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, protein and fat intake calculators.
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 as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, 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.
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 formula, 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 negative 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!
- 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
- 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.
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!