Calculate Your Caloric Intake

Not everybody needs 2,000 calories a day. Your needs are highly individual and determined by much more than your workouts. Use this calculator to find out how many calories you really need.

Calculate Your Caloric Intake

Reading a food label could give you the impression that everybody needs more or less the same things, in the same quantities, to be healthy. Not so! We all have different bodies, different goals, and different lifestyles, and the way we eat should reflect that.

This calorie calculator will help you estimate the number of calories you're burning each day, and then help you determine a "target daily caloric intake" to aim for. Once you have this number, you will be able to customize your nutrition to your physical goal, no matter if it's weight loss, muscle gain, or just being in better control of your health and the way you eat.

This calorie calculator can be the launch pad on your mission toward better health!

Calorie Calculator

Age
Sex
Height
Weight
Goal
Activity Level

How do I know how many calories I need?

Not sure which goal is right for you? Then start with "maintenance." This is theoretically the baseline point where you will maintain your current weight. It is roughly equivalent to your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), the number of calories you burn each day.

But remember, it's just an estimate! Many of us either dramatically overeat or undereat on a day-to-day basis, and simply trying "maintenance" on for size for a few weeks can be an eye-opener that helps get us on track.

This is also why many nutritionists say before you ever think of cutting below maintenance—into what is known as a caloric deficit—you should spend some time simply tracking how you eat now, and then see how it feels to eat at maintenance.

But let's say you're definitely ready to lose a few extra pounds. Then by all means, select "fat loss." This will give you a target that is usually 200-300 calories below maintenance. That may not sound like a big deficit, but it can be enough! And cutting more than that is almost never the place to start.

Now, it's commonly believed that the calorie equivalent to 1 pound of fat is 3,500 calories.[1] Therefore, a decrease of 500 calories daily should predictably amount to a weekly loss of 1 pound. Many people will push the envelope even further, decreasing their calories by 1,000 or more.

However, this math doesn't always match up with reality. Cutting too much, too quickly could lead to weight loss in the short term, but without adequate fuel, you could feel awful and see your results come to a screeching halt, as Krissy Kendall, Ph.D., explains in the article "How to Lose Weight." It can also negatively affect the body in other ways that may include a loss of energy or even disrupted sleep. It can also lead to poor quality workouts, or not having the energy to work out at all.

These drastic caloric changes can end up creating even more drastic metabolic shifts, or what's known as "yo-yo dieting." And paradoxically, starving yourself in this way can often lead to weight gain in the long term.

Why count calories at all?

There are plenty of people who can maintain a healthy body composition without ever counting. But for many others, it is incredibly valuable. Registered dietician Susan Hewlings, Ph.D., explains why in the video "All You Really Need to Know about Calories and Food Labels" in Jyoto.info's Foundations of Fitness Nutrition course.

"So, what are the advantages of a calorie-focused system? For one, it gives you an objective way to compare very different meals and make informed decisions about overall portion sizes. These can be some of the most difficult nutrition decisions to make!" she explains.

"A number can also help you see how what seems like a small indulgence can really add up," Hewlings continues. "For example, a can of soda a day may not seem like much, especially if everyone around you is drinking out of far bigger cups. But it's still 150 extra calories a day—and 150 of pure sugar, at that. Consumed regularly, that's enough to make a difference in how you look and feel—maybe up to 15 pounds of weight gain in a year."

While counting calories is a great place to start, the quality of your food, the balance of macronutrients, and the type and amount of activity in your life also matters plenty! So along with your caloric target, consider:

1. Calculating your macronutrient ratio.

Calories aren't just calories! They're actually values that come from the macronutrients protein, fats, and carbohydrates (as well as alcohol). Splitting your caloric intake into a tried-and-true ratio is the next step after determining how many you need. Registered dietician Paul Salter can show you how in the article "Macronutrient Calculator: Find Your Macro Ratio for Flexible Dieting and IIFYM."

2. Learning about nutrition.

We created a nine-video course, Jyoto.info's Foundations of Fitness Nutrition, to help fit-minded people learn what they need to know not only about calories, but also the three macronutrients, how to eat for healthy weight loss or weight gain, and even supplements.

