Calories to Maintain Weight: How Many Do You Need?

We hear a lot about how many calories you need to eat to lose weight, but what about calories to maintain weight once you reach your goal?

The exact answer depends on a variety of factors, so we’ve put together some general guidelines to help you calculate how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

How many calories do you need to maintain weight?

Man and woman eat sandwiches together |  Calories to maintain weight

If you want to maintain your weight, you must balance your calorie intake with the calories you expend. This concept is known as “calories in, calories out.”

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average sedentary man between 21 and 50 years old needs between 2,200 and 2,400 calories per day. The average sedentary woman of the same age range needs between 1,800 and 2,000 calories a day.

However, “there is no one-size-fits-all solution for nutritional recommendations,” he says. Dana Angelo Blanco, RD, ATC. Exact calorie recommendations for weight maintenance depend on several factors:

  • Sex (men generally need more calories than women)
  • Age (growing children and teens may need more calories than adults)
  • Physical activity level (the more calories you burn during exercise, the more calories you need to consume)
  • Body composition (muscle is more metabolically active than fat)
  • Injury or illness (your body usually needs more energy to recover)
  • Medications (certain medications can speed up or slow down metabolism)
  • Genetics (some people simply burn more calories than others)
  • Significant weight loss or gain (weight changes can affect metabolism)

What’s more, your caloric expenditure will inevitably change throughout your life. “As you age, change your physical activity level, or gain or lose lean body mass, your body will make adjustments,” says White.

For that reason, you must be personal. A registered dietitian is the ideal resource to help you determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR), that is, how many calories your body needs to function at rest, and how many additional calories you will need to support your activity levels and body composition, according to Blanco. .

If you can’t work with a dietician, online calorie calculators are your best option.

3 Maintenance Calorie Calculators to Try

POV shot of a person checking the nutritional information of food |  Calories to maintain weight

If you’re not sure how many calories you need to maintain your weight, online calculators can give you a good starting point.

  • He Mayo Clinic Calorie Calculator uses your age, height, current weight, and gender to estimate how many calories you will need to maintain your weight.
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a online calculator which can be used to estimate your daily calorie needs and recommended intake of each macronutrient and various micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
  • Cornell University Basal energy expenditure calculator uses an equation based on sex, height, age, weight, and stress factors to estimate your BMR. However, it does not take into account activity levels like the Mayo Clinic and USDA calculators do.

However, keep in mind that the recommendations of these calculators can vary widely, even when using the exact same statistics. And “adjustments will need to be made based on your individual factors,” White says.

For example, if you exercise regularly intensely, you may need to increase your calorie count to get out of that calorie deficit. If you notice that you have gained a few pounds unintentionally, you may want to reduce your intake.

Bottom line? While online calculators are available and can give you a ballpark figure, the best way to determine the ideal number of calories for weight maintenance is to speak with a registered dietitian.

What are calories?

Close-up of nutritional information |  Calories to maintain weight

Calories are a measure of energy. The calories you get from foods and drinks (in the form of carbohydrates, fats and proteins) are what fuel your body, whether you’re running, lifting weights or just sitting. Your body needs energy just to keep your organs and internal processes running.

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