sure you’re not overestimating your caloric intake? – you’d gain weight without a doubt. So you, too, should be mindful of why what you’re doing works for YOU, in the event that you’d need to change it.

Dee April 24, 2013 - 12:00 PM

Sorry, yes, I did mean BMR, not BMI.

The only reason I mentioned children and calorie intake is because 1300 calories is actually the recommended amount of calories for a small child. 1300 calories is just too low for an adult woman of 5ft, 100lb, unless she is extremely sedentary, i.e. lying in bed all day.

Of course I’m not going to have the same calorific needs as someone heavier than me, assuming they have a similar activity level, but they could be taller yet weigh same and therefore the calorie intake would be of little difference.

I understand you have to do the multiplication to find the overall daily calorie needs, but in your third point you quite clearly stated that for a 5ft, 100lb woman only requires 1300 calories a day to maintain her weight and that 2000 calories a day would cause a weight gain of nearly 2lb per week. Like, I said, 1300 may well be their BMR (basal metabolic rate) but not maintenance unless the woman in question was very, very inactive with poor metabolism. 2000 calories may be appropriate if said woman is moderately or highly active like myself. Probably 1500 at the lowest if she is fairly sedentary, i.e. just sitting around and doing basic stuff.

If I was more sedentary, obviously I’d need less calories. Maybe 1600-1800 if I was inactive or lightly active, instead of 2000 calories. I’m definitely not overestimating my calorie intake because I am very meticulous about calories. Most people tend to underestimate, not overestimate. I can honestly say I’ve never gained weigh on 2000 calories. 2500 calories was the only time I gained weight and even then never went over 130lb.

Dee April 24, 2013 - 12:08 PM

P.S. I did the calculator for my BMR and activity level and seems it was pretty accurate putting my calorie needs at around 2000, so that’s good.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 25, 2013 - 7:23 PM

You keep saying certain things are obvious, but you’re not actually displaying an understanding of why a petite woman could, in fact, have a low basal metabolic rate. Stop talking to me like I’m speaking of impossibilities if you’re only going to follow that up with how it’s possible.

“I understand you have to do the multiplication to find the overall daily calorie needs, but in your third point you quite clearly stated that for a 5ft, 100lb woman only requires 1300 calories a day to maintain her weight”

“1300 calories is just too low for an adult woman of 5ft, 100lb, unless she is extremely sedentary”

Extremely sedentary, low body muscle, out of her 20s…which was my overarching point. I’m talking about sedentary people and basal metabolic rates, not people at the height of their metabolic peak with low body fat percentages and high activity levels. Chances are high that you wouldn’t need a guide to explain your metabolic rate if you were that active and [relatively] fit.

So, in other words, took offense to being compared to a child, and I need to specify what kind of activity level I’m referring to my hypothetical person having in order to validate my statement? Okay. Corrected. Thank you for the tip.

Dee April 29, 2013 - 11:39 PM

I understand that a more petite women (in weight, not just height) would require less calories assuming everything else is equal, i.e. activity level, thyroid function, body composition, age, etc.

I think we probably had our wires crossed because of how you phrased the comment about 1300 being maintenance for a 5ft, 100lb woman rather than BMR, or at least someone extremely sedentary, older (probably 60+), or very, very low on muscle mass. Now I understand as you have clarified the matter. Thank you.

Fawn May 6, 2013 - 3:24 PM

So I’m 5’7, 139 lbs. I’ve both shed fat & put on a considerable amount of muscle within the past 19 months. Would my BMR be a tad more than the calculations indicate, due to the maintenance of muscle mass?

Erika Nicole Kendall May 6, 2013 - 3:32 PM

YES. But you’d make up for that with additional protein, not just throwing all carbs at it.

