HOW TO: Calculate Your Daily Calorie Needs
Exactly how much food can you eat each day to maintain your weight? This formula is the start point for many weight loss programs. Once you determine your daily caloric needs, you can begin to lower calories until fat loss occurs. It's hardly an exact science - there is no simple formula that takes into account body composition, ethnicity, the thermic affect of nutrients, body surface area, and all the myriad other factors that come together to create your own unique metabolic rate.
Every calorie calculator is a starting point - no more. If you plan your diet with a more scientific approach (i.e. you count calories) - figuring out your daily maintenance level is a must. Personally I've found that it helped me to learn the amount of food that was "normal" for me. However obsessively counting calories was not something I could do forever.
This calculator uses the Mifflin formula, which currently appears to be one of the most accurate predictive equations for both normal weight and obese individuals. The calculator predicts REE (Resting Energy Expenditure). Exercise levels are then factored in. Fat loss levels are calculated by subtracting 20% of daily calories. There is always a "rock bottom" value factored in - which is 8 calories per pound of body weight.
Most calculators you see on the web use the Harris-Benedict equation. However this equation is rather old (c. 1919), and many argue that with today's body weights and lack of exercise, the formula tends to overestimate calories.
As stated previously - even the very best calculator is a "best guess". A recent study into this very subject concluded: "One has to be careful in choosing, understanding and clinically applying the results from predictive equations, bearing in mind that the original population from which the equation was derived does not always correspond to that currently being evaluated."
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