How Many Calories Should You Burn In A Day To Maintain A Healthy Weight?
Maintaining a healthy weight has become a popular fitness goal among the masses. Did you know 60 percent of American adults lead an inactive lifestyle, which is one of the primary causes of chronic disorders? However, people are gradually understanding the need to take health seriously.
Gaining or losing weight the right way is a tricky affair. Should you stop eating junk food altogether, or should you only sacrifice your love for unhealthy carbs? Or should you start tracking your calorie-burning rate as well? The dilemma is real.
Well, counting calories is one of the many ways to keep a check on body weight and stay fit. So, if you plan to count calories, then how many calories should you burn in a day?
The answer varies based on a person's age, sex, weight, height, and factors like health status and health goals. The concept of counting calories looks only simple from afar.
With this thought, I have curated this article wherein you will get insights into the significance of healthy weight, the role of calories in weight management, and how many calories you should burn in a day.
Significance Of Healthy Body Weight
Truth be told, we seldom pay attention to the notion of maintaining a healthy weight. We start to take our health and weight seriously only when diagnosed with a certain health condition.
The question of the hour here is, what is a healthy weight? There is no standardized figure that defines an ideal weight. Rather, healthy weight depends on aspects like sex, age, body structure, genetics, health status, etc.
An important factor that is usually referred to in the case of weight management is Body Mass Index (BMI). This factor is a measure to achieve the ideal body weight in terms of total body fat on the basis of height and weight. BMI is categorized into four parts:
- Healthy weight
Healthy weight is one of the many factors paramount to maintaining overall good health. If you closely observe, most of the illnesses that develop are related to the cause of unhealthy weight. Some commonly seen illnesses that occur in this case are heart disease, diabetes, mental health troubles, and even cancer.
If you are wondering how to achieve a healthy body weight, keeping a check on the calories your body receives and burns can do the trick. If you are wondering about how to track your calories, here are a few terms that you should be aware of:
- Total daily energy expenditure
- Basal metabolic rate
- Resting metabolic rate
But, before discussing these three terms, let's get a gist of the relationship between calories and weight management.
Listen to the podcast: Mastering Weight Management: Perks of Losing Weight
Balancing The Calories To Manage Your Weight
Your body burns calories naturally, generating energy to carry out metabolic and bodily functions.
For instance, the average adult male requires 2500 to 3000 calories per day, and the average adult female requires 1600 to 2000 calories per day to sustain life. The number, however, may be lower or higher based on the body structure, underlying health condition, etc.
People say food is the fuel for the human body to run. And technically, it is true since food provides energy for the various metabolic processes to run smoothly. This energy is derived from the calories found in the food you eat.
Metabolic activities in the body are ongoing chemical processes that keep us alive.
What if you consume an excess number of calories in the form of food? Will your body utilize them?
In such cases, the surplus calories are, infact, stored as body fat, leading to unwanted weight gain. Hence, the weight management game is all about checking your calorie intake and expenditure. Additionally, integrating any form of physical activity will help your body stay healthier.
Taking Your Metabolism Rate Into Account
You should also consider your body's metabolism rate when calculating the number of calories burned.
Your body expends calories naturally, even at rest, to carry out various bodily functions like breathing and digestion. This is known as Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Similar to this is Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which denotes the calories that your body burns while doing any light physical activity.
BMR and RMR are often interchangeably used. However, RMR is mostly taken as a reference when it comes to calorie tracking. Also, since RMR involves calories burnt during any light activity, RMR is usually higher than BMR by atleast 10%.
The BMR varies from person to person based on the following factors:
- Body size and composition
- Amount of lean muscles present
- Body fat amount
- Hereditary predisposition
- External environment
- Functioning of the nervous and hormonal system
- Activity level
So, How Many Calories Should You Burn In A Day?
Based on your fitness goals, the answer to this question will vary. Moreover, you have to calculate your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) to learn the approximate number of calories to burn.
Most importantly, you have to be aware of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which is basically the number of calories you burn every day.
RMR comprises atleast 60 to 70 percent of the total daily energy expenditure, and BMR comprises atleast 50 to 80 percent.
To help you out, I am going to cite three common fitness goals:
1. You want to lose weight.
If your goal is to drop your weight, you can either:
- follow a calorie-deficit diet
- burn extra calories by working out, focus on NEAT exercise
- combine the first two options
As I mentioned earlier, your body naturally burns calories for the body to function properly. According to a source, the average adult body burns 50 to 80 calories per hour while at rest. This means the body expends approximately 1920 calories per day to sustain.
So, if you eat food to fulfill the minimum requirement of 1920 calories and increase your activity levels, you can burn another 400 to 500 calories.
Because if you take part in atleast 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, your body burns approximately 400 calories.
In doing so, your body will be in a calorie-deficit state. Your body will have to harness energy from the stored fat, leading to weight loss.
The number of calories burned during any exercise varies on the person’s body fat composition, activity level, etc.
