The foods you eat give you calories from carbohydrates, protein and fat. These calories provide energy to digest food, keep your heart beating, allow your muscles to work, power you through your gym routine and everything else your body does throughout the day. You need a certain number of calories, partially from fat, to make all this happen. In general, men require more calories, and thus more fat, than women.
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Calories for Low Activity
If you have a sedentary lifestyle where your daily routine consists of light chores and short walks, you’ll most likely need 2,200 to 2,600 calories a day as a man. But if you’re a woman with a low activity level, 1,800 to 2,000 calories daily is probably more your norm, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 reports.
Calories for Higher Activity
Hitting the gym a couple times a week, or having a job that keeps you on your feet, puts you in the moderate activity level group. In this case, as a man, you should get 2,400 to 2,800 calories each day. But as a woman, you’ll need 2,000 to 2,200 calories if you’re moderately active. You’ll need even more calories if you’re highly active: work out every day or have a physically demanding job. If this sounds more like you, get 2,800 to 3,000 calories daily as a man, or 2,200 to 2,400 calories a day as a woman.
Once you determine your calorie needs, you can calculate how much fat you should aim for. Fat should make up 20 to 35 percent of the total calories in your diet, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 reports. To put that into perspective, if 1,800 calories a day is right for you, 360 to 700 calories should come from fat. You can divide those calories by 9 -- fat has 9 calories per gram -- to convert calories into grams. In this case, you’ll need 40 to 70 grams of total fat.
In addition to total fat, if you’re looking at a food label, you’ll see two other types of fat: trans fat and saturated fat. These fats have special recommendations because if you get too much, you can run into problems with cardiovascular disease over time. No more than 1 percent of your calories should come from trans fats, the American Heart Association suggests. For 1,800 calories, for example, you could have up to 18 calories from trans fats, or 2 grams. Saturated fat should account for no more than 10 percent of calories, which is 180 calories, or 20 grams of saturated fat. These fat grams from trans and saturated fat do take away from your total fat gram allowance for the day.