The Math of Weight Maintenance

Balancing calories in and calories out is the key to weight maintenance. It sounds simple, but in order to keep track each day, you have to know how many calories your body needs. Contrary to popular belief, the FDA recommendation of 2,000 calories per day is not true for everyone, particularly women.

Follow the instructions below to estimate how many calories you need to eat each day to maintain your weight, and adjust as necessary if you are not seeing the results you desire.

Step 1: Determine your activity level

  1. Sedentary (less than 30 minutes a day) = 1.1
  2. Light Activity (30 minutes a day) = 1.2
  3. Moderate Activity (30-60 minutes a day) = 1.3
  4. Vigorous Activity (60+ minutes a day) = 1.4

Step 2: Complete the following information

ADD TOGETHER (4.5 x weight = ________) + (15.5 x height (in inches) = ________) = _________

SUBTRACT (above total) = ________ – (5 x age = _________) = _________

SUBTRACT (5 if you’re a man) or (161 if you’re a woman) = _________

MULTIPLY (above total) = ________ x (activity level; see step 1) = _________

Estimated daily calorie requirements = _________

Congratulations! You have estimated the number of calories you need to consume each day to maintain your weight. Remember, if your goal is to lose weight, you will need to decrease this number by around 500 calories each day.

Exercise and calories

While you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, exercising makes it easier to stay within your daily calorie allotment ! The calories you burn can be factored into your calorie budget. Here are examples of how many calories a 200-pound person might burn doing the following activities for one hour each:

  1. Basketball: 728
  2. Walking, 3.5 mph: 391
  3. Weight training: 455
  4. Yoga, low intensity: 228

Stay connected

Don’t have time to work out the math? Use the American Cancer Society’s online calorie needs calculator.

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