Creating a Calorie Budget

by Assistant Fitness & Marketing Director, Rachael Ling

Why is Calorie Budget Important?
Just like a financial budget is important to get a grasp on the “bigger” picture and aid in financial long-term success, so is creating a calorie budget relative to health and wellness goals. It is important to understand where your “money” or calories are going in order to be successful in either endeavor. Here is an easy breakdown most will understand:

Maintain Body Weight: Calories In = Calorie Out

Lose Body Weight: Calories In < Calorie Out

Gain Body Weight: Calories In > Calorie Out

So the BIG question becomes this: How many calories should I consume in order to lose weight? Losing 1 pound requires that you burn approximately 3,500 more calories than you consume. Your estimated daily calorie budget is the number of calories you should consume in order to create the deficit required to achieve your goal. It is computed using two factors:

  1. An estimate of the number of calories your burn each day.
  2. The number of pounds you are attempting to lose per week. (Research shows 1-2 lbs per week is the healthiest route to go.)

For example, if you are attempting to lose 1 pound per week and you normally burn 2,500 calories per day, then your daily calorie budget would be 2,000. Since 3,500/7 is 500.

Bowl with greens, chicken, avocado, egg, tomato
“Whole” unprocessed foods are oftentimes lower in calories and higher in nutrients – meals like these can leave you feeling full longer and help you to stay on track with your new budget!

1. Determine your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate).

Simply put, this is how many calories you utilize on a daily basis to just “be.” Meaning, maintaining basic life functions, digestion, etc.
The Mufflin equation for RMR:
for men:
(10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) + 5
for women:
(10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) – 161
(where w = weight in kg, h = height in cm, and a = age)
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 103, Issue 9 , Pages 1152-1159, September 2003

2. Multiply this number by an activity factor.

Activity Factor
1.375Lightly Active
1.55Moderately Active
1.725Very Active
1.9Extremely Active

3. Subtract 500 calories from this total number

This is how many calories you should be consuming in order to lose 1 lb a week.

A word of caution: If you find this final number to be below 1,200 calories you should consider increasing your activity level. Even if we ate perfectly every day, every meal, it becomes extremely tough to eat a balanced enough diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies with such a low caloric intake.

On a Final Note

In order to be successful, you must ensure you follow this “Energy Balance” at least six days a week, allowing yourself one free day. The only way to do so is to track your calories burned vs. calories consumed on a daily basis. In order to accurately track these numbers, we suggest you utilize a program that facilitates this effort. One of our favorites is This is a free user friendly online program (or mobile app) that helps you stay accountable with diet and exercise. 


Hockessin Athletic Club opened its doors on June 10 2007. Boasting over 100,000 sq. ft., a 5-pool aquatics complex, and over 200+ weekly group and aqua fitness classes, it is Delaware's premier fitness destination. 100 Fitness Way, Hockessin, DE ·

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