Today’s article will focus on, “How many calories does the average person burn in a day?”
Don’t hate me for it, but I’ve never really been one to count calories.
Plus there is also far more to living a healthy lifestyle than simply counting calories.
However, I know many people will be looking to lose weight, and in some cases, put on weight.
You are probably aware that in order to lose weight you will need to consume fewer calories than you’re burning, and vice versa if you’re looking to put on weight.
We can typically calculate how many calories we consume on a daily basis quite easily thanks to the information we now find on food packaging.
But tracking the number of calories we burn isn’t so easy.
How Many Calories Does the Average Person Burn a Day?
There’s that one word that usually sends shivers down my spine when it comes to calculating anything – “average”.
I mean what exactly is “average” anyway?
When it comes to calculating how many calories YOU burn on a daily basis, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration.
Firstly, calories differ for men and women.
Then we have to consider that we all typically lead very different lives.
So, someone who works in construction will be burning far more calories a day than someone who works at a desk job.
Then there’s also height, weight, muscle mass, body fat, and the many other activities that we engage in throughout the day to scrutinize.
And I’m yet to mention that your metabolism and hormones also play a pivotal role in how many calories you are burning.
As you might suspect there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer.
With that said, we can still work out the average number of calories that any person burns in a day.
Let’s Talk Calories
I think by now we all know that calories are the units of energy used to measure food and drink.
Well, in actual fact, they are kilocalories, which is why food packaging always shows “kcals”.
We all need to consume a certain amount of calories to allow us to go about our normal daily lives.
If we don’t consume enough calories, we will usually notice this in terms of feeling weak, moody and unable to concentrate, and lacking in energy.
Whereas if we consume too many calories (more than we are burning off) then our body will hold onto these “additional” calories and store them as body fat.
There are general guidelines as to how many calories we should consume a day, although depending on the many factors I have described above, these could be way off.
In fact, in the UK, many items of food packaging will contain the general guideline of 2,500kcals for men and 2,000kcals for women.
This all sounds great until you realise that some people are consuming well below 1,500kcal per day, and others in excess of 3,000kcals daily (once again this is probably taking into account the other factors).
In general, if you are looking to lose (or put on) weight then a safe way to do this is to decrease (or increase) your daily calorie intake by around 300-500kcals.
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This is a small enough change that it can be considered safe and healthy, although you shouldn’t expect any dramatic overnight changes using this methodology.
However, you will definitely lose (or gain) weight over the course of a few weeks.
In order to discover how many calories you burn a day (or the “average” person if we must talk “averages” again) you will need to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate.
What Does Basal Metabolic Rate Mean?
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is often called the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which actually gives us a better idea of what it actually is.
Or so you would think.
The basal metabolic rate is the minimum number of calories the body requires to carry out its basic functions while at rest.
These include the many things we take for granted including, breathing, circulation, cell production, processing of nutrients, etc.
Our resting metabolic rate is the number of calories our body burns while at rest.
So, as you can see BMR and RMR are slightly different from each other, although in truth they are very similar in terms of the number of calories.
Once you have calculated your BMR, you will know exactly how many calories you burn per day while basically doing nothing.
Based on this figure, in order to discover how many calories you should be consuming to either lose or gain weight, we will then need to look at your activity levels.
There are certain formulas to calculate all of these figures, which I will show you now, but don’t worry, I’ll also provide you with some free online calculators.
The calculators will allow you to simply input a few numbers and have everything worked out for you.
How to Calculate Basal Metabolic Rate?
Okay, please don’t be scared and run off when you see the following calculations.
Admittedly, at first glance it all looks a little complicated, but once you get into the swing of things it’s actually very easy (and don’t forget I’ll be providing you with tools that do all the calculations for you).
BMR Calculation For Men
66 + (6.2 x weight) + (12.7 x height) – (6.76 x age) = The Male BMR
Weight should be given in pounds and height is in inches.
So, let’s look at an example for a 35-year old man, who is 5ft 10in tall, and weighs 170 pounds.
