Categories: weight loss

How many calories per day should you consume?


Discover how many calories per day should you consume.

Could you start the engine of your car without having put gasoline in it? Impossible! The relationship between the human body and calories is identical.

They are essential to our body, we could not live without them. However, the word “calorie” is often the source of various prejudices, fears, and confusion! Suspected of making you gain weight, they are our only source of energy.How many calories per day should you consume?

But then, we very often ask ourselves the question: “How many calories per day should I consume?”. The answer cannot be generalized and must be checked on a case-by-case basis.

Many factors must be taken into account, which is why caloric needs are specific to each person.

Here is an article that will allow you to estimate your daily calorie needs and better understand how and why the body uses these calories.


What is a calorie?

A calorie is an ancient unit of energy. It was used in physics and corresponded to the amount of energy needed to heat one gram of liquid water from 14.5 to 15.5°C.

From now on, a calorie is no longer part of the international system of units, it is only used in dietetics to express the energy value of food. Calories can be converted to joules, where 1 calorie = 4.184 joules.

Thus, 1000 calories = 1 kilocalorie, the abbreviation of which is kcal. It is the latter term that is most commonly used in the field of nutrition.

The energy value of food

•1 g of lipids provides 9 kcal

•A g of carbohydrates provides 4 kcal

•1 g of protein provides 4 kcal


Also note that 1 g of alcohol provides 7 kcal, almost as much as lipids. However, alcohol does not contain any nutrients that can be used by the body, we speak of empty calories.

To calculate the total energy value of food, you must calculate the number of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in this food, convert them into calories and then add them up.

The caloric values of foods are always to be put into perspective.

On their own, they do not make it possible to know whether weight gain, loss, or maintenance will follow, whether the food contains interesting nutrients, whether it is of good quality, etc.

This is why it is not relevant to declare that food makes you gain or lose weight.

When do we consume energy?

If there’s one thing to remember, it’s that as long as the body is alive, it burns energy! Indeed, the body uses energy for all physiological activity:


•movements (daily, physical activity);

•brain activity;



•heartbeat and adaptation of heart rate;

•regulation of body temperature;


•cell renewal…

It is believed that the body does not need energy at night because we sleep. However, this is false!

The body is in constant need of energy to ensure the functionality of its physiological processes, as well as the maintenance of its vital functions: your heart continues to beat, your breathing does not stop, digestion is in progress, and your temperature should be maintained at 37.5°C…

Of course, we consume less energy at night than during physical exertion, but we consume it all the same.

You will have understood: that the human body constantly consumes energy! This is why food calories are essential to the body, and too much calorie restriction can greatly slow down the basic metabolism, which is not ideal for the body!

How many calories should you consume per day?

Calculate your daily energy requirement


The daily energy requirement, or BEJ, corresponds to the quantity of energy necessary for the body to function normally and to compensate for its energy expenditure.

This energy can only be provided by food via the calories contained in food.

Each person has a specific BEJ because it depends on several data specific to each person: sex, age, weight, height, physical activity…

To determine how many calories per day you should consume, here is the calculation to use:


(BEJ: Daily energy requirements / MB: Basal metabolism / NAP: Level of physical activity)


To calculate your basic metabolism, understand how it works, and find out how to change it, we invite you to consult this article: How to calculate your basic metabolism? (Ongoing redaction)

The level of physical activity (PAL) corresponds to the different energy expenditures linked to activities of everyday life according to their duration and their intensity. These activities are classified according to a coefficient:

•Coefficient 1: Sleep, nap, rest in a lying position

• Coefficient 1.2: Sitting position: television, computer, meal, transport, writing…

•Coefficient 2.2: Standing position: short trips around the house, cooking, housework, shopping, washing up, etc.

• Coefficient 3: Walking, gardening, yoga, manual occupation of medium intensity and done standing


•Coefficient 3.5: Manual occupation of high intensity and carried out standing (masonry, mechanics, etc.)

•Coefficient 5: Sport, intense professional activities (forest work, building, etc.)

