Where do I Start? : Calculating your Calorie Intake

A large part of changing your life is preparing for the change. If you make a plan on what to do, you will follow it, as long as it is realistic. A large part of losing weight is diet and exercise, but I am also adding in a mental part of this as well.


When starting to make a plan for your diet, it is hard to know where to start. How many calories do I eat? How do I track them?  What do I eat? It is important to start with a reliable number for caloric intake per day. As a nutrition graduate, I always use the Harris-Benedict equation. This will calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories you burn every day if you were to just lay in bed all day and do nothing.

Calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate):

Women = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in yrs)

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

Here is a link to a site that will calculate it for you: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/

It is important to multiply the amount of calories, calculated above, by an activity factor. This will give you the energy for everyday life. Pick one that seems closest to you from below (you can also choose a number between two categories if you feel it is necessary)

  • 1.2 – Sitting most of the day, very little exercise
  • 1.375 – Lightly active lifestyle, exercise 1-3 days per week
  • 1.55 – Moderately Active lifestyle, exercise 6-7 days per week
  • 1.9 – Very active lifestyle, exercise vigorously every day.

So, for me, my BMR calculation is 1820 calories if I were to do nothing all day. Now, my activity factor currently is pretty sedentary, with exercising three times per week, so I am going to multiply by 1.3

1820 calories x 1.3 activity factor = 2366 calories

Now for weight loss, we subtract weight loss from this amount – so we will subtract 500 calories per day, for a total of 1 pound of weight loss per week. This is a healthy amount of weight loss and the recommended amount by most health professionals. It does not mean you cannot lose more if you exercise more. It is also important to re-evaluate this equation after every 5 to 10 pounds of weight loss.

2366 – 500 calories = 1866 calories per day

Now, the hard part, is how do I track these? The best App I have seen is My Fitness Pal: https://www.myfitnesspal.com/

I try to plan out my week of eating with my fitness pal, and then write it down on a sheet: I have a general format I use for now:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

Now, we plan our meals away!

Good luck planning!


One thought on “Where do I Start? : Calculating your Calorie Intake

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