How to Calculate your Daily Calorie Needs

Step-by-step formula to determine how much you should be eating to reach your fitness goals.

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Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

Losing weight can be frustrating. I get it. I’ve been there. It’s extremely difficult, nay, impossible if you have two strikes against you.

  1. An unhealthy relationship with food and your body.
  2. Lack of knowledge and understanding of how you should actually be eating.

If you want to have a fit and healthy body, it starts with loving yourself first. Love yourself where you’re at and everything will start to fall into place. Not overnight but gradually with consistent and intentional effort.

We know a healthy mindset is key, but this article isn’t about that side of the journey. You can read more about that here:

This article is about helping you with your lack of knowledge and understanding. If you want to reach your fitness goals, you need to arm yourself with knowledge.

Before we can understand what we should be eating, we need to know how much we should be eating. There’s formulas for that.

So let’s just dive into it already!

Step 1

Find your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)

Your BMR is the amount of calories your body burns in a 24 hour period if you were just laying there doing nothing but existing. There are several ways you can find yours.

I’m going to share the formula I used to find mine.


BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches)-(4.7 x age in years)


BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches)-(6.8 x age in years)

Note: Don’t forget your order of operations when calculating your numbers. Think PEMDAS.

Let’s do the math together for a 48 year old female that is 160lbs and 5'4" that we’ll name Mary

655+ (4.35x160)+ (4.7x64) -(4.7x48)



That is the number of calories burned by Mary if she weren’t doing any other activity than just breathing and digesting food or her BMR.

Step 2

Find Your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)

Now that you have your BMR you can calculate how many calories you need in a day by applying an activity value and multiplying your BMR by it.

In order to do this, we will use the Harris Benedict equation. Use the standards below to determine your activity level and multiply your BMR by that number

  1. Sedentary (little or no exercise) : TDEE= BMR x 1.2
  2. Lightly active (exercise 1–3 days/week) : TDEE = BMR x 1.375
  3. Moderatetely active (exercise 3–5 days/week) : TDEE = BMR x 1.55
  4. Very active ( exercise 6–7 days a week) : TDEE = BMR x 1.725
  5. Extremely active (elite level athlete/very active+physical job) : TDEE = BMR x 1.9

Our example, Mary, has an office job and power walks on her lunch breaks. She also joins her best friend for Zumba twice a week. I would say that she is moderately active. Knowing that, we can take her BMR of 1,450.2 and multiply it by 1.55. That gives us 2,247.81.

Mary’s TDEE is 2,247.81. This is how many calories she would need to eat daily to support her lifestyle.

But that’s not the end. If you want to lose weight. You have to be in a calorie deficit. Which means you have to consume less calories than you burn in a day.

Step 3

How much less?

There are 3,500 calories in 1 lb of fat. It is considered safe by modern medical standards to lose 1–2 lbs of fat per week. Mary would like to lose 10lbs in the next 2 months. She needs to lose 1.25lbs of fat per week to meet her goal.

If you multiply 3,500 by 1.25, you get 4,375. That is Mary’s weekly deficit. Divide that by 7, because there are 7 days in a week, and you get 625. Mary needs to have a 625 caloric deficit daily in order to reach her goal.

Mary’s TDEE of 2,247.81 -625=1,622.81

In order for Mary to lose 10lbs in 8 weeks, she would have to consume 1,622.81 calories per day.

Step 4

Cracking the Code to Counting Calories

Now that you know how to calculate your daily calorie needs, you can take it a step further and dial in you macronutrient ratios.

Calories aren’t everything. You have to make sure you are eating appropriate amounts of carbs, fats, and especially proteins if you want to get the best body composition results.

You can read more about that here:

Step 5

Be flexible

Having fitness goals is great and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. But never forget that life is meant to be lived. Don’t let yourself be consumed by every single calorie and macronutrient.

You should never feel guilty when it comes to food and exercise. Just do your best everyday and keep striving for progress, not perfection.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you found this helpful and can put the knowledge gained here to good use.

As always, I’m here if you need support or have questions about any of this. I know it can be overwhelming, but just like anything else, it gets easier with time.

Much love! XoXo, Rachel

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“The definition of greatness is to inspire the people next to you… It’s not something that lives and dies with one person.” — Kobe Bryant — I write to inspire.

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