How Many Calories Should You Eat in a Day?

The recommended calorie intake per person depends on various factors like body size, height, age, lifestyle, sex, and the general health condition. Read on to know how many calories you require based on your body type.

You must know already that consuming the recommended number of calories a day will keep you healthy. But do you know how many calories should you eat a day? Do you have the habit of counting calorie intake before or after eating? Let us end the confusion and find out the right number of calories you require per day.

What are calories?

For most of us, the word calorie means the amount of fat we eat. But in the true sense, a calorie is a measure of the amount of energy released by the food we consume. In simple terms, a calorie is a unit of energy.

Your body performs different functions daily like circulation, respiration, brain functions, and muscular functions, for which it requires energy (Calories). Calories are the fuel that support your health. 

The food you eat contains different nutrients that keep you going. For example, when you drink milk, the nutrients in it offer benefits to your bone health as milk contains calcium.

How many calories should you eat per day?

Finding out how many calories you should take per day can be a little complicated. Factors like sex, age, size, weight, height, metabolic health, and the physical activity you do play a role in determining the number of calories you need.

Daily Calorie Intake for optimum health

According to a report, below are the recommended number of calories to be taken by different population groups.

Calorie intake for females

The calorie intake for a woman predominantly depends on factors like size, height, weight, age, and activity levels.

Women aged between 19 and 30 require a calorie intake ranging between 2000 to 2400 calories to maintain weight.

Women aged between 31 and 59 require a calorie intake ranging between 1800 to 2200 calories to maintain body weight. These women relatively have lower energy needs compared to younger ages.

Women aged 60 and above require even lesser calories ranging between 1600 to 2000 calories to maintain weight. The majority of these women are not physically active.

Age  Daily calorie requirements
19 to 30 years2,000 to a max of 2400 calories
31 to 59 years1,800 to a max of 2,200 calories
60 and above 1,600 to a max of 2,000 calories

An important thing to keep in mind is that the number of calories recommended here might fluctuate a little depending on factors like your health condition, height, body weight, and your activity levels.

NOTE: The above estimates are not applicable to breastfeeding and pregnant women, because these women have higher calorie needs.

Calorie intake for males

Just like women, the calorie intake for men too depends on various factors. So how many calories should a man eat a day?

Men aged between 19 and 30 require a calorie intake ranging between 2400 to 3000 calories to maintain body weight.

Men aged between 31 and 59 require a calorie intake ranging between 2200 to 3000 calories to maintain body weight. Energy requirements decrease with increasing age.

Men aged 60 and above require even lesser calories ranging between 2000 to 2600 calories.

Age  Daily calorie requirements
19 to 30 years 2,400 to a max of 3000 calories
31 to 59 years2200 to a max of 3000 calories
60 and above2000 to a max of 2,600 calories

Men, who are physically active or have certain physical conditions, might require higher or lower calorie intake. This might also vary depending on weight and height.

Calorie intake for kids

Children from different age groups have different calorie needs based on factors like sex, body weight, and height. A 4-year-old boy might require only 1200 calories, while a teenage girl can require twice the number.

AgeDaily calorie requirements
2 to 4 yearsBoys – 1,000 to max 1,600 calories
Girls – 1,000 to max 1,400 calories
5 to 8 yearsBoys – 1,200 to max 2,000 calories
Girls – 1,200 to max 1,800 calories
9 to 13 yearsBoys – 1,600 to max 2,600 calories
Girls – 1,400 to max 2,200 calories
14 to 18 yearsBoys – 2,000 to max 3,200 calories
Girls – 1,800 to max 2,400 calories

Remember that it is not necessary to be very stringent on the calorie intake of growing children and teens. Micromanaging a child’s intake of calories might lead to malnutrition and slower growth. The child might develop a dislike towards food, leading to eating disorders and allergies.

It is good to develop healthy eating habits among children by encouraging nutritionally dense foods, along with promoting regular physical activity.

How many calories should you eat for being healthy?

Consuming the right number of calories is important. But eating the right food is equally vital for building strong health. Quality food and proper digestion go hand in hand with nutritional intake. If you want to lose weight, a blend of proper diet and exercise plays a prominent role.