2. You want to gain weight.
If your goal is to gain extra weight, you have to
- eat extra calories
- make your body burn fewer calories than usual
- or try a combination of the above two
3. You want to maintain your current weight.
If you have a desirable weight and want to maintain it, then you have to consume food only to fulfill the required amount of calories for your body to burn. To do so, you have to find out your total daily energy expenditure. Keep reading to learn more about it!
How To calculate The Number Of Calories To Burn In A Day?
To calculate the number of calories that you should burn in a day and fulfill your fitness goal, here is what you need to do:
1. Know your resting metabolic rate.
To find out your resting metabolic rate (RMR), you must use the popular Mifflin-St Jeor equation. The factors needed for this equation are weight in kilograms, height in centimeters, and age. Here is the layout of the equation:
RMR for males
9.99 × weight + 6.25 × height – 4.92 × age + 5
RMR for females
9.99 × weight + 6.25 × height – 4.92 × age – 161
2. Find out your activity level score.
To answer the question of the hour, "How many calories should you burn in a day" you have to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). To do so, you have to multiply RMR by activity level score. Here are the different scores for different activity levels:
- sedentary (little to no exercise) - 1.2
- slightly active (light exercise 1–3 days per week) - 1.375
- moderately active (moderate exercise 3–5 days per week) - 1.55
- very active (hard exercise 6–7 days per week) - 1.725
- extra active (rigorous exercise, training, or a physical job) - 1.9
Number of calories to burn to maintain a healthy weight = Your RMR* your activity level score
3. Keep an eye on what you eat.
To estimate how many calories you should burn in a day, track what you eat. For this, you must focus primarily on the macros you eat. There are three types of macros -
Science says macros food provides energy that your body needs to sustain. However, each of the three different types of macros consists of different calorie amounts. Here's an insight:
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest the average adult should eat 10–35% of total calories in the form of proteins, 20–35% of total calories in the form of fats, and 45–65% of total calories in the form of carbohydrates. However, this value may differ based on the person's activity level, fitness goal, and health status.
Sample Meal Plan
For the average adult male
Breakfast: Veggie omelet with whole wheat toast (500 calories)
Snack: Greek yogurt with mixed berries (150 calories)
Lunch: Grilled chicken breast salad with mixed vegetables and olive oil dressing (500 calories)
Snack: Carrot sticks with hummus (150 calories)
Dinner: Baked salmon with quinoa and roasted asparagus (600 calories)
Snack: Protein shake (200 calories)
Breakfast: Overnight oats with almond milk and sliced banana (400 calories)
Snack: Apple slices with almond butter (200 calories)
Lunch: Turkey wrap with whole grain tortilla, lettuce, tomato, and mustard (500 calories)
Snack: Greek yogurt with honey (150 calories)
Dinner: Lean beef stir-fry with brown rice and steamed broccoli (600 calories)
Snack: Mixed nuts (200 calories)
Along with the above, you can add a variety of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
For the average adult female
Breakfast: Spinach and feta cheese omelet (400 calories)
Snack: Celery sticks with almond butter (100 calories)
Lunch: Grilled chicken salad, cherry tomatoes, mixed green veggies topped with balsamic vinaigrette (400 calories)
Snack: Greek yogurt with sliced almonds (150 calories)
Dinner: Baked cod with quinoa and steamed broccoli (500 calories)
Snack: Protein bar (150 calories)
Breakfast: Berry smoothie with protein powder (300 calories)
Snack: Baby carrots with hummus (100 calories)
Lunch: Chickpea salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, and lemon-tahini dressing (400 calories)
Snack: Apple slices with a light cheese stick (150 calories)
Dinner: Grilled shrimp with zucchini noodles and marinara sauce (500 calories)
Snack: Roasted chickpeas (150 calories)
You can try this diet interchangeably for a month or so to see a difference in your weight.
Calculate your calorie requirement using the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, and eat accordingly.
I highly recommend you consult a health professional for a diet plan that suits your needs and goals.
As you can see, calculating the number of calories your body burns in a day encompasses many factors. For added motivation, you can take the assistance of a fitness tracker, which will give you insights about your macros intake, total daily energy expenditure, and so on.
Also, while purchasing food items, always check out the nutritional values. Be aware of what and how many calories you are consuming.
Lastly, planning and achieving a fitness goal is difficult but not impossible. You may not see an immediate change in your weight. You may not be able to achieve your fitness goals easily.
All you can do is, stay consistent with your calorie intake, adopt an active lifestyle, and wait for the positive results to show.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many calories do you naturally burn in a day?
The answer varies greatly based on gender, body shape, and size. According to experts, the average male burns 2500 to 3000 calories naturally, and the average female burns 1500 to 2000 calories naturally in a day.
2. How do I calculate my daily calorie burn?
You can simply use the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, which is popularly known to calculate the number of calories burnt daily.
3. Can I rely on fitness trackers and apps to estimate my calorie burn accurately?
Yes, you can rely on fitness trackers and apps to estimate your calorie-burning rate. Some popular fitness trackers are Fitbit and Garmin.
4. Does the number of calories I should burn depend on age and gender?
Yes, the number of calories you should burn varies based on your age and gender. Other than this, your height and weight also come into play.
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