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How to Assess Your Daily Caloric Needs?

Here and there, we often hear about calories. How can you know what quantity you need every day, i.e. your daily caloric needs?

Your caloric needs will depend on your goals

For an individual with a healthy weight (i.e., with a BMI[1] between 18.5 and 25), a caloric intake equivalent to the total energy expenditure is recommended in order to maintain a stable weight.

For an overweight individual, a caloric deficit is desirable, i.e., they should burn more calories than they eat. To lose the equivalent of one pound a week, we recommend cutting away 500 calories from the total energy expenditure to get the amount of calories needed on a daily basis.

Daily caloric expenditure can vary according to age, sex, weight, and level of physical activity.

The Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec recommends using the following formulas established by USA’s Institute of Medicine of the National Academies:

TEE: Total energy expenditure
TA: Type of activity
LPA: Level of physical activity
Your weight in kg = Weight (lb) / 2.2

The level of daily physical activity is determined as follows:

  • Sedentary:
    Basic activities (commuting, household tasks, light office work, etc.).
  • Slightly active:
    Basic activities;
    As well as 30-60 minutes of moderate activity (brisk walk, light jogging, recreative sports, moderate speed cycling, aerobics, etc.).
  • Active:
    Basic activities;
    As well as 60 minutes and more of moderate activity;
    Or 30-60 minutes of vigorous activity (runnig, crossfit-style workout, competitive swimming, etc).
  • Very active:
    Basic activity;
    At least 60 minutes of moderate activity and at least 60 minutes of vigorous activity, or 180 minutes of moderate activity.

Beyond numbers, the most important is to listen to your hunger, and stop eating when it disappears. You should also learn to distinguish hunger from fake hunger; to learn more about this subject, I suggest you read the article How to Recognize Hunger Signals?

In addition, to better weigh the pros and cons of counting calories, I suggest you also read the article Should we count calories?

And you, what is your strategy?

[1] BMI = body mass index, which indicates weight distribution over body surface. It is calculated as follow: BMI = weight (kg) / height(m) x height (m)].

Marilyne Petitclerc

Holder of a degree in nutrition from Université Laval, Marilyne has worked as a nutritionist for Nautilus Plus since 2010. Passionate about healthy eating and sports nutrition, she also gives lectures and hosts cooking workshops. With her clients, Marilyne makes extensive use of the instinct diet approach and the Mediterranean diet model. Furthermore, she has attended classes on live nutrition at the Hippocrates Health Institute. Maryline ran the Quebec City Marathon des Deux Rives - Half Marathon in 2010 and 2012. She also took part in the Staircase Challenge, another event held in Quebec City in June 2012. Marilyne also plays in an Ultimate Frisbee league and trains regularly at the Nautilus Plus branch where she is employed.

How to Assess Your Daily Caloric Needs? is a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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