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Personal Calorie Needs Based
on Age & Activity Level

Written by Sky Taylor, Diet Bites

Free Calorie Needs Calculator

Our free 'Calorie Needs' calculator can help determine your daily calorie needs, but keep in mind that these are not set in stone.

Factors That Influence Calorie Needs

Outside factors influence our daily calorie needs and include the following: our current state of health, our age, where we live, our environment, our level of stress, our amount of muscle mass, our gender, our ethnic background as well as the genes we inherited.

If you are under significant stress you may eat less or more, depending upon the situation and circumstances.

Severe levels of stress tend to trigger the loss of appetite and may occur in such situations as the passing of a beloved family member or pet.

A situation where the individual is under stress because of a vacation or holiday due to anxiousness for the event to arrive is a form of healthy stress and quite normal but it may trigger anxious eating in some individuals.

Another factor that greatly influences the number of calories that our body requires daily is our level of activity. The more active the individual, the more calories their body requires for optimum health. As to muscle mass, if you'd like to eat more food each day without experiencing weight gain, then input more activity into your daily schedule. You'll also be more toned and when you're more toned - you'll naturally appear thinner.

USDA Recommended Daily Caloric Needs

The USDA recommends the following calories as a general rule of thumb; however, we do not agree with these recommendations:

Age Gender Activity Level Daily Caloric Recommendation
Children Male, Female All levels 1,600
Teens Females All levels 2,200
Teens Male All levels 2,800
Adults Female Inactive 1,600
  Female Moderately Active 2,200
  Female Active 2,800
  Male Inactive 2,200
  Male Active 2,800
Pregnant & Lactating Female All levels 2,200 to 2,800
Seniors Male, Female All levels 1,600

The reason why we disagree is that is just doesn't make sense.

The USDA is too focused on this one-number-serves-all theory. It's another reason why prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications are in such a mess; giving the same dosage of a pain medication for a 12 year old child and 200+ pound man makes no sense at all. Yet, it happens every day somewhere in America.

As to the caloric recommendations, a sedentary senior is going to require less calories than a highly active senior.

Just because we grow old doesn't mean that anyone should assume that we also grow fungi from molting in our rocking chair.

And logical thought is tossed completely out the window with the USDA's recommendations in this area; a small and frail older woman is simply going to require less energy (daily calories) than a healthy senior male who towers over six feet - even if both are inactive.

In addition, a senior who is 65 years old is going to also require a different amount of calories per day than her 85 year old peer. But it's just not seniors who are impacted by these recommendations; a 21 year old female is simply going to require more calories than her 50 year old mom.

Therefore, we must look at the chart as it was intended - as a pattern to use as a guide for establishing calories at a glance. It doesn't make it right - and the recommendations are still very squirrely, but they can serve as a sketchy pattern.

As a small female adult who is quickly approaching her senior years, if I were to consume 1,600 calories per day - even in my highly active state, I would gain weight. Which brings us to losing pounds.

If you are trying to lose weight, keep in mind that you will need to burn 3,500 calories per day in order to lose one pound. Trimming 500 calories per day from your daily diet will create about a 1 pound per week weight loss.

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