3. Following a consistent exercise regimen.

Some of the most popular on Jyoto.info include:

For weight loss:

For muscle gain:

4. Learning about supplements that could help you nail your goals.

Fat burners and pre-workout supplements are popular choices for people looking to lose weight. Creatine is a staple choice for people trying to gain weight. And protein is often a high priority for both camps. We've created guides to each:

What do I do after a diet?

If you've been eating less than you burn for a while, or if you feel like your body has stopped responding to a deficit, then the answer may not be to continue cutting. Instead, you may want to consider reverse dieting.

Here's why this approach works. You need to eat fewer calories than you burn to lose fat. However, if you restrict your energy intake for too long, this can eventually slow your metabolism in a process called "metabolic adaptation," which makes it difficult to continue losing weight.

To combat metabolic adaptation, you can gradually increase your caloric intake in order to raise your metabolism. Even though it sounds a little crazy to increase calories to lose weight, this ultimately helps you burn more calories.

To create an effective reverse diet, you could also do less cardio and more weight training, which will further optimize your metabolism to build muscle and shed fat. If you've reached a point with your dieting where you think you may need to reverse diet, do it strategically, like how registered dietician Katie Coles recommends in the article "The Ultimate Guide to Reverse Dieting," to maximize your results.

How do I calculate the calories in my food?

In order for you to get the most out of the calculator, and macronutrients as well, you need to be able to match it up to the foods you eat. You can do this using food labels, or by weighing out your food and using one of the many online nutritional databases. Weighing food may seem like a lot of counting and not much fun, but it gets easier over time. Fitness coach Vince Del Monte says in "From Here to Macros: 4 Steps to Better Nutrition" that you quickly learn to "eyeball" quantities after just a few weeks of practice.

Jyoto.info has also created visual guides to help you learn these skills:

Whenever you're taking a peek at a nutritional label, the first number you want to know is the serving size. This is usually near the top of the chart. All the information that follows is based on that serving size. Sometimes serving size reflects an entire product, but it usually represents a portion of a product. It's an estimation of the average portion a person eats.

Measure the portion size you actually do eat, and compare that to the serving size on the label. Is it more, less, or the same? So, when you eat a cup of a product with a serving size of half a cup, you will then double all the following nutritional information (protein, sodium, fat, etc.).

How many calories should I burn each day?

You can achieve some amazing results by simply changing the way you eat. But adding in activity, both in the form of exercise and non-exercise activity, can definitely help you tip the scales even further in your favor.

It's common for someone who is looking to lose weight to start exercising with an eye toward burning as many calories as possible. They see this as the best way to boost total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which is the amount of calories they burn each day.[2]

However, as Susan Hewlings, Ph.D., explains in Jyoto.info's Foundations of Fitness Nutrition course, that thinking doesn't work in action.

"You actually burn a lot fewer calories during exercise than you think—no matter how intense your workouts may be," she explains. "Put in more tangible terms, that 800-calorie burrito is just about impossible to 'burn off' in a gym session. If that's your goal each time you step foot in the gym, well, that's an easy way to start hating exercise—and stop doing it."

A better approach is to simply focus on exercising consistently, incorporating both cardio and weight training, and following a nutritional approach that you can sustain long term. That means no drastic deficits!

This approach will help you build lean muscle, which will help you burn calories, even while your body is at rest. Then, when you're outside of the gym, focus on adding in low-impact activity whenever and wherever possible.

"Park far away from a building. Walk or bike rather than drive. Do yardwork or housework. Stand rather than sit. Foam roll or stretch while you watch TV," Hewlings recommends. "This type of 'trivial' activity is less common in our computer-and-TV-bound era. But research has shown that it adds up quickly in terms of calorie burn. Along with a reasonable, consistent approach to weight training and cardio, it might be all you need."

The number this calculator gives you is important, but it's just one part of the recipe for lasting weight control and health. Take an overall approach, and you can not only achieve results, but keep them for the long term!

References
  1. Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight Loss Basics. (2018). Retrieved from
  2. Gerrior, S., Ph.D., RD, Juan, W., Ph.D., & Basiotis, P., Ph.D. (2006). An Easy Approach to Calculating Estimated Energy Requirements. Retrieved from
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