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LostInParadise's avatar

Is there a rough calculation for number of calories required to maintain a certain weight?

Asked by LostInParadise (29152points) August 2nd, 2012

I know that people vary in metabolism and amount of exercise, so any calculation would have to be only an approximation. The formula I came across is that it takes 12 times body weight in calories to maintain that weight. This seems a bit high.

Such a calculation could be used for dieting. Suppose a person is very overweight. That would mean that the person could start off taking in a fairly large number of calories and still manage to lose weight. As the person loses weight, the calorie intake would have to decrease. This seems to make more sense than for such a person to start right away with a 1500 calorie diet.

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12 Answers

Judi's avatar

10 calories per pound for women, 11 for men. That’s if someone is not really physically active and has an average metabolism.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

The one I have heard is a minimum of 10 times weight in pounds, then you add according to your activity level.

So if you are not physically active, you multiply by eleven or 12. If you are very physically active, you multiply by as much as 15 or 16.

Elm1969's avatar

I think No. If you do more exercise you need more calories. Calories are just a unit of heat on the Kelvin scale. Understanding how the body converts protein carbs sugars and fats is an essential part of weight loss. For example if you walk a mile you will burn fat, however if you run a mile you body needs to use it’s carbohydrate stores.To lose weight you have to get your metabolism working right.

JLeslie's avatar


First you need your weight, or the desired weight, in kilograms (kg) you can get it by pounds divided by 2.2 or use an online calculator for metric coversion.

The equation is:

1. kg x 24 = cals a day

2. Then you multiply the cals a day by .3 for not very active, .4 moderately active, and .5 very active. You can of course not multiply by anything if you are extremely sedentary, or higher than .5 if you do marathon training, etc.

3. Then add step 1 and step 2.

4. Multiply step 3 times .1

5. Add steps 3 and 4. The sum of those are the amount of calories for the weight you chose for step 1.

It varies slightly by individual of course, and people with more muscle ratio tend to burn more calories.

Pandora's avatar

Try my fitness pal. Its free and tells you exactly how many calories you need to eat for your weight and lifestyle.

rooeytoo's avatar

If you have a smart phone, ohhhh I see what @pandora said, I use Shapeup, it tells you how many you need and has a counter as well. Also is connected to Runkeeper so if you exercise it will calculate that and allow you a few extra.

Jenniehowell's avatar

I have an app for that. It’s the livestrong app – it’s not a free app but there’s a similar free one called “lose it”. The apps allow you to enter your goals & then it sets a healthy amount of calories based on your goals. It limits the goals within health standards so that you don’t loose too fast etc.

You can also do a search for the “myplate” program – it’s on (or .org I can’t remember for sure). It allows you to track food, exercise & lots of stuff aside from calories to lose weight, gain weight or stay the same.

LostInParadise's avatar

@JLeslie , Interesting calculation. It reminds me of filling out a tax form. If we turn it into an equation, we get w/2.2*24(1 + k)1.1, where w is weight in pounds and k is the number chosen for step 2. Now since 1.1/(2.2) is conveniently ½ and half of 24 is 12, we get:
12(1 + k)w. That seems high.

What about the idea of adjusting caloric intake as a diet progresses?

JLeslie's avatar

@LostInParadise The calculation is straight out of a college text book. An old one. I went to college back in the late 80’s. It is pretty accurate for me. I think the exercise is the tricky part. I think people are much more sedentary, and probably use .4, when they should use .1 or .2. And, of course it does vary by individual. And, the older we get, I think we need to adjust the calories down a little probably. If we have a lot of muscle mass we burn more calories than someone with a high fat percentage. A bunch of factors can add up.

But, there is a mathmatical calculation for you as an individual I believe. Weight is determined primarily by calories in and energy expenditure. So, a certain weight is a certain amount of calories. Maybe for you it is 1800 cals a day and an hour exercise 4 times a week puts you at 140lbs. I’m making up numbers. When people diet they sometimes don’t count or give themselves a cheat day. If you do that, especially if you do it every week, you have to count those calories. When I diet I tend to eat 1600 a day, but I usually do wind up with a cheat on the weekends, a restaurant meal, so in reality I am eating more like 1800 a day in the week so to speak. I maintain my weight much better when I don’t have cheat days, and use a better number for every day though.

Another calculation is one pound is 3500 calories. So, if you cut your calories 500 a day, you should lose a pound a week. If you add exercise, that could be closer to two pounds a week. But, this calculation needs to be done in concert with the first calculation.

And, people do not estimate calories well at all. You have to be very diligent about it and it is tedious work, and in my opinion write it down to track it. A few extra bites of pizza, an extra slice of cheese on a burger, or a cookie can be another 100 calories, and people can be mindless about addi things like that, or just not understand it all adds up; a few extra bites, one extra, just this once, etc.

You can adjust your cal intake down as the diet progresses. In fact, that is what has to happen if people plateau. This is what people fail to understand I think. Let’s say it is 1800 for the 140, but right now you weigh 160. If you cut cals to 1900 you will lose weight now, but then you will reach the 1900 cal weight eventually, maybe that is 147, and to get to the 140, those last 7 pounds, you have to cut another 100 cals a day, or increase exercise. It also explains why people get down to a weight, then stop dieting, and gain the weight back. Well, yeah, now they are eating for a higher weight.

The hope is as we get more fit, we can take in calories, like what I pointed out about more muscle burning more cals, but the sucky thing is science seems to be finding that yoyo dieters ruin something, and they need to consume approximately 20% fewer calories for a weight than if they had never been overweight.

LostInParadise's avatar

Thanks. I forgot about the yoyo effect. That would be another factor that has to go into the calculation.

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whiteliondreams's avatar

If this were true, then everyone can be fed the same foods and not gain or lose weight if experimented. These calculations do not apply to all humans. It’s a guesstimate thanks to natural disorders, natural and different digestive properties, and bacteria within the stomach that assist or complicate digestion at the microcosmic level. So, if you want to find a healthy way of consuming energy, you need to start with carbs, fat, and protein, not calories. Calories are an empty way of measuring nutrition based on quantity and not quality.

Dr Barry Sears – The Zone Diet.

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