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Home/Blog/How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day? (Plus Ways to Reduce)

How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day? (Plus Ways to Reduce)

By Ethan Boldt

January 4, 2024

How many calories should I eat a day

Let’s face it, many of us seek to lose a little weight. For some, it’s the primary health goal, as with less weight tends to follow better health, self-esteem and, yes, better fitting clothes. 

While many different types of diets — such as keto, vegan, plant-based, low-carb or Mediterranean — may be attempted, often it comes down to “calories in, calories out.” In other words, creating a “calorie deficit,” so you have used more calories by the end of the day than you have consumed through food and drink. 

While the type of calories still factor into weight gain or loss, one study states it clearly: “Weight gain is primarily determined by total calorie intake.” Conversely, then, weight loss can often be achieved by limiting calories somewhat. Of course, lifestyle factors such as regular exercise and more factor into one’s weight. 

So “how many calories should I eat a day?” Let’s learn the answer, which will depend on your height, weight, activity level, gender, age, diet and so much more. It also depends on your goals.

As always, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including a weight-loss or healthy weight management program. 

Benefits of Fewer Calories

While more studies need to be conducted and outcomes can vary, there are many studies that point to calorie reduction as part of healthy weight management. For example, in a group of overweight individuals, a recent two-year study conducted at the National Institutes of Health revealed that even a modest reduction — 12 percent in this case — of calories helped each participant lose 20 pounds of weight on average during the first year and maintained that weight loss in the second year. 

Interestingly, while these individuals did also lose muscle mass as part of that average 20 pound loss, they also did not lose muscle strength. In other words, calorie restriction helped improve the amount of force generated by each unit of muscle mass. 

Meanwhile, one 2023 study even stated that our biological aging could possibly slow by 2 percent to 3 percent if we lowered the number of calories we eat by 25 percent. 

Another study showed that women who tracked their food intake, practiced self-monitoring, cooked home-prepared meals and consumed meals at regular time frames had improved weight loss goals over a 12-month period among postmenopausal women.

How to Calculate Daily Calorie Intake

Calculating how many calories you should consume each day depends on many factors, such as gender, height, activity level and age. Also, it varies based on whether you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your weight.

First, you want to know what your resting energy is. Resting energy is the amount of energy needed to live and breathe. It’s what keeps the body and its organs working properly and is responsible for about 60 percent to 75 percent of your caloric expenditure. Digesting food takes about 10 percent, and physical activity accounts for about 25 percent. 

The Harris-Benedict equation is a popular tool used by many nutrition and health professionals to calculate the caloric requirements of individuals based on sex, age, height, weight and level of physical activity. Here are the equations by gender:

  • Male: 66 + (6.2 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) – (6.76 × age in years)

  • Female: 65.5 + (4.35 × weight in pounds ) + (4.7 × height in inches) – (4.7 × age in years)

Then, based on expended energy (physical activity/lifestyle), multiply the equations by 1.2 for sedentary people, 1.3 for moderately active people and 1.4 for active people.

Keep in mind that this is an estimate. It can be different for each person based on other factors, such as a person’s overall health. A healthcare professional who specializes in nutrition can better help you understand what is best for you.

One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. If we base it on this number, you need to burn off 500 to 1,000 calories more per day to lose one to two pounds per week.

A healthcare professional or a calorie calculator app can help you determine your daily caloric needs, but again, it is going to vary based on each individual. You need to give consideration to the factors regarding your particular lifestyle. 

How to Reduce Your Calories

For most people who are overweight, even by just a few pounds, there is a need to reduce one’s calorie intake somewhat. Here are some of the best cutting calories tips.

(For those who are underweight, some of these tips can also help. Simply use to increase the calories rather than limit. Those who are underweight should also consult their healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen.)

1. Use a food tracker (aka calorie calculator)

Evidence shows that tracking your food can be an amazing tool to help manage your goals. It works by bringing awareness to your eating routine. Over time, you can learn about your food to the point where you may not have to journal.

