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Straight, No Chaser: How Many Calories Do You Need a Day?

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD September 16, 2019

Let’s put this post (at least the end of it) under the category of things you do but really don’t think about.
How many calories should you take in per day to
function (meaning produce the energy you need for your activities of daily living)?  It actually depends on your gender, your age and your level of activity.  Let me start by defining the types of lifestyles, according to the Institute of Medicine.  If you are in the third category (active), I doubt that you’re worried.
Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with day-to-day living.
Moderately active means a level of physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5-3 miles per day at 3-4 miles per hour in addition to the activities of daily living.
Active means a level of physical equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3-4 miles per hour in addition to the activities of daily living.
That breaks down as follows:

  • For women between 14-50, the number is right about 2000 kcal/day (calories) if you’re moderately active and 1800 if you’re sedentary.
  • For men between 14-50, there’s some greater variance, but the 2500 kcal/day works if you’re moderately active and 2200 if you’re sedentary.

In short, that averages to about 600-800 calories per meal, with the low-end being for sedentary females and the high-end being for moderately active males.
Now consider, 16% of the calories in the average American diet come from refined sugars.  Fully 50% of that total comes from beverages with added sugar.

Every 12 ounces of non-diet of pop/soda you drink contains about 150 calories.  

Your average dessert ranges from 300-500 calories.  

The most popular one, only one cup of ice cream, contains 270 calories.

I’ll let you take the math forward from there.  However, the take home point is obvious.  Suffice it to say, the link between pop, deserts and obesity has been well established.  Here’s three Quick Tips for you.

  • Try finding a drink with fewer calories if you want to lose calories (and weight).  It’s water, not Coke, that adds life.
  • Try eating your favorite fruits as dessert.
  • Also, consider just walking 3-4 miles a day.  It’s not that hard, if you just do it.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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