Fawn May 6, 2013 - 3:30 PM

Ps…Would a 3-5 mile run be considered moderate or intense? How about an hour long dumbell workout using 12.5 lbs weights that also includes situps, pushups, squats & lunges? I’m confused as to what’s considered moderate & intense lol. I do so appreciate any input anyone could offer

Erika Nicole Kendall May 6, 2013 - 3:33 PM

How does it feel when you’re doing it? If you’ve been training for so long that it feels like a piece of cake, then no, it’s not intense, lol.

Is your heart rate high during the course of that hour long workout? Somewhere into your third zone and above? Then that could be considered intense.

Fawn May 9, 2013 - 6:10 AM

Thank you for your input!! I’ve increased my protien. It’s common sense about the workout lol. It’s just how you feel, I guess. I’ve been told a person who works out as often as I do is to get approx. one gram of protien per lb of body weight. Would you consider this to be accurate?

Erika Nicole Kendall May 9, 2013 - 7:05 AM

It’s usually 1g per pound of lean body mass, because for many people 1g per lb of body weight could cause kidney problems… not to mention, many folks just don’t have enough muscle to sustain that kind of protein; it’d render that much protein useless in the system.

I’d say test it out. You need protein for muscle development, but you also need it to feel satiated after a meal and, depending on how much lean body mass you have, you may not get enough from just resting on that, alone. In other words, the magic number for covering both muscle development and satiety is usually somewhere between “1 g of protein per lean body mass” and “1g of protein per pound.” Don’t be afraid to experiment with it. 🙂

Fawn May 13, 2013 - 2:40 PM

Thanks! I’ll take this into consideration!

danielle June 19, 2013 - 10:34 PM

So great article, but I am a bit confused! For my own statistics (218lb, 5’9″, 24, sedentary), I get that my BMR is 2170 and so to lose a pound a week I’d need to eat 1670. For some reason that seems like so much food to me! I have this livestrong food tracker app that says I should eat 1080 calories (which I find extreme too!), also I used use spark people which told me to eat 1200. Now none of those apps got me to lose weight but eating more just seems counter productive to me! I’m just tired of this calorie counting with such confusing numbers on what I should eat, trying them all, and not budging in the loss department! Any advice would be appreciated, thank you!

Erika Nicole Kendall June 20, 2013 - 12:41 PM

“Now none of those apps got me to lose weight but eating more just seems counter productive to me!”

It’s not – if you’re not properly fueling the system that burns the calories, then the system will fail to sufficiently burn the calories. You can starve yourself down to lose, but you risk permanently damaging your body in doing so. Cutting too many calories means you’re expecting your body to run on far too little energy.

3 meals at 500ish calories a day isn’t “so much food;” in some ways, it’s a nice omelet, or a good sandwich, or some rice and a nice healthy-sized piece of fish. If you’re not losing weight at 1,000 calories and you’re not losing weight at 1200, what number are you going to try next? 800? Or are you going to test out the 1,600?

Tamece July 9, 2013 - 3:20 PM

Thanks for this information!! Knowing how many calories to eat has been a struggle for me. Using the calculations you provided, my BMR is 1647. I exercise 5-6 times a week, burning 400-600 calories per workout. So how many calories should I be eating to lose weight? *Side note: I am losing inches. but maintaining the number on the scale….not complaining about that , just curious :-)*

Erika Nicole Kendall July 11, 2013 - 9:52 AM

Don’t forget that you have to do the multiplication to account for your activity level; it’s probably more like 2600 or so since you’re more active,and you should probably be eating around 2,000 calories total.

Ron August 7, 2013 - 8:55 PM

A great blog post. Anybody who wants to start losing weight should begin by using this calculation and ones similar to it. How can you begin a race without knowing the location of the starting line? I started out by using a similar calculation except with different variables. Mine uses body fat %, weight, and activity level. The calculation is bit more complex than this one but the results are essentially the same, difference of only 30 calories. Great work Erika!

Karen November 6, 2013 - 10:30 AM

Wow, good thing I don’t count calories. 2000 would have me huge again in no time! My BMR is only 1358. I’m moderately active most days, at least. But this time of year, as it gets colder, I tend to slack off, so I really need to NOT do that.

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