The U.S. Department of Agriculture says normal calorie burn is around 2,000 calories a day, but author and nutrition professor Marion Nestle reports it is more than 3,050 calories a day for the average man and 2,400 for the average woman. The differences in these estimates make it clear that the amount of calories the normal body burns per day varies and cannot be easily calculated. Equations to estimate your calorie burn are just that – estimated. Normal daily calorie burn varies from person to person based on height, body, gender, age, and physical activity.
How to burn calories naturally
A calorie is simply the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of one milliliter of water by 1 degree. Your body works with exactly this type of energy.
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You hear from fitness instructors that they promise to help you burn calories or fitness gadget vendors tell you their product will melt calories away. In addition to exercising, your body naturally burns calories every day. Simply by breathing, blood pumping and digesting food – calories are used up everywhere. The amount of calories used for easy survival is known as your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Daily living activities, from washing to eating to showering, also burn calories and are added to your BMR, as does any physical activity you do – whether it’s running a marathon or building a house.
Equations for how many calories you burn
Your basal metabolic rate can only be measured in clinical settings, but you can estimate your resting metabolic rate, it is only slightly higher and does not depend on an ideal environment. Mathematical formulas can help you determine how many calories you burn naturally each day in general. The accuracy can vary. Which formula you choose largely depends on your personal preference. If you have a high percentage of pure body mass, the latter two formulas are more suitable for you.
The Harris-Benedict equation is different for men and women.
- For a man calculate (88.4 + 13.4 x your weight in kilograms) + (4.8 x your height in centimeters) – (5.68 x your age in years).
- The woman’s equation is: (447.6 + 9.25 x your weight in kilograms) + (3.10 x your height in centimeters) – (4.33 x your age in years).
The American Council found that the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation is more accurate.
- For a man, calculate (9.99 x your weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x height in centimeters) – (4.92 x your age in years) + 5.
- For a woman, calculate (9.99 x your weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x your height in centimeters) – (4.92 x your age in years) – 161.
Additional, more detailed formulas exist, but they require that you know the percentage of pure body weight that you have. Check with your fitness machine or medical provider by taking a body fat measurement. Once you know your pure body mass, the formula for the Katch-McArdle Method is suitable for you: 370+ (21.6 x your pure body mass in kilograms). Another method known as the Cunningham formula gives you a slightly better estimate: 500+ (22 x your pure body mass in kilograms). These formulas apply to both men and women.
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Average estimates of calorie burn
If you are not in the mood to do a lot of math work to determine your daily burn, you can use the chart published by the US Department of Agriculture to to determine your burn rate.
Notice that the numbers are based on the energy needs of the average man, who is 5 feet and 10 inches tall and weighs 154 pounds. The average woman in these estimates is 5 feet and 4 inches tall and weighs 126 pounds. Resting means that you only attend to the light activities associated with daily life – such as walking from your car to your office job and cooking dinner; Moderately active for those whose exercise involves running about 1.5 to 3 miles per day; Active means that you do physical activity in addition to your daily life, which means about more than 3 miles of walking per day.
The average daily calorie burn rate for a man between the ages of 31 and 50 is 2,200 to 2,400 when he is at rest; 2,400 to 2,600 if he is moderately active and 2,800 to 3,000 calories if he is considered active. For resting women, also between 31 and 50, the average calorie consumption is 1,800 per day; for moderately active women it is 2,000 calories and for active women it is 2,200 calories per day.
For people taller or shorter than the average person, a different amount of calories is expected. Younger people tend to burn more than these estimates, while older people tend to burn fewer calories. The estimates do not only take into account the intensity of daily activity, genetics or body composition.
Once you have an estimate of how many calories you burn each day, you can estimate how much you should be eating to either maintain, lose, or gain weight. If you eat 3,500 more calories than you need, you’ll gain half a kilo; If you eat 3,500 fewer calories than you should, you’ll lose half a pound.
Counting calories is not accurate, however, as is estimating your daily burn rate. As Marion Nestle points out, people underestimate their daily calorie intake by an average of 30 percent. Usually people don’t remember exactly what they ate and think their servings were smaller than they actually were. Even when you’re on site with your estimates, food packaging isn’t always 100 percent accurate, and meat, milk, and vegetables aren’t uniform – their organic nature means some may have more fat or fiber, which in turn can change the number of calories.
Do the best you can to stay in tune with your calorie needs. When the scale starts to go up, you know that you are probably eating more than your body needs and that you should lower your portion sizes slightly and exercise more.