How to Calculate Daily Caloric Needs for Weight Loss

Dr. Amir

Are you trying to lose weight again? It seems that everyone could stand to lose 15 or 20 pounds but these days losing weight seems as complicated as ever. Should you join a gym? Buy a special diet plan? Get an exercise video? Take drug store supplements? Then there is the thorny issue of how safe any of these miracle weight loss programs actually are and whether you can actually stick with the program. There is no right answer for some of these questions since each of us is a little different. One factor of importance if you’re trying to lose weight is to determine how to calculate your daily caloric needs. This number simply represents the number of calories your body requires in order to function normally over a 24 hour period. Here’s how to quickly calculate your daily caloric needs.

It’s common knowledge that 3500 calories is equal to 1 pound of fat. So if you eliminate that 300 calorie donut you eat every morning and burn off 200 calories walking briskly around the block every evening for 40 minutes you would eliminate 500 calories from your normal daily routine; this translates into roughly 1 pound per week. Reducing calorie consumption even more leads to even greater weight loss. The problem most people encounter is trying to calculate what their daily caloric needs actually are. Any calories below or above this figure can lead to weight loss (or gain). Unfortunately calculating exact daily caloric needs is neither easy nor straight forward. Fortunately, formulas have been created to provide estimates of daily caloric needs. Different weight loss programs have developed different versions but the basic concept remains the same.

To calculate daily caloric needs:

The first step is to convert your body weight from pounds to kilograms. If your weight is 200 pounds; multiply 200 by 0.45. Your weight in kilograms is 90.

Step two requires that you calculate daily calories based on your gender. Multiply your weight in kilograms by 24 hours, and then multiply this figure by 1 if you’re a male, or 0.9 if you’re a female. Men burn off more calories than women under similar circumstances. In the example you get 1944 calories.

Step three requires that you calculate something known as a “lean factor”. People who have less body fat and more muscle mass burn off more calories at rest. Not only do well-toned individuals look and feel better, they also burn more calories without increasing activity level. To determine your lean factor you need to know your body fat. This can be calculated with calipers, bio-electrical impedance scales, hand-held monitors or guesstimated by using measurements of your neck, waist and abdomen.

Many web sites can help you calculate your body fat free of charge. For females with over 28 percent body fat their lean factor is 4 and their multiplier 0.85. Women between 21 and 28 percent have a lean factor of 3 and a multiplier of 0.9. Women between 15 and 20 percent have a lean factor of 2 and a 0.95 multiplier. Women between 10 and 14 percent have a lean factor of 1 and a multiplier of 1.0. In our example if you have a body fat of 35 percent, then your lean factor is 0.85.

Step four calculates your basal metabolic rate or your body’s daily caloric needs at rest for an entire day. Multiply 1944 (daily caloric needs for female) by your lean factor of 0.85 to get the calories your body requires per day if you’re engaged in absolutely no activity. In the example you get 1652 calories.

Step five requires that you determine your average daily activity level. The more intense your daily activity, the higher your daily activity multiplier. For example if you sit and study and engage in no activity throughout the day then your activity level is considered very light and your multiplier is1.3. At the other extreme if you do a combination of moderate and heavy physical activity 8 or more hours a day and engage in 2 to 4 hours of intense training then your activity level is considered very heavy and your multiplier is 2.0. In the example let’s use light daily activity which gives a multiplier of 1.55.

Step six takes the basal metabolic rate of 1652 and multiplies it by the average daily activity multiplier of 1.55 to give us 2561. This figure represents the estimated daily calories needed to maintain your current weight. Subtracting from this caloric number by either reducing calorie intake or increasing activity level and caloric expenditure will lead to a sizeable caloric deficit which translates into real weight loss.

If this formula sounds too complicated, HealthwoRx™ also offers convenient, in-office Calorie Testing. In just 10 minutes, our physicians can determine precisely how many calories your body is burning via on-screen display and printed results.

The final results are ideal for maintaining records and helping us tailor the perfect diet plan for your unique weight loss needs.