How to Calculate Your Daily Calorie Needs

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Heather Stover, CPT, PN1

Tracking calorie intake can be a very helpful step in reaching your health goals. But first, we should talk about how to calculate your personal calorie needs.

Different Goals Mean Different Plans

Every body is different and we all have different goals. Some may want to lose weight and body fat while others may want to put on weight and increase their muscle mass. Along with individual goals, a person’s current weight and activity level are important factors when calculating calorie needs. Keep in mind, this is just a starting point!

How to Calculate Your Calorie Needs

To get a starting point for your calorie needs, you will multiply your current weight in pounds by the multiplier above that aligns with your goal and activity level. Be realistic with your activity level. Below is a general guideline for activity level.

Sedentary means you have a non-active job like a desk job or office position and you get less than 30 minutes of intentional exercise per day.

Moderately active means that you have a fairly active daily life. You may spend most of your day on your feet like a teacher or a waitress. You also spend more than 30 minutes a day doing intentional exercise 3-4 times per week.

Very Active means that you spend a good part of your day being physically active. You may have a job as a mailman or carpenter and you get one or more hours of intentional exercise 5-7 times per week.

As you can see, there is a range for the multiplier for each activity level and goal set. This is because no two bodies are the same! Keep in mind that this is just a starting point to give you an idea of where your calorie needs are at and adjustments may need to be made.


I calculated my estimated calorie needs, now what?

It is recommended that you consistently consume your suggested number of calories for at least two weeks before making any changes. Consistency is key here! Give your body a chance to adjust and take note of what happens with your weight. If your goal is to lose weight but you have not lost any weight after 2 or more weeks of being consistent, try subtracting 250 calories from your daily calories. If your goal is weight gain and you have not seen progress after being consistent for 2 or more weeks, consider adding 250 calories to your daily calories. If your goal is to maintain your weight but you are losing or gaining weight instead, try adding or subtracting 250 calories to your daily intake until you reach a point where you are maintaining your weight.

You now know how to calculate your estimated daily calorie needs, stay tuned for a future article on how to turn that number into real-life meals!

Feel like you want a little more individual help with your nutrition needs? Contact us at for nutrition coaching and keep coming back to our blog at for more nutrition information.

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