You burn most of your daily calories with little to no conscious effort. Whether you're talking on the phone, working at a keyboard, or just watching television, your body is burning calories to keep your heart pumping, your lungs breathing, and your organs functioning. The calories used to maintain these basic bodily functions add up to your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Basal essentially means base — think of it as the number of calories that’s just enough to cover all your body’s bases.
These are what I call your couch-potato calories. It amounts to 60 percent to 75 percent of the total calories you use daily, and there's no physical activity required for this."
In other words, this is what you burn without lifting a finger. That’s why BMR is also known as the resting metabolic rate, or RMR.
Knowing your BMR can help you create a more effective strategy for weight loss, allowing you to better keep your calorie count on track and better understand the effect exercise will have on your waistline.
Metric BMR Formula
Women: BMR = 655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kilos ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) - ( 6.8 x age in years )
Once you know your BMR, you can calculate your Daily Calorie Needs based on your activity level using the Harris Benedict Equation.
Harris Benedict FormulaTo determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
Total Calorie Needs Example
If you are sedentary, multiply your BMR (1745) by 1.2 = 2094. This is the total number of calories you need in order tomaintain your current weight.
Once you know the number of calories needed to maintain your weight, you can easily calculate the number of calories you need to eat in order to gain or lose weight:
- Calorie intake to gain weight
- Calorie intake to lose weight
Calorie Needs to gain weight
Once you know the number of calories you need to maintain your weight (using our BMR Calculator in conjunction with ourHarris Benedict Equation, you can easily calculate the number of calories you need in order to gain weight.
If you want to gain body weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn. One pound of body weight is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories, so eating an extra 500 calories per day will cause you to gain one pound a week.
For optimum health, if you increase your calories to gain weight then (health permitting) gradually increase your level of physical exercise in order to maintain or increase your lean body mass. The benefits of exercise on physical and mental health are well documented and shouldn't be ignored.
Calorie Needs to lose weight
There are approximately 3500 calories in a pound of stored body fat. So, if you create a 3500-calorie deficit through diet, exercise or a combination of both, you will lose one pound of body weight. (On average 75% of this is fat, 25% lean tissue) If you create a 7000 calorie deficit you will lose two pounds and so on. The calorie deficit can be achieved either by calorie-restriction alone, or by a combination of fewer calories in (diet) and more calories out (exercise). This combination of diet and exercise is best for lasting weight loss. Indeed, sustained weight loss is difficult or impossible without increased regular exercise.
If you want to lose fat, a useful guideline for lowering your calorie intake is to reduce your calories by at least 500, but not more than 1000 below your maintenance level. For people with only a small amount of weight to lose, 1000 calories will be too much of a deficit. As a guide to minimum calorie intake it is recommended that calorie levels never drop below 1200 calories per day for women or 1800 calories per day for men. Even these calorie levels are quite low.
An alternative way of calculating a safe minimum calorie-intake level is by reference to your body weight or current body weight. Reducing calories by 15-20% below your daily calorie maintenance needs is a useful start. You may increase this depending on your weight loss goals.
Adjust your exercise output. Calculators ask for your level of physical activity for a very good reason. You can influence your BMR through exercise, spurring your body to burn more calories even when you are just lounging about.
The advantage of knowing your BMR is that you can adjust the number of calories of any diet you choose to meet your personal guidelines for weight loss.
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