66 + (6.2 x 170) + (12.7 x 70) – (6.76 x 35) = 1,772.4
Therefore, while at rest, this man will burn 1,772.4 calories a day.
BMR Calculation For Women
655.1 + (4.35 x weight) + (4.7 x height) – (4.7 x age) = The Female BMR
Our example will be a 28-year old woman, who is 5ft 6in tall, and weighs 140 pounds.
655.1 + (4.35 x 140) + (4.7 x 66) – (4.7 x 28) = 1,442.7
Therefore, while at rest, this woman will burn 1,442.7 calories a day.
How Active Are You?
The next part of the formula is to work out how active you are.
There are specific figures given to each level of activity (this is the same for both men and women).
1.2 – Sedentary – You perform little to no exercise
1.375 – You perform light exercise 1-3 days a week.
1.55 – You perform moderate exercise 3-5 days a week.
1.725 – You perform hard exercise 6-7 days a week.
1.9 – Very hard exercise, or a highly demanding physical job, or in training.
A few examples include:
1.55 – You work at your computer every day and you walk for 45 minutes several times a week.
1.725 – You’re a postal worker with a particularly lengthy and difficult route, or you work in an office, but you go to the gym, to strength train and do cardio for an hour a day, 6 days a week.
1.9 – You work in construction as a labourer, or you work in an office and are training for a marathon, or you are a salesperson who is out on the road most days and works out with heavy weights 6 days a week.
Putting it All Together
Taking our man and woman examples from above:
Our man happens to be an office worker who walks 30 minutes both ways every day to and from the office.
1,772.4 x 1.55 = 2,747.22
So, in order for our 40-year old, 5ft 10in, 170-pound man to maintain his current weight he will need to consume 2,747.22 calories a day.
Our woman also works in an office, but she just happens to be training 6 days a week for a half-marathon length obstacle/mud race (where does she find the time?).
1,442.7 x 1.9 = 2,741.13
So, in order for our 28-year old, 5ft 6in, 140-pound female to maintain her current weight she will need to consume 2,741.13 calories a day.
This completely blows the “general guidelines” I alluded to earlier out of the water.
In fact, even though there is an obvious size difference between this man and woman, they require almost exactly the same amount of calories per day to maintain their current, respective body weights.
The Basal Metabolic Rate (& Activity Levels) Calculators
Well I did say I was going to make it easy for you.
The above method of calculating BMR is known as the Harris-Benedict Formula, or the Harris-Benedict Equation.
The equation was created by James Arthur Harris and Francis Gano Benedict and was first published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1919.
A revised edition of the formula was created in 1984 which improved its accuracy.
A further revision in 1990 produced an equation that was more indicative of modern lifestyles.
You can use this online tool to calculate your BMR based on the Harris-Benedict Equation.
This will obviously provide you with the number of calories you burn while at rest.
In order to calculate how many calories you should be consuming on a daily basis you will need to multiply the figure which most closely resembles your activity levels, i.e 1.2, 1.375, 1.55, 1.725, or 1.9.
However, if the thought of having to use any form of multiplication scares you, then you can go directly to this online BMR calculator, where you choose your specific activity levels.
Finally, you can use this interactive online calculator, which will determine the number of calories you will burn while completing various activities.
This simply requires you to input the activity you are doing, how long for, and your weight.
There are literally thousands of activities for you to choose from, whether you’re gardening, snowboarding, on the leg press machine in the gym, doing abdominal crunches, canoeing, playing golf, dancing, shovelling snow, or carrying boxes upstairs.
Basically, you name it, they’ve got it.
Harris-Benedict Equation (in KG & CM)
Further Reading in the “How Many Calories…” Series
In answer to the question, “How many calories does the average person burn a day?” you can see that there is much to consider.
I know that in the modern-day-and-age many of us use activity trackers, which will calculate a vast array of useful (and useless) health-related statistics, whether we’re on the move or asleep in our beds.
However, it’s still nice to go back to basics once-in-a-while and see how these things are calculated for yourself.
Thank you for reading.