Most people will hear that the average woman should aim for 1,800 calories per day, while the average man would need about 2,200 calories.
The problem is that those guides are wrong for almost everybody.
How many calories you burn every day is dependent on so many factors - this is where a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) calculator comes in handy.
To use this free TDEE calculator, put your statistics in:
What Is Total Daily Energy Expenditure About?
Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the amount of energy a person burns per day to cover all physical functions.
How many calories you burn per day largely depends on your sex, age, weight, height, and physical activity level throughout the day. But it also includes the energy needed for breathing, blood circulation, and digestion.
And because of the number of factors (including your workout routine) that influence how many calories your body burns, the actual daily calorie needs can be vastly different even for an average person.
What a calculated TDEE value can tell is the number of calories you’ll need to consume each day to maintain your current weight.
But there’s more to it.
Why Is It Important To Know Your TDEE?
Armed with the number of calories per day, you’re in a much better position to keep track of your current diet and find out whether it supports your health and fitness goal -- whether that's body fat loss or weight gain.
I’ve split this section into 3 parts to show you what I mean.
When you’re trying to build muscle and put on weight, you need to eat a lot more than the average daily calorie intake if you weren’t exercising a lot.
How many calories your body needs will then depend a lot on how often you exercise, as well as a few physical characteristics that we’ll explain below.
With a calculated TDEE, you’ll know how many calories you need per week and day so that you can gain muscle as fast as possible.
When you’re cutting, you don’t just want to lose weight. You need to reduce body weight in a controlled way so that you remove as much body fat as possible while not having too much impact on lean body mass.
That’s easier said than done.
What TDEE does is provide you with a calorie goal to help you to gradually eat less to get to a calorie deficit and boost fat loss. But you’re also less likely to push it too far where you impact the muscle gain.
You may also use the TDEE to achieve a calorie surplus when you're aiming to gain weight.
3. Weight Loss
If you want to lose weight, then you have to focus on tracking macros, the quality of the food you eat, and the amount of calories you consume.
“While the majority of food and training plans work by cutting calories overall, an approach that many neglect is counting the macros that form the calories themselves. It’s a key part of nutrition and weight management that is often overlooked.” – Edward Cooper, Editor at Menshealth.com.
TDEE can tell you what calorie intake your body needs to maintain your current weight or even help you with weight loss. With that starting value, you can then either maintain the same physical activity level and eat fewer calories or eat the same and introduce some cardio and strength training.
Ultimately, that approach will lead to a loss in body fat.
How Is TDEE Calculated?
Your total daily energy expenditure is calculated using several different methods like the Harris-Benedict formula, Katch-McArdle formula, and the Mifflin St. Jeor equation.
What they all do is take certain input values like your age, sex, height, weight, body mass index, and physical activity level to calculate how many calories you burn per day.
Now, you could argue all day about which formula is more reliable. We decided to take our dietitian's word for it and stuck with the Harris-Benedict equation as our energy expenditure calculator. Our team have used this for weight loss or muscle gain programs for our clients.
The Harris-Benedict Formula
This TDEE formula is over 100 years old, but it has been slightly adjusted over the years. What it does is use a two-step process that starts with calculating your basal metabolic rate (BMR) .
Your basal metabolic rate is how many calories you burn per day just to sustain your core temperature and keep you alive. It covers breathing, blood circulation, brain activity level, and metabolism. The basal metabolic rate depends on greatly on your body size and structure.
Apart from your resting metabolic rate, the next step involves layering on your non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is how physically active you are when performing work tasks (this number is called an activity multiplier). A laborer would burn more calories than an office worker, for example.
The calculated TDEE is the calories you need to aim for to maintain your weight.
And for anyone interested enough in the actual formula, this is how you break it down. Note that the basal metabolic rate (BMR) calculation is gender specific, as show in the formula below:
Step 1 - Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):
- Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 × weight in kg) + (3.098 × height in cm) - (4.330 × age in years)
- Men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) - (5.677 × age in years)
Step 2 - Activity Level:
- Low to light physical activity: Step 1 x 1.53
- Active job and/or moderate exercise: Step 1 x 1.76
- Very active job and sporting activity: Step 1 x 2.25
It's basically just your BMR x the constant activity multipliers (depending on your exercise activity level).
What Does This TDEE Calculator Not Take Into Account?
Our dietitian did mention that this isn’t a 100% accurate formula for weight loss or bulking but should be taken as a starting point where you make adjustments to your diet.
The reason is that there is something called the thermic effect of food .
This describes how much energy your body needs to digest certain foods. For example, sugary treats have hardly any thermic impact, but raw nuts would require almost half of their contained energy just to break down and absorb.
That’s where a healthy diet comes into play to avoid those foods that have a low thermic impact especially if your goal is weight loss.
Have You Worked Out Your TDEE?
I highly recommend starting with the TDEE calculator on this page before you come up with a diet plan to lose weight or bulk up, depending on your body composition and weight goal.
You have to know how many calories you burn per day as your basal metabolic rate and then make sure you adjust your food intake as needed.
You also need to know that your energy intake may change depending on your exercise level and how hard you’re training. Keep that in mind when working out your calories per week, and make adjustments quickly, whether you're aiming to lose weight and body fat or gain some muscle.
So, let’s calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) right now, and come back to us in a few weeks about how it has impacted your fitness goals and diet.