How many calories can you eat a day for FREE? Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate.

Ever wonder how many calories you burn a day?  Have you been sick in bed with the flu and unable to eat?  The amount of calories your body burns just to keep your systems running, like breathing, circulating blood, processing thoughts, building new or repairing damaged cells, etc.  All this stuff requires energy from the body, so even if you’re sitting around watching a 24-hour “Three Stooges Marathon”, all those systems are still working even if you don’t move from the couch.  This is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).  It’s quite simply the amount of calories you need to consume a day just to stay alive.

It’s not terribly difficult to get a decent estimate of this number.  Just grab a pen and paper, or launch the calculator application on your computer and let’s figure it out!

Step 1:  If you’re a woman multiply your body weight by 10.  If you’re a man, multiply by 11.  (The reason men calculate their bmr using the number 11 instead of 10 is that they usually have 10 to 20% more muscle than women do.)

Now how hard was that?  That means if you’re a 130 pound woman, you really can eat 1,300 calories a day, do literally nothing and not gain pound!  Pretty cool huh?  The bummer is most people eat more than that .  A double cheeseburger, large fries and soda will take you to around that mark in one meal.  Fortunately there are great tools on the web if you want to know how many calories are in just about anything you eat. is one of the several sites I like to use.

Now, if you’re reading my blog, chances are you already work out, or want to start working out regularly.  So, let’s get a more accurate number for that BMR, shall we?

If you’re not bed ridden or watching a marathon of re-runs on cable, you have some sort of activity level to factor into your BMR, even if it’s just going to and from your desk job.

So, to get a more accurate BMR number, simply multiply the original BMR number (your body weight times 10 or 11), then multiply that by:

.2 if you do little more than go to and from work and run errands (very sedentary)

.3 if you a lightly active (shopping, walking your dog, light household chores, a couple of hours of aerobic exercise at the gym per week etc.)

.4 if you’re moderately active (exercising most days of the week for an hour or more at a moderate to moderately high intensity)

.5 if you’re very active (competitive level, very athletic, exercise junkies… you know who you are!)

Hint:  if you think you’re somewhere in between multiply by .35 or .45, for example.

Finally, it’s thought that basic digestion makes up about 10% of your calorie burning so take that original BMR number (your body weight times 10 or 11) and multiply that by .10.

 Add all these numbers up and viola!  That’s approximately how many calories you can consume a day without gaining or losing. 

For example, the BMR of a 140-pound woman would be 1400.  If she is moderately active for example doing a lot gardening and goes to the gym a couple of times a week, we multiply 1400 by .4 which equals 560.  Then we also take 1400 – the BMR – and multiply that by .10 for digestion.  That equals 140.  Now we just add 1400 plus 560 plus 140 to get 2100 and that would be her daily caloric needs to maintain the status quo. You might wonder if you can eat all those calories as milkshakes, French fries or pizza (ok, maybe that’s just me), but all calories are NOT created equal.  I’ll save that for a future blog!

Unfortunately, we haven’t accounted for age in this equation.  The bad news is  as we get older our calorie needs decline.  For women, this is usally after 25 or 30 years old – hey, don’t shoot the messenger!  Then, approximately every decade or so after 30, our metabolism decreases around 3 to 5%.  If you’re 40 now, you’ve probably started to notice that, right? 

One reason is we typically become less active as we get older and pesky hormones – especially for women – also change our bodies, not to mention our moods!  In short, the less muscle we have, the less calories we burn.

But there is some good news!  No matter what your age is, it’s never too late to increase your muscle mass!  Lifting weights and strength training can actually reverse a decade’s worth of lost muscle.  It is proven that the human body can continue to build muscle through resistance training until we kick the bucket.

One final note:  genetics also affect metabolism.  You know those lucky few who can eat whatever they want and never seem to gain wegith?  Well don’t blame them, blame their DNA because a fast metabolism can be inherited!  genetics also affect metabolism.



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