How many calories does one need during a day?

Uh…doesn’t the FDA recommend 2000 calories? Yes, that’s a commonly bandied about number, but if it were true we all should were the same size shoes and pants! Obviously, our requirements depend heavily upon our age, height, weight, lifestyles, gender and Body Mass Index (BMI).

The table below shows the Estimated Energy Requirements for an “average” person with a BMI of 21.5 for females and 22.5 for males [Source: Institute of Medicine's Dietary Requirement Report (2002)]


    Activity Level
Gender Age SEDENTARY MODERATELY
ACTIVE
ACTIVE
Child 2–3 1,000 1,000–1,400 1,000–1,400
Female 4-8
9-13
14-18
19-30
31-50
51+
1,200
1,600
1,800
2,000
1,800
1,600
1,400–1,600
1,600-2,000
2,000
2,000-2,200
2,000
1,800
1,000–1,800
1,800-2,200
2,400
2,400
2,200
2,000-2,200
Male 4-8
9-13
14-18
19-30
31-50
51+
1,400
1,800
2,200
2,400
2,200
2,000
1,400–1,600
1,800-2,000
2,400-2,800
2,600-2,800
2,400-2,600
2,200-2,400
1,600–2,000
2,000-2,600
2,800-3,200
3,000
2,800-3,000
2,400-2,800

If that’s not enough, we need to figure out a way to parse those “2000 calories” into carbohydrate, protein and fat. After all, 2000 calories of Krispy Kreme donuts a day is not going to do any good in the protein department.

A gram of carbohydrate generates 4 calories, so does a gram of protein. Fat being fat, has to win and thus generates 9 calories.

The max target for fat within the 2000 calorie diet is 65 g which is roughly 600 calories. At least 1200 calories (~300g) is to come from carbohydrate, which leaves about 200 calories (~50g) of protein a day. A thumb rule that many follow is 1g protein per Kg (2.205 pounds) of body weight per day.

karate10.gifWhat are the protein requirements for athletes?

For athletes, the increased caloric intake should be in the form of carbohydrate and protein. It is important to intake sufficient quantities of carbohydrate, which is the primary source of energy. Insufficient carbohydrate could have an adverse effect of utilizing too much of protein stored in lean muscle as an energy source.

In addition to expending energy (burning calories), strenuous physical activity consumes and damages muscle. Protein is required to rebuild and repair this muscle. Conservative estimates peg 6% of calories consumed during exercise to be replenished by protein.

For 1-1.5 hours of moderate activity this translates to 10-11 grams of protein which increases total requirement to about 1.2g per Kg of body weight. Research has shown that the requirements can be upto 1.6g for intense athletes (endurance or strength).

All of these proteins can be obtained from plant based sources. The body is agnostic to the source, as long as the sufficiency and balance requirements of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are met.

More about amino acids and plant sources of protein in another post.

- Jai

I weep for my Guyana. Cynthia @ Forgive Me My Nonsense.

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17 Comments

  1. TBC says:

    Very informative post. I felt like I was in my Nutrition and Dietetics class all over again! :cry: :notlisten

  2. Dhivya says:

    Oh well..I have my own doubhts about BMI. I would say BMI shud not be followed blindly since the same factors of ethinicity, body frame are also to be taken into account. A blink calculation of simply the height and sex cant determine the BMI correctly. what about Muscular women? what about women with more bone weight? arent they healthy! Guess this incomplete BMI leaves a lot to be desired…

    men too :laugh: BMI is incomplete, and so is the “2000 calorie”. Also there is nothing that suggests that being in the “normal range” of BMI implies that one is healthy. These are just broad brush strokes. Each individual needs to monitor and figure out what is best. nothing should be followed blindly. -j

  3. kribha says:

    Sure is a useful post. Ever since this year started my hubby has been giving the same lectures and giving me print-outs of this calorie charts, BMI and what not. Anyway, thanks for the info.

  4. Nags says:

    oh wow! that means, if i work out in the gym for an hour, then its not a good idea for me to go on a no-rice no-wheat diet cuz then my body takes energy from the protein :O

    whoah! makes sense. think i shud have two roties for lunch!

  5. Srivalli says:

    Interesting post..from today I have started carrying two chappatis for lunch..and reading this again has given new insights…great job Jai..

  6. Miri says:

    I agree with Dhivya – BMI is incomplete info too,my weight as per my BMI has always been low….but I know now that I need to concentrate on the nutritional value of my food since I cannot really load my system with more than what it can digest…protein and vitamin packed foods, with an adequate calorie level is what works for me.
    Thanks for this really informative post!

  7. Priya says:

    Nice post.

    Still if you give the information about the balenced diets and its equivalent calories,it would be more useful!

  8. dhanggit says:

    i’ll bookmark this..its very useful, i must admit that sometimes i eat carelessly..its important to monitor my calorie intake :idea:

  9. Happy Cook says:

    I have to admit sometimes when i buy packed food i look how many clories are there init.
    Ane i am sure there are days when i takemore calories than needed :-(
    And after i started blogging i’ve have to say i’ve put on few kg, which i am desperatley trying to loose

  10. Asha says:

    I NEVER weigh myself but when my old jeans fits well, I know I am good. BMI is crazy! many of Arvind’s patients who are considered as “overweight” are in excellent health and don’t need to do anything, he says.

  11. Pooja V says:

    This was so informative. I hope i improve my diet now.

  12. vineela says:

    Thanks for detailed information Jai.

  13. I needed to read this at this very moment considering i just had a cup of cookies and cream icecream and 10 white corn chips with my home made hummus–while i sit here and watch a movie. this can’t be healthy living, right! I need to read ur blog everyday.

  14. [...] It really is not that complicated. All you have to do is burn more calories each day, than you consume. Eating healthy, limiting portions, skipping desserts and junk food, and plenty of good vigorous exercise will do the trick. I found this table, perhaps it may be of some help to you. jugalbandi ? Caloric and protein needs [...]

  15. [...] protein as she did veggies and legumes, read no further. This post is dreary as it gets! In Caloric and Protein Needs we had noted that all the protein needs can be met from plant based sources. The average [...]

  16. [...] of our caloric needs are met through carbohydrates. GI allows us to categorize these carbohydrates so that we may be [...]



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