Maintenance Calorie Calculator

Created by Aleksandra Zając, MD and Joanna Michałowska, PhD candidate
Reviewed by Dominik Czernia, PhD and Jack Bowater
Based on research by
Mifflin MD, St Jeor ST, Hill LA, Scott BJ, Daugherty SA, Koh YO. A new predictive equation for resting energy expenditure in healthy individuals The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (February 1990)See 2 more sources
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Adult Weight Management (AWM) Determination of Resting Metabolic RateThe Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025
Last updated: Nov 21, 2022

This maintenance calorie calculator allows you to calculate how many calories your body needs to maintain your current weight. If you want to know how to distribute these calories healthily throughout your diet, check out our carb calculator, protein calculator and fat intake calculator.

In the article below, you will find information on how to calculate maintenance calories, what your daily calorie intake should be, and why weight maintenance and weight loss maintenance are not the same thing.

Daily calorie intake - how many calories do I need?

Every person is different, and we all need different amounts of energy to maintain our weight. A person's energy requirement depends on their age, weight, height, physiological state, body composition, physical activity level, and many other factors.

First of all, check if your weight is within the healthy range. Why it is so important? Research shows that maintaining a normal weight could prevent many diseases, such a cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even some types of cancer! If your body mass is not within the healthy range, use our ideal weight calculator to set a weight goal. In this situation you should increase or decrease your calorie intake, rather that focusing on weight maintenance.

Why would I want to know my maintenance calories?

Knowing your maintenance calories:

  • you can make conscious food choices. Knowing how much macronutrient you should eat, you can put the nutrition facts table on the food products to better use;
  • you can effectively manage your weight - it is essential to know your baseline if you want to reduce or gain some body mass;
  • you will be able to plan your weight loss/ weight gain at a healthy pace;
  • you will be sure you provide your body the energy that it needs.

How to calculate maintenance calories? - what are my maintenance calories?

There are many methods to answer what are my maintenance calories. Some of them are really sophisticated and need to be carried out in the laboratory; others involve using fitness trackers, apps, or different equations. There is no universal formula for estimating energy expenditure, but we usually calculate it by first assessing your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and then multiplying it by appropriate physical activity level (PAL) value.

Researchers have developed several equations that predict basal metabolic rate. Our maintenance calorie calculator uses the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, as this is one of the most popular BMR equations and is recommended by the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The physical activity level is a way of expressing a person's daily physical activity. Different PAL values have been derived from research that uses direct, laboratory methods to assess Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), and have been validated in many studies. Typical adult PAL values range from 1.20 to 2.40.

Do you wonder how many calories you burn while performing different types of activities? Try the calories burned calculator to find out!

Weight loss maintenance

Unfortunately, research shows that less than 20% of people who have lost weight are able to maintain a 10% weight reduction with respect to their original weight over a year. They identified several reasons, including:

  • History of weight yo-yoing;
  • Disinhibited eating;
  • Binge eating;
  • More hunger;
  • Eating in response to emotions and stress;
  • Passive reactions to problems; and
  • Biological response to weight loss.

As some people lose weight, they actually require less energy than a person who was already at that weight (with all other factors also remaining the same), so by sticking to their calculated maintenance calories, they would actually gain weight. It isn't possible to calculate how much energy requirement decreases due to weight loss, as it affects components of total energy expenditure: it slightly reduces basal metabolic rate, the thermic effect of food, and nonexercise energy expenditure. You may not even realize that you are moving less; our bodies just try to be more efficient.

If you recently lost weight, don't worry - it doesn't mean that you will put it back on! Being aware of the factors associated with weight loss maintenance will help you to implement prevention strategies. Increasing your physical activity may be one of the easiest and the most helpful solutions to this problem.

Maintenance calorie calculator - an example

To answer the question what are my maintenance calories?, we will set up an example scenario. Lisa is a 25 year old woman who wants to maintain her weight. She weighs 62 kilograms, and is 168 cm tall. She hasn't lost any weight recently, and her PAL equals 1.4, as she has an office job and goes for a walk or a slow bike ride from time to time.

Don't worry if you prefer pounds and inches. Our maintenance calorie calculator has built-in weight and length converters that switches between SI and imperial units automatically. Just select your preferred units!

  1. First of all, our maintenance calorie calculator will calculate Lisa's basal metabolic rate (BMR) using the Mifflin-St Jeor formula. The equation can be found below:

BMR (kcal/day) = 10 × weight (kg) + 6.25 × height (cm) – 5 × age (years) – 161

When we input the values above, we can solve the equation:

BMR (kcal/day) = 10 × 62kg + 6.25 × 168cm – 5 × 25 years – 161

BMR (kcal/day) = 620 + 1050 – 125 – 161

BMR (kcal/day) = 1384

  1. Lisa's total energy requirement (or in other words, total daily energy expenditure - TDEE) can be calculated by multiplying her BMR and her physical activity level (PAL):

TDEE (kcal/day) = BMR × PAL

TDEE (kcal/day) = 1384 × 1.4

TDEE (kcal/day) = 1937.6

In our example, Lisa needs to eat 1937.6 kcal per day to maintain her weight.

