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Formula for Caloric Intake

author image Sydney Brackett, RD
Sydney Brackett began writing in 2007 for the San Francisco State University Health Center and has written various patient-education materials for the school's nutrition department. Brackett is a registered dietitian and has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from San Francisco State University.
Formula for Caloric Intake
Caloric intake needs to be balanced with energy output. Photo Credit apple on scale (focus on scale) image by Pontus Edenberg from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

There are several different formulas for determining estimated caloric needs. All are based on the principles of energy balance: Energy being used up or expended throughout the day should be equally consumed for weight maintenance. Weight loss occurs when energy intake is lower than estimated energy output, and weight gain occurs when energy intake is greater than estimated energy output. Many different factors effect someone's energy output, such as age, sex, height, weight and energy level. It is important to determine daily caloric intake, to achieve the right energy input balance to suit your lifestyle.

Resting Energy

Caloric intake equations are based on determining a person's resting energy expenditure. This is the energy necessary to sustain life and to keep the heart, lungs, brain, liver and kidneys functioning properly. According to the book Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology, the average North American's resting energy expenditure accounts for about 60 to 75 percent of total daily energy expenditure. The remaining energy expenditure is through physical activity, about 25 percent, and through the metabolic process of digesting food, about 10 percent.

Harris-Benedict Equation

The Harris-Benedict equation is one of the most popular equations for determining energy needs by nutrition and health professionals. This equation takes into account a persons sex, age, height, weight and level of physical activity. The equation for males is: 66.5 + 13.8 x (Weight in kg) + 5 x (Height in cm); 6.8 x age. The equation for females is: 655.1 + 9.6 x (Weight in kg) + 1.9 x (Height in cm); 4.7 x age. These equations are then multiplied by an energy factor to determining estimated caloric needs. The physical activity factors are 1.2 for sedentary people, 1.3 for moderately active people and 1.4 for active people.

World Health Organization Equation

The World Health Organization (WHO) developed an equation for estimating energy needs in the 1980s. The equation is based on a persons sex, age range and weight. WHO did not feel that height was necessary to include in its equation. The equations are as follows: Females: Age 3 to 9 years = 22.5 x (Weight in kg) + 499 Age 10 to 17 years = 12.2 x (Weight in kg) + 746 Age 18 to 29 years = 14.7 x (Weight in kg) + 496 Age 30 to 60 years = 8.7 x (Weight in kg) + 829 Age over 60 years = 10.5 x (Weight in kg) + 596

Males: Age 3 to 9 years = 22.7 x (Weight in kg) + 495 Age 10 to 17 years = 17.5 x (Weight in kg) + 651 Age 18 to 29 years = 15.3 x (Weight in kg) + 679 Age 30 to 60 years = 11.6 x (Weight in kg) + 879 Age over 60 years = 13.5 x (Weight in kg) + 487 Again, these equations are multiplied by the same physical activity factors to estimate daily caloric needs.

Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation

According to Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology, the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation was developed in 1990 and has been validated by more than 10 studies. The Mifflin-St. Jeor equation is gaining popularity among the nutrition professionals for accurately estimating caloric needs. The equation is as follows: for females = 10 x (Weight in kg) + 6.25 x (Height in cm) - 5 x age - 161; for males= 10 x (Weight in kg) + 6.25 x (Height in cm) - 5 x age + 5. These equations are also multiplied by the same physical activity factors to estimate daily caloric needs.

Which Equation to Choose?

According to the American Dietetic Association, the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation has been found to be the most reliable in predicting actual resting energy expenditure within 10 percent. The equation is recommended by nutrition professionals. For further understanding daily caloric intake needs, a Registered Dietitian should be consulted.

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