To calculate your PAL:

Determine the average times per day spent on each type of activity

Multiply each duration by the corresponding coefficient

Add the results


Divide by 24 (since there are 24 hours in a day)

In a simpler but less precise way, you can also use this summary memo of the average NAP according to your average activity over the day:

•Impotent: PAL 1.2-1.3

•Inactive: NAP 1.4-1.5

•Average activity: PAL 1.6-1.7

•Significant activity: NAP 1.8-1.9


•Very important activity: PAL>2

The more frequent your physical activity, the more your PAL will increase. Over time, your NAP will also allow your basal metabolic rate to increase.

This is how you can increase your daily calorie energy needs.

Please note: just because you exercise every day does not mean that you are an active person… If your job is sedentary and you spend a lot of time sitting, sport alone will not be enough to increase several levels. your PIN.

How many calories per day to lose, gain or maintain weight?

When you want to see your weight change, you always try to find out how many calories per day you should ideally consume.

This is a completely appropriate approach since the total number of calories ingested is related to weight. Indeed, the energy intake will have an impact on it.


Let’s start with weight loss. This is possible thanks to a simple calorie deficit, implemented gradually.

To determine how many calories per day you should consume, you must first calculate your BEJ (from the formula stated earlier), then subtract 200-300 kcal.

The reduction can be made in increments of 50 kcal per week so as not to shock the body.

For example, if your BEJ is 2200 kcal, you can opt for a calorie deficit of 2000 kcal per day.

However, beware of restrictive diets and excessive caloric deficits which will only be effective in the short term.

You are all the more likely to regain the lost weight (or even more) because these diets are not sustainable over time.


To determine how many calories per day you need for weight gain, the method is the same but in reverse!

You start by calculating your BEJ, to which you add 200 kcal, or more depending on your goals. The caloric balance then becomes surplus, which promotes weight gain.

Maintaining weight is done simply by consuming the calories we need. A simple calculation of BEJ will let you know how many calories per day you need.

Calorie intake recommendations


The National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) has defined a daily caloric intake to cover the body’s needs.

For men, the average energy requirement is between 2400 and 2700 kcal.

For women, the recommendation is 2000-2200 kcal. This is of course an average, your intake may be higher or lower depending on your profile and your lifestyle.


Children and teenagers

Children and adolescents have specific caloric needs because their organism needs specific energy for growth and development.

The BEJ calculation seen previously to determine how many calories per day we need also applies to children and adolescents, but to which we must add a multiplication factor: growth energy (Ec).


This gives us: BEJ = MB x NAP x Ec

To simplify matters, general recommendations exist for children and adolescents.

In children from 3 to 9 years old, the recommended total energy intake varies from 1200 kcal for the young and/or less active, to 2000 kcal for the oldest and/or the most active.

For adolescents aged 10 to 18, the recommended total energy requirements are 1900 to 3000 kcal. These needs are similar to those of adults, but they are increased due to the energy consumed for growth.


The growth energy is all the more strong in boys, who, in the event of intense and very regular physical activity, can reach energy needs of more than 4000 kcal.

The elderly

In the elderly, food is a vital and convivial element of daily life. It is reflected in the quality of health, lifespan, and autonomy of the person.

However, it is difficult to determine an average caloric requirement for this entire population, because it is very heterogeneous.

Some elderly people are in excellent health, they play sports, garden, travel, and are very independent. Others are more fragile and have a condition creating specific nutritional needs.

The way of life, the medical profile and any disorders will greatly vary the energy needs.

However, contrary to popular belief, the calorie needs of the elderly are not lower than those of adults! They may even be higher in the event of regular physical activity or a metabolic condition.


In all cases, restrictive diets must be prohibited because they expose to high risks of undernutrition.

For this population, the number of calories per day is calculated using the recommendation of 30 to 40 kcal per kg of body weight (except in special situations where the caloric intake is different).

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

Pregnant women have increased energy needs because these must cover the basic needs of the mother as well as the specific needs related to pregnancy.

Indeed, the growth of the fetus and the placenta, the development of the uterus, and that of the mammary glands require additional energy. The needs will gradually increase as the pregnancy progresses.