Macronutrient distribution

Hopefully you have found out the daily calorie intake that will allow you to maintain your weight, but how should we distribute these calories in our diet? According to USDA Dietary Guidelines, a healthy diet should have the following macronutrient distribution:

  • 10-35% of energy should come from protein.
  • 45-65% of energy should come from carbohydrates;
    • less than 10% of energy should come from added sugars; and
    • for every 1000 kcal consumed, eat at least 14 grams of fiber.
  • 20-35% of energy should come from fat; and
    • less than 10% of energy should come from saturated fat (they can be found in animal fats and some solid plant fats, e.g., palm oil).

Moreover, don't forget to drink enough fluids - water is the best choice!

FAQ

How do I calculate maintenance calories?

To calculate your maintenance calories:

  1. Count your BMR - basal metabolic rate. You can do that with the Mifflin-St Jeor formula that requires weight, height, age, and sex.

The formula for women is:

BMR (kcal / day)= 10 × weight (kg) + 6.25 × height (cm) – 5 × age (y) – 161 (kcal / day)

For men, it is:

BMR (kcal / day) = 10 × weight (kg) + 6.25 × height (cm) – 5 × age (y) + 5 (kcal / day)

  1. When you know your BMR, multiply it by your physical activity level, or PAL. You can estimate your PAL with the following hints:
  • 1.2 is for little or no exercise;
  • 1.4 is for light exercise 1-2 times a week;
  • 1.6 is for moderate exercise 2-3 times/week;
  • 1.75 is for hard exercise 3-5 times/week;
  • choose 2.0 if you've got a physical job or perform hard exercise 6-7 times/week; and
  • 2.4 is for professional athletes.
  1. The result will be your daily maintenance calories. You should eat this many calories if you want to maintain your current weight.

Do your maintenance calories change?

Maintenance calories are the number of calories that won't cause weight loss or weight gain - they serve to maintain the current state. The maintenance calories value depends on two major factors - basal metabolic rate (BMR) and physical activity level (PAL). Changes in both those factors can cause your maintenance calories to change.

PAL change is pretty intuitive - if you exercise more, you'll burn more, and if you stop moving, you'll burn and need fewer calories.
Change in the BMR is more subtle, and you can't address it as easily. Your BMR depends on your sex, age, genetics, your hormonal state (especially your thyroid wellbeing), the temperature of your body, and the temperature of the environment. We do impact our activity level - e.g., HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts increase our BMR for some time, even after the workout.

What are my maintenance calories?

Maintenance calories are the number of calories that will serve to maintain your current body weight. By eating your maintenance calories and exercising the same way you shouldn't lose or gain weight.

To calculate your maintenance calories, we usually multiply BMR - basal metabolic rate - by PAL - physical activity factor. You can count your BMR using the Mifflin-St Jeor formula - separate for men and women.

The formula for women is:

BMR (kcal / day)= 10 × weight (kg) + 6.25 × height (cm) – 5 × age (y) – 161 (kcal / day)

For men, it is:

BMR (kcal / day) = 10 × weight (kg) + 6.25 × height (cm) – 5 × age (y) + 5 (kcal / day)

PAL expresses your daily activity as a number, and it's usually estimated, from a value of 1.2 up to 2.4 if you're a professional athlete.

What is the physical activity level?

A physical activity level (PAL for short) is a number that estimates you everyday activity level. Check out the table to find out your physical activity level.

PAL

Description

1.2

Little or no exercise

1.4

Light excercise 1-2 times a week

1.6

Moderate exercise 2-3 times/week

1.75

Hard exercise 3-5 times/week

2

Physical job or hard exercise 6-7 times/week

2.4

Professional athlete

Is BMR the same as maintenance calories?

No. BMR is your basal metabolic rate - the minimum amount of calories your body needs for processes like breathing, digesting, thinking (yes!) and keeping the body temperature steady. Your BMR would be the same as your maintenance calories if you were to lay in bed all day and rest in thermal comfort. But since you're walking around, working, sitting, standing up, and doing sports, you need more energy.

To sum up:
maintenance calories = BMR + calories burnt during any physical activity

Aleksandra Zając, MD and Joanna Michałowska, PhD candidate
🥗 This calculator will help you to estimate how much energy and nutrients your body needs to maintain your current weight.
Sex
Female
Height
ft
in
Weight
lb
Age
yrs
Physical activity
Light exercise 1-2 times/week
Physical Activity Level (PAL) = 1.4
Have you lost weight recently?
No
Calories to maintain weight
kcal/day
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