Estimated Daily Caloric Needs

September 15, 2009

A friend of mine wants to lose some fat.  He asked me for some ideas on how he might proceed.  I asked him to keep a food journal and let me see it after a couple of weeks.  He did so.  When I read over it, I saw eggs, protein shakes, roast beef, and brown rice.  I also saw plentiful doses of spice cake, birthday cake, bacon, pizza, pigs in a blanket, sausage, muffins, large glasses of chocolate milk, and Egg Mcmuffins.  “Dude…what the hek?!” was my reply.  It was pretty obvious that the type and quantity of calories my friend was consuming were not going to lead him to the studly physique he so desires.

Let’s talk about calories.  They are a unit of energy.  1 calorie equals the amount of energy required to heat 1 liter (1 kilogram) of water by 1 degree Celsius.  The food you consume can be thought of as energy intake.  The fat stored on your body can be thought of as stored energy (minus essential fat stores — a topic for another post).  The energy your body uses for its maintenance of itself along with the energy you expend in your daily activities is your energy output.  In simple terms, if a person wants to lose fat, that person must create an energy deficit (burn more than they intake).  So, if your goal is fat loss (or muscle gain), a good place to start is with the calculation of your daily caloric needs.

There are many ways a person’s caloric needs can be calculated.  Different formulas for estimating daily caloric needs use factors such as height, weight, age, sex, and percent body fat.  Those formulas that include a person’s body fat levels are more accurate than those that don’t, although the ones that do not use body fat percentage still provide a reasonably close estimate.

Below are a couple of formulas.  Use one of the two to calculate daily caloric needs.  Both calculate basal metabolic rate (BMR), then use a multiplier based on activity level.

The Harris-Benedict formula does not use body fat % in its formula:

Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 X wt in kg) + (5 X ht in cm) – (6.8 X age in years)

Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 X wt in kg) + (1.8 X ht in cm) – (4.7 X age in years)

Activity Multiplier
Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/wk)
Mod. active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/wk)
Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk)
Extr. active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job or 2X day training, i.e marathon, contest etc.)


The next formula does use body fat %:

Men: BMR = 1 x body weight in kg x 24

Women: BMR = .9 x body weight in kg x 24

Then multiply the result obtained above by a “lean factor” according to the following table:

Lean Factor 1 = Men 10 to 14% body fat, Women 14 to 18% — Multiplier = 1.0
Lean Factor  2= Men 14 to 20% body fat, Women 18 to 28% — Multiplier = .95
Lean Factor  3= Men 20 to 28% body fat, Women 28 to 38% — Multiplier = .90
Lean Factor  4= Men over 28% body fat, Women over 38% — Multiplier =.85

Finally, multiply the result obtained above by an activity mulitplier according to the following:

Activity Multiplier
Multiplier = 1.30 = Very light activity, e.g. sitting, studying, talking, little walking or other activities throughout the day
Multiplier = 1.55 = Light activity such as typing, teaching, lab/shop work, some walking during the day
Multiplier = 1.65 = Moderate walking, jogging, gardening, and activities such as tennis, cycling, dancing, or weight training 1 – 2 hours per day
Multiplier = 1.80 = Heavy manual labor with activities such as soccer, football, or body building 2-4 hours per day
Multiplier = 2.00 = a combination of moderate and heavy activity 8  or more hours per day, plus 2-4 hours of intense training per day

Hope this make sense.  If so, give figuring out your estimated daily caloric needs a try.


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21 Responses to “Estimated Daily Caloric Needs”

  1. Looks like math to me! I just listen to my body and it all works out. Really good info as usual Darryl!


  2. Katie says:

    It’s hard for folks to self-estimate their fat levels. Some skinny people have higher body fat levels than some stouter folks. How do you recommend we estimate our body fat percentage?

    Healthy Living, Katie

  3. Greg says:

    I’ve been trying to decrease beer calories.
    Greg Dougall, Intellectual Property Pioneer

  4. Kate McKeon says:

    Love the formulas – they are a great place to start. The acitvity multiplier is always a big question mark for me. As a runner and a teacher do I qualify for heavy activity or am I just lumped in with the gardener . . . intensity and duration are quite different.

    Pushing companies from good to great, Kate

  5. Keri Eagan says:

    I know I eat slightly more than I should. This is because I have changed my activities and kept the food the same. At least your friend started with the protein shakes, brown rice and eggs. Went down hill from there huh? Good thing your around.

    Keri Eagan
    Anything Alternative

  6. Well I did my calculation and I must say that I am sure I eat more than I should. I pretty sure I knew that before I did the math!
    I’m looking forward to finding out more about what I should be focusing on to get my pre-baby body back.

    Jen B

    The Harwood Center – Tinnitus, Chronic Illness, Fears, and Anxiety

  7. I should pay more attention to my caloric intake before it’s too late.

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Tips, Babysitting Services – Babysitters, Nannies, and Au-pairs

  8. Thanks Darryl,

    Great way to figure out calorie intake.

    To convert inches to centimeters, x by 2.54

    For pounds to kilograms divide by 2.2

    Mr. P

  9. Terry says:


    Thanks for the calorie charts. I know calorie intake is a critical component to lose weight.
    Great tips!


  10. Vicki says:

    It would be great if all food came with info that told the consumer what they had to do to burn the calories off if consumed. I’m sure for some it would make no difference. I for one would probably put it back on the shelf. I don’t have a weight problem but I do look at labels more now than I ever have.


  11. Rob Northrup says:

    Darryl, thanks so much for all the useful formulas…

    Seize the Day,
    Emergency Preparedness For the 21st Century Family

  12. Scott Payne says:

    Very useful info…. your making me think

  13. Hi Darryl,

    Reminds me of the Black-Scholes formula in finance… 😉

    Thank you for breaking it out mathematically for us as well to give us another way to think of calories and rethink our eating habits.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

    Single Baby Boomer Dating Success Expert

  14. Scott Payne says:

    Very thought provoking…. Nice!

  15. I’m an engineer and love formulas. This is something I can use.

    Why does restaurant food have so many more calories than it’s homemade equivalent? With so many people eating out nowadays I’m sure that contributes to the obesity crisis.

    Steve Chambers
    Business to Business Sales Training Expert

  16. Cool great way to see how many calories i need

    Jose Escalante

  17. Lynn Lane says:

    Good stuff Darryl.
    I know a guy that would eat big hunks of pound cake twice a day because he ” needed the calories to gain muscle.” He needs to read your blog.

    Lynn Lane

  18. John Ho says:


    Pretty detailed & useful info!

    Being slim, I might be entitled to turn a blind eyepartially to my calorie counter :))

    John Ho
    Numerology Expert Birthday Numeroscope

  19. Do you include a FREE LINK to a calculator site?

  20. Definitely needed information with my wife and I back on a workout regime along with weight loss.

    Robert Martin

  21. Martin says:

    An eye-opener for me – discovered by me at the gym – was that the calories in a chocolate muffin (as stated on the packet) required 30 minutes flat-out running on the stair machine (which calculated calories consumed).

    I’d rather forgo the muffin and the pain – except on special occasions!

    How much pain is your favourite junk food worth?!
    From Change Management to Spontaneous Change



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