How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day? Daily Calorie Intake

Figuring out how many calories you should eat a day depends on your age, weight, activity level, medical conditions, and overall goals

Figuring out how many calories you should eat a day depends on your age, weight, activity level, medical conditions, and overall goals. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended daily calorie intake for the average person is as follows:

  • Women: 1,600-2,400 calories a day
  • Men: 2,000-3,000 a day

The following table outlines recommended calorie intake based on age, sex, and activity level. Your level of physical activity is generally classified into three categories.

  • Sedentary: Daily activity but no concentrated exercise.
  • Moderately active: Light physical activity such as walking for 30-45 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week.
  • Active: Moderate exercise for about 1 hour most days of the week.
Table. Calorie intake based on age, sex, and activity level
Age group Sedentary Moderately active Active
4 to 8 years 1,200 to 1,400 1,400 to 1,600 1,600 to 2,000
9 to 13 years 1,600 to 2,000 1,800 to 2,200 2,000 to 2,600
14 to 18 years 2,000 to 2,400 2,400 to 2,800 2,800 to 3,200
19 to 30 years 2,400 to 2,600 2,600 to 2,800 3,000
31 to 50 years 2,200 to 2,400 2,400 to 2,600 2,800 to 3,000
50 years and older 2,000 to 2,200 2,200 to 2,400 2,400 to 2,800
4 to 8 years 1,200 to 1,400 1,400 to 1,600 1,400 to 1,800
9 to 13 years 1,400 to 1,600 1,600 to 2,000 1,800 to 2,200
14 to 18 years 1,800 2,000 2,000 to 2,600
19 to 30 years 2,000 2,200 2,400
31 to 50 years 1,800 2,000 2,200
50 years and older 1,600 1,800 2,000

Pregnant and lactating women should consume extra calories based on their pregnancy duration and feeding frequency after consulting their doctor.

How to calculate calorie intake based on your goals

Calories refer to the amount of energy consumed through food and beverage consumption. Calorie sources include fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Any calories your body does not use are stored as fat and can be converted into energy.

Understanding your recommended calorie intake can help you figure out how many calories you should be consuming:

  • Maintaining weight: To stay at your current weight, you must consume the same number of calories as you burn.
  • Losing weight: To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories or burn more calories. If you want to consume less throughout the day, you should eat at least 500 fewer calories a day, or 15%-20% less than your required intake. If you want to burn more calories while eating fewer calories, you should increase your physical activity.
  • Gaining weight: To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn. This should be accomplished by following a healthy but calorie-dense diet and exercising regularly.

What is a low-calorie diet?

If you are overweight and your goal is to shed some pounds, a low-calorie diet can help. It involves consuming foods that are high in nutritional value but low in calories and can help you lower your risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension

The theory behind the low-calorie diet is that by eating fewer calories, the body is allowed to burn stored fat instead of calories to maintain bodily functions. A low-calorie diet of 1,500 calories per day for women and 1,800 calories per day for men is recommended for weight loss

However, for a low-calorie diet to be healthy, it should include a variety of nutritious foods and limit the intake of processed foods high in salt, sugar, and fats.


Some of the benefits of a low-calorie diet include:

A low-calorie diet is not suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning a low-calorie diet to ensure that it is both safe and effective for you.


A low-calorie diet may result in the following side effects:

While eating a little less than usual can be beneficial to your health, going too far can do more harm than good. Severe calorie restriction can make you tired and irritable. If you are having trouble concentrating, it could be a sign that you are not eating enough.


Weight loss occurs in the belly before anywhere else.
See Answer

Medically Reviewed on 2/18/2022


Image Source: iStock Images

US Food and Drug Administration. Do You Know How Many Calories You Need?

Klemm S. How Many Calories Do Adults Need? Eat Right.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Finding a Balance.


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