Of course, reading labels is key, and consuming fresh fruits and vegetables makes a big difference versus processed foods. However, tracking is like keeping a food diary and can greatly benefit anyone who is seeking a wellness lifestyle, whether for personal reasons or health reasons.

2. Avoid empty calories

Over 60 percent of the average American diet is now made up of ultra-processed foods (UPFs), which includes items like chips, sugary yogurt, soda, conventional bread and condiments. These are calorie-dense yet nutrient-poor heavily processed foods — a double-whammy for your health and waistline. 

In fact, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, packaged beverages represent 32 percent to 48 percent of daily calorie intake for most Americans thanks to their sugar content.

Removing UPFs from your diet can automatically reduce many “empty calories.” Aim to replace with whole foods and home cooked meals. 

3. Keep portions in mind

Portion out your food in advance, and don’t go back for seconds. Learn portions. Go through the exercise of weighing and measuring everything you eat and drink for a week. 

You will need to read labels to understand what a serving is, and keep in mind that sometimes half a serving is plenty, especially if pairing it with a few other foods.

Similarly, portion your food out onto a plate or bowl rather than mindless eating, which can unintentionally ramp up the calorie intake. This can be especially important for calorie-dense foods like ice cream or chips, so you know exactly how much you’re taking in. 

4. Choose nutrient-dense foods

Nutrient-dense foods — such as steamed broccoli, leafy greens, nuts and seeds — fill you up far better than a bag of potato chips while giving you a ton of nutritional benefits. Consider a salad instead of bread before the main meal, for example, but watch the dressing. Keep it simple and opt for a small amount of olive oil, mustard and balsamic vinegar mixed together.

In our article about healthy foods swaps, you’ll notice that the majority of the swaps are simply a nutrient-dense option over a processed one. 

5. Eat slowly

We have long been told that it takes a little time — up to around 20 minutes — for the brain to get the signal that you are full. If you devour your food, you are not likely to achieve satiety and will overeat.

Overall, eating more slowly is a useful practice in mindful eating. It allows you to enjoy your food far more while getting you to a place of feeling full.

6. Eat at regular times

Eating your three meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — along with an afternoon snack works best for most people. Skipping breakfast can make one overeat later in the day, for example. Instead, eating regular meals at regular times can keep hunger at bay. 

It’s recommended to avoid eating late at night, as you’re less likely to burn off those calories and late night snacking is often composed of less healthy foods.

7. Count your macros

Learning how to count macros can also help you reach your ideal calorie count. The term "macros" refers to macronutrients, which are compounds that provide the body with energy. Macronutrients can be classified into three main groups: proteins, fats and carbs.

Similar to counting calories, many people follow a macros diet plan, which involves calculating and tracking the amount of protein, fat and carbs in your diet to promote a healthy weight or even weight loss.

Once you figure out how many calories you need per day (see above), you may be wondering: What should my macros be? This can vary quite a bit depending on your goals, but it's generally recommended to aim for around 45 percent to 65 percent of total daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 percent to 35 percent of calories from fat and 10 percent to 35 percent of calories from protein.

Just like it’s wise to experiment with a different daily calorie intake depending on how your body is responding, you can do the same with your macros. For some people, for example, they may find great success by increasing their protein intake. 

8. Consider Multi Collagen Advanced Lean

A collagen product from 10 food-based sources, Multi Collagen Advanced Lean powder or capsules is a healthy weight management/weight loss* supplement designed to help you burn calories and boost your metabolism. Select ingredients are backed by multiple clinical studies. 

You’re getting benefits from Multi Collagen Protein plus an additional six food sources of collagen. This collagen formula is uniquely formulated to help you achieve your goals, including healthy weight management or weight loss*, depending on what product you choose.

*In addition to a healthy, reduced-calorie diet and healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise. For healthy study participants with a BMI  > 30.

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