Sweating at the gym is worthless without the proper diet. So, if you want to get your fitness to the next level, it’s time to calculate your calorie intake in a day.

guy reading calorie intake in a day while sipping on treadmill

To do so, first we’ll have to figure out how many calories your organism alone consumes to run correctly. Then, we’ll have to add to this the calories spent for you to go to work, to think, to hit the gym…

Now that you have a rough picture what of what a quantity of calories intake in a day is about, let’s dive into some more scientific explanation.

What is Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)?

The “Total Daily Energy Expenditure” allows you to know how much you must eat each of those three macronutrients which are protein, carbohydrate and fat.

Those calculations are realized with algorithms which will give you a big picture of the energy window within which you should get into to achieve your fitness goals.

Keep in mind, all these calculations are based upon algorithms for an average individual. However, they cannot take into account every individual variable such as NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), genotypes, hormones, lifestyle factors, hobbies, or nervous system dominance.

Therefore, some individuals may need to add more calories to gain weight while others will need less to get the scale moving in the right direction. Start with a set number, eat accordingly for a month, check the scale, and then reassess.

How can I know my calorie intake in a day?

As said earlier, the first thing to calculate when it comes to your calorie intake in a day is the amount of calorie your organism itself needs, also known as “BMR” which stands for “Basal Metabolic Rate”.

We can sum up the body’s work in two phases: the rest period and the activity period. So, we’ll end up with two calculations: the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) related to the amount of time the body is in a resting state and the Physical Activity Level (PAL) related to -as the name says- the active state of the body.

First things first, you need to determine your BMR. This BMR is essentially an estimation of the minimum energy required to keep basic body functions running (heart rate, respiration, etc.) if you spent an entire 24-hour period at rest.

After you establish your BMR, you’ll need to use the PAL to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This is a combination of the calories needed to maintain your basal metabolic rate coupled with your daily activities.

How to calculate my Total Daily Energy Expenditure?

1. Basic Metabolic Rate

Even though there are some other great formulas to calculate your BMR, I always use the Equation of Black and Co.:

BMR man = 1,083 * W’0,48 * H’0,5 * A’-0,13

BMR woman = 0.963 * W’0.48 * H’0.5 * A’-0.13

W = weight you desire to achieve. Don’t go too far, stay +/- 5kg or 11lbs maximum from your actual weight. For instance if I’m 80kg or 176lbs, and I want to gain muscle mass, I would go for 85kg or 187lbs at most.

H = height.

A = age.

2. Physical Activity Level (PAL)

The PAL should be calculated based on one day, that to say 24 hours. There are six activity categories that you may do during the day, as follows:

A: sleeping. The average amount of time you sleep.

B: sitting. The average amount of time you stay seated like in the public transports, at the office, eating…

C: light standing. The average amount of time you walk at a moderate pace, without carrying anything else but a backpack or a handbag.

D: moderate standing. The average amount of time you walk at a rather fast pace and/or carrying something quite heavy like a 15lbs box.

E: intense standing. The average amount of time you walk at a fast pace and/or carrying something heavier than 15lbs.

F: physical activity. Well, guess you got that one, the average amount of time you practice sport.

The best thing to do is to jot down the time you did each category every day for one week, and then divide by 7 to have a daily average.

Thus, you calculate the PAL as follows:

PAL = [(number of hours in category A x AFM cat A) + (…) + (number of hours in cat F x AFM cat F) / 24]

PAL 1 1,5 2,2 3 3,5 5

3. Ultimately you calculate the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE):


Calorie intake in a day sum-up

You want to introduce those different groups of food in the daily diet:

The two basic rules of a good meal plan:

•  a diversified diet: 1 food of each group per day minimum.

• a varied diet: several different choices in each group.

Once you have the amount of calorie intake in a day, the standard is to break it down as follow:

This just a standard, it all depends on multiple factors like your morphotype, the regimen you choose, and so and so forth… So it’s impossible for to give a one-size-fits-all calorie breakdown. That being said, it’s a good split to start from.

Where to go from there…

… if you want to build muscle?

The first and healthy choice is the lean bulk. A lean bulk is generally recommended for healthy individuals at an average weight. Use the following formula to determine your daily calorie needs for a lean bulk:

TDEE + 250 calories.

The second choice is the aggressive bulk. If you’re fairly new to training, underweight, or a classic hardgainer, it might be beneficial to eat more aggressively. Use the following formula to determine your daily calorie needs for an aggressive bulk:

TDEE + 500 calories.

… if you want to lose weight?

The same method applies. If you want to go for a healthy cut, opt for this:

TDEE – 250 calories.

If you you’re determined and think you have the mindset, try the drastic cut:

TDEE – 500 calories.

Fitness is a long run, so I personally advise to slow and safe. I hope you now know how to calculate your calorie intake in a day and most importantly, you’ll achieve your fitness goals and more. Wish you the best and see in the next one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *