Creating A Calorie Budget

By HAC Assistant Fitness Director, Rachael Ling

Why is Calorie Budgeting Important?

Just like a financial budget is important to get a grasp on the “bigger” picture and aid in financial success, so is creating a calorie budget. It is important to understand where your “money” or calories are going in order to be successful in either endeavor. Here is an easy breakdown most will understand:

Maintain Body Weight: Calories In = Calorie Out
Lose Body Weight: Calories In < Calorie Out
Gain Body Weight: Calories In > Calorie Out

So the BIG question becomes:
How many calories should I consume in order to lose weight?

Losing 1 pound requires that you burn approximately 3,500 more calories than you consume. Your estimated daily calorie budget is the number of calories you should consume in order to create the deficit required to achieve your goal. It is computed using two factors:

1. An estimate of the number of calories your burn each day.
2. The number of pounds you are attempting to lose per week.
(Research shows 1-2 lbs per week is the healthiest route to go.)

For example, if you are attempting to lose 1 pound per week and you normally burn 2,500 calories per day, then your daily calorie budget would be 2,000. Since 3,500/7 is 500.

Creating a Calorie Budget

Steps to Calorie Budgeting

Step One – Determine your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate)

Simply put, this is how many calories you utilize on a daily basis to just “be.” Meaning, maintaining basic life functions, digestion, etc.

The Mufflin Equation for RMR:

For men:
(10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) + 5

For women:
(10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) – 161

w = weight in kg
h = height in cm
a = age

Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 103, Issue 9 , Pages 1152-1159, September 2003

Step Two- Multiply this number by an activity factor.

Activity Factor:
1.2          Sedentary
1.375      Lightly Active
1.55        Moderately Active
1.725     Very Active
1.9         Extremely Active

Step Three- Subtract 500 calories

Subtract 500 calories from this total number to get how many calories you should be consuming in order to lose 1 lb a week.

A word of caution:
If you find this final number to be below 1,200 calories you should consider increasing your activity level. Even if we ate perfectly everyday, every meal, it becomes extremely tough to eat a balanced enough diet to maintain appropriate health and avoid nutritional deficiencies with such a low caloric intake.

Final Note:

In order to be successful, you must ensure you follow this “Energy Balance” at least six days a week, allowing yourself one free day. The only way to do so is to track your calories burned vs. calories consumed on a daily basis. In order to accurately track these numbers we suggest you utilize a program that facilitates this effort. Our personal favorite is This is a free online program (or smartphone app!) that helps you stay accountable with diet and exercise.



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