The daily recommended calorie intake for men to lose weight is different for each individual. To get leaner, you need to figure out how many calories your body is burning per day and then adjust your diet to eat less and reduce your energy intake.
Tipping the Scales
The number of calories for men's weight loss depends on your goals. Fat loss requires a caloric deficit, meaning that you need to take in fewer calories than you burn. This is the key to achieving a healthy body weight, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
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While it sounds simple, it's a complex and challenging process. Figuring out how many calories you burn every day is difficult. Tracking your food intake isn't simple either. Men trying to lose weight should start by figuring out their daily energy expenditure.
One pound of fat has about 3,500 calories worth of energy. That means you need to burn roughly that many calories to lose one pound of fat. You can do that by taking in fewer calories than you expend.
The average calorie intake for men is higher than that for women. The reason, according to Harvard Medical School, is the difference in size between sexes. Men tend to be taller, weigh more and carry more muscle mass than women. Being bigger increases the amount of energy your body expends, which means you need more calories per day.
Read more: Guidelines for Men's Daily Calorie Intake
Daily Calorie Intake for Men
To give you an idea of how many calories men generally need per day, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion crafted a table that shows how many calories are required based on your age and gender. Generally, the guidelines recommend between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day for men.
These recommendations are broken down by age and activity level. For example, 18-year-old men should consume:
- 2,400 calories per day if they are sedentary
- 2,800 calories per day if they are moderately active
- 3,200 calories per day if they are active
Men aged 26 to 30 should consume:
- 2,400 calories per day if they're sedentary
- 2,600 calories per day if they're moderately active
- 3,000 calories per day if they're active
Those aged 61 to 65 should aim for:
- 2,000 calories per day if they're sedentary
- 2,400 calories per day if they're moderately active
- 2,600 calories per day if they're active
These blanket recommendations take into account only three variables: age, gender and activity level. Several other factors may influence your specific daily calorie needs. Perhaps the biggest variable is your resting metabolic rate.
Calculating Metabolic Rate
The amount of energy your body needs when you're not doing anything is known as the resting metabolic rate. This is your energy expenditure while you're sleeping, for example. There are online calculators you can use, like this one from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
These calculators use a basic formula called the Harris-Benedict equation to figure out your calorie needs at rest. The formula uses your height, weight, gender and age to determine your resting energy expenditure. While it's still a rough estimate, it still gives you an idea of how many calories you burn without exercise.
Resting metabolic rate is only half the battle. Now you need to figure out how many calories you burn through exercise. One option is to wear a heart rate monitor or fitness tracking device that can estimate how much energy you burn when doing a given exercise or activity. Once again, these are rough estimates and may not be fully accurate.
Estimate Your Energy Expenditure
Consider using a table like this one from Harvard Medical School to determine your energy expenditure. It shows the calories burned during various activities and gives a few estimates based on body weight, such as 125, 155 and 185 pounds. You can use the table to estimate how many calories you torch in the gym, for example.
Not all activity counts as a workout. Some of the energy you burn comes from NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, points out the American Council on Exercise. Walking to and from work, doing the dishes and mowing the lawn are all examples of activity not counted as exercise. You still burn calories during these activities, but it's often something you don't think of when you're doing it.
While you probably don't burn as many calories washing dishes as you do in the gym, your total energy spent from NEAT can number in the hundreds of calories expended per day. Over time, that adds up. Although there's no easy way to calculate NEAT, wearing a fitness tracking device that counts your steps or measures your heart rate can help.
Factors That Affect Energy Expenditure
Several less obvious factors may affect your calorie needs for the day. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation explains that people with immune disorders need to consume extra calories to fight off illnesses. Your immune system, when attacked, consumes more energy to fight off bacteria or viruses.
This means that fighting off or getting over illnesses can make you burn additional calories. There are many factors most people don't even think about when it comes to raising daily calorie expenditure. For that reason, it can seem almost impossible to accurately measure this variable.
A good way to know if you have the correct calorie intake for weight loss for males is to measure your weight with a scale. If your body weight drops over time, you know your calorie intake is low enough.
Keep in mind that your weight can fluctuate day-to-day depending on how much you're eating and drinking, so try to monitor your results over several days and notice whether it's trending up or down.
Read more: Daily Calories for 6' Tall Men
Cut Calories Effortlessly
To get into a negative energy balance, you need to burn more calories, consume fewer or both. Exercising more can help, but you might need to figure out ways to eat less. An article from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers some tips, including cutting out sugary beverages.
Most people focus on what they eat, but liquid calories can be just as important. Soda, alcohol and fruit juice are all examples of beverages that you may want to cut back on or eliminate to reduce your calorie intake.
Also, try to eat smaller portions. The CDC warns that people tend to eat more than a serving size without realizing it. You can see the serving size of most foods on the nutrition label. Use that to calculate the number of calories you're consuming at each meal.
Fill up on vegetables and fruits to stay full longer and cut calories. You can substitute veggies for meat and cheese in a sandwich or swap a side of chips or fries for salad or fruit. Vegetables are less calorie dense than high-carbohydrate foods like potato chips or french fries.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Cutting Calories"
- Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: "Healthy High-Calorie Eating"
- American Council on Exercise: "6 Things to Know About Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis"
- Harvard Medical School: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: "Resting Metabolic Rate: How to Calculate and Improve Yours"
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Harvard Medical School: "Good Nutrition: Should Guidelines Differ for Men and Women?"
- Harvard Medical School: "Simple Math Equals Easy Weight Loss"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Balance Food and Activity"