Nutrient-dense food means food that gives you more nutrients per calorie you consume. For example, if you take in 100 calories of soda or 100 calories of freshly cooked greens, you end up taking 100 calories either way. While soda offers 100 calories from sugar, the freshly cooked greens offer you healthy nutrients like Vitamin A, Calcium, Proteins, and amino acids making it a nutrient-dense food.

Different types of foods and food combinations may vary their digestion time. Carbohydrates are the first to get digested and absorbed by your body, then come fats and proteins and high fiber follow last. 

Choosing foods that digest slowly (High fiber foods) will keep you away from frequent food cravings. These foods also keep up your energy levels.

How many calories should you eat for weight loss?

Research says that a very effective way for weight loss is to reduce calorie intake each day. But, knowing the exact number of calories to reduce can be a little tricky because it depends on different factors like your body size, sex, age, and your physical activity level.

There are a few calorie calculators on the internet that you can use for this purpose. Just fill in your details and figure out how many calories you must be consuming to serve your purpose.

How many calories should you eat for weight gain?

Eating more calories (creating a calorie surplus) than your body needs is the best way to gain weight. Again, you can use a calorie calculator for this.

If your aim is to gain weight slowly, consume up to 400 calories more  than what your body burns per day. If your aim is to gain weight faster, consume calories ranging from 700 to 1000 extra.

Calorie calculators give you only an estimate of what you need, however you might need more or sometimes lesser than these estimates.

Nutrition dense and healthy calorie foods

Nutrition dense foods not only provide good calories, but also energy and vital nutrients. Below are some nutrition-dense foods for you to check out.

Oats and Granola: Oats are rich in proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, lipids, phytochemicals, and phenolic compounds. Eating oats regularly can keep you away from the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and celiac disease. It also helps you to lose weight.

Granola, a mixture of nuts, cereals, and dry fruits, is rich in proteins, fiber, and micronutrients. This makes it a calorie-dense food.

Eggs: Eggs are a rich source of good calories. They offer healthy fats, proteins, and Vitamin D. They are believed to have a little of every beneficial micronutrient.

In addition, they promote healthy weight gain and are good for muscle building. For complete nutrition, it is good to eat the whole egg.

Salmon and Oily Fish: Salmon and oily fish are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats, and good proteins. They help in healthy weight gain and reduce the risk of heart diseases and blood clots.

Milk: Milk offers a wide range of health benefits as it is a source of vitamins, proteins, calcium, carbs, and good fats. Milk is the best food for children when it comes to energy intake.

Dried Fruits: Dry fruits are high in antioxidants and are packed with minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Eating dry fruits as a part of your everyday diet promotes healthy weight gain and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases

Nuts: Nuts are another calorie-dense food that offers a good number of calories and promotes healthy weight gain. Moreover, they are packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats, and fiber. Tree nuts offer healthy fatty acids and bioactive compounds.

Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate has  a higher nutritional density  than milk chocolate. It is also less in sugar percentage. Moreover, dark chocolate has antioxidants, magnesium, fiber, and micronutrients. It also helps in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and is a stress suppressor.

Take away

The total calories you need per day entirely depends on your choices. If you want to gain weight, your calorie intake should be high. If you are on a weight loss regime, you probably must cut down on your calorie intake. Eat more calories if you want to gain weight. Other factors like age, sex, current body weight, height, metabolic health, and activity levels are the other important determinants. 

Of course, keeping a constant check on the calorie intake (food and drinks) helps in weight management. It is more important to have a balanced diet that comprises nutrient-dense foods for overall health. 

Resorting to simple lifestyle changes like drinking adequate amounts of water, regular exercising, and having a balanced diet will help you in weight management and improve your overall health. 

BeActiveFit cites only high-authority sources, including peer-reviewed studies and renowned journals to support the facts within our articles. The content is meticulously fact-checked for scientific and statistical accuracy by our editorial team.

Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and  you are advised to consult a healthcare professional before taking any action.