Somewhere along the way “1,200 calories a day to lose weight” was engrained into our brains. But how and where did this number come from, and how many calories do we actually need? Not all calories are created equal and not all bodies are the same. 

To determine how many calories your body needs, you need to look at this fancy thing called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Without getting too complicated – this indicates the number of calories your body needs to sustain life. This doesn’t take into account physical activity or exercise, but does depend on gender, height and age.

Once we have our starting point (your BMR), we can add in calories burned, which is everything from walking to digesting food. Though this is a good starting point, it’s much more than balancing calories in and calories out. When we try to estimate the number of calories we’re eating or burning it’s, at best, a guess. If we were all to eat a granola bar with 200 calories, one of us may end up digesting 180 calories, one 195 and another 203. Each bar may contain a different amount of calories and our bodies will react differently, because calorie counting isn’t an exact science.

Factors Affecting Calories Burned

1. Another factor that impacts the number of calories we burn is sleep health. Sufficient sleep isn’t a new topic around here – we all know sleep impacts our concentration at work, but did you know it can decrease the number of calories you burn in a day? Check out our tips to for more quality sleep.

2. Gender – Since males are typically larger in stature than females, they will need more calories.

3. Height – Someone that is taller will generally have more body mass, increasing their caloric needs.

4. Weight / Body Composition – Weight and body composition are some of the only components we can have somewhat of a say in. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so including strength and resistance training will increase the number of calories your body burns at rest.

So how many calories should you be eating? Check out this calorie calculator to determine the healthy number of calories for your body and your goals.