To find out how many calories per day to consume, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has proposed a simple calculation, which is used as an energy recommendation.

It is necessary to start from the initial calculation of the BEJ via the multiplication of the basic metabolism by the NAP, to which we add:


•The 1st trimester: +70 kcal

•in the 2nd trimester: +260 kcal

•The 3rd trimester: +500 kcal

For breastfeeding women, the calorie needs are similar to those of pregnant women in the 3rd trimester, ie their BEJ + 500 kcal. Lactogenesis requires additional energy and therefore increases energy requirements.

The importance of nutritional quality

If the calories are indeed transformed into energy by the body, all the calories are not equal and are not of the same quality.

To function, the body and its organs also need specific nutrients found in different food categories. There are seven food categories:


•the drinks ;


•fruits and vegetables ;

•dairy products ;

•meat, fish, and eggs;

•Fatty substances ;


•fatty, salty and sweet products.

Let’s imagine that our daily energy requirement is 2100 kcal. If we eat only one category of food, we expose ourselves to nutritional deficiencies and various dysfunctions of the body (organs, muscles, metabolism, etc.), even when consuming our 2100 kcal!

Whatever your needs and calorie intake, your diet should always be as varied as possible to be balanced.

When and how many calories do you burn per day?

The daily energy expenditure (DEJ) is made up of 4 to 5 aspects:

•the basic metabolism, which represents 60% of the DEJ;

•the level of physical activity (NAP), which represents about 25% of the DEJ;


•thermoregulation, which represents 10% of DEJ;

•the dynamic and specific action (ADS) of food, which represents 8 to 10% of the DEJ;

•and any particular physiological state: growth, pregnancy, healing following an accident, etc.

It can be difficult to estimate how many calories we burn per day because we all have different daily routines and lifestyles!

To give you an idea, here’s how many calories you can burn during common daily activities:

•Sleep for 7 hours: 382 kcal


•Shower for 15 minutes: 62 kcal

•Brush your teeth for 2 minutes: 4 kcal

•Driving for 30 minutes: 60 kcal

•Walking for 30 minutes (6 km/h): 149 kcal

•Going shopping at a slow pace, for 1 hour: 130 kcal

•Doing household chores for 1 hour: 95 kcal


•Ironing clothes for 30 minutes: 66 kcal

•Gardening for 30 minutes: 205 kcal

•Cooking a classic meal: 93 kcal

•Playing with the children for 30 minutes: 186 kcal

•Watch TV for 30 minutes: 28 kcal

•Sitting at the desk behind a computer screen for 1 hour: 102 kcal


Sport (for 1 hour):

•Cycling (30 km/h): 1220 kcal

•Running (12 km/h): 940 kcal

•Skipping rope: 900 kcal

•Boxing: 670 kcal

•Climbing: 600 kcal


•Football: 600 kcal

•Swimming: 520 kcal

On an average day, a woman burns about 2000 kcal, and a man 2500 kcal.

How many calories per day should you consume if you exercise?

As seen above, your daily calorie requirement depends on various factors, including your physical activity and sport.

For its contraction, the muscle uses energy (carbohydrates and lipids), oxygen, and water.

During the physical effort, the body uses substrates to form molecules of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) or energy.


These substrates are mainly carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins as a last resort.

This is why, if you increase the frequency and intensity of your sports activity, your calorie needs will also increase, since you will be spending more.

Also, sport is an excellent way to accelerate your basic metabolism. The more you move, the more you tone your body. You then increase your muscle mass.

As explained above, muscles need a lot of energy to be maintained. Muscle tissue is also the element that consumes the most energy!

A muscular body will therefore require more energy, and therefore calories at rest. This is how your basal metabolism increases.

To know how many calories per day you should consume if you are athletic, the calculation is always the same: BEJ = MB x NAP.


The resulting calorie total is higher due to a higher than average PAL.

Overall, sports people, whether high level or amateur, have a higher than average calorie requirement.

These needs are to be estimated more specifically according to the nature of the activity, the frequency, and the intensity. The needs of some athletes can go up to 3500 kcal!



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