If I had to choose the number one question I am asked, it is without question,

How Many Calories Do I Need?

There are several online calculators available that will help determine an estimate of your daily caloric needs-the problem is know which one is the most accurate. The most popular or well-known equation is the Harris-Benedict Formula, but it is not the most accurate. Check out 3 ways you can get a good starting place for the number of calories you need based on your goals and daily activity.

Precision Nutrition takes takes a lot of the guesswork out of the answer to that question by providing a handy chart:

Precision Nutrition Calorie Estimator

If you are a math minded person, the most accurate formula to determine daily caloric needs is the Mifflin formula:

If you have a calculator handy, here is a simple formula that you can use as a starting place for estimating daily calorie needs:


TEE=Total Daily Energy Expenditure (your daily calorie needs)
RMR=Resting Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories you would need if you just hung out in bed 24/7)
Activity Factor=how much you move around during the day

Activity Factors for Average Size Adults 19 Years or Older

1.2= SEDENTARY. Little to no exercise and a desk job
1.375= LIGHTLY ACTIVE. Light Exercise or Sports 1-3 days per week
1.55= ACTIVE. Moderate Exercise or Sports 3-5 days per week
1.725= VERY ACTIVE. Hard Exercise or Sports 6-7 days per week
1.9= EXTREMELY ACTIVE. Hard Daily Exercise or Sports and a Physical Job

To Calculate Daily Calorie Needs (TEE):

For Women:

Step 1. (Weight x 10) + (Height x 6.25) – (Age x 5)-161= RMR
Step 2. RMR x Activity Factor=TEE

For Men:

Step 1. (Weight x 10) + (Height x 6.25) – (Age x 5) +5=RMR
Step 2. RMR x Activity Factor=TEE

Weight = kg (1 pound= .45359237 kg)
Height= cm (1 inch= 2.54 cm)
Age= age (in years)


A 49 yo, 5-8, 135 lb. crazy horse who works out 6 days a week, rides plus does all of her own farm work

135 lb = 61.25 kg
5-8= 172.72 cm

Step 1.  (61.25 x 10) + (172.72 x 6.25) – (49  x 5) – 161 =1286 (RMR)
Step 2.  1286 (RMR)  x 1.9 (Activity Factor) =2443 calories expended per day (TEE)†

If you are looking to lose weight, simply deduct about 250-500 calories a day from your TEE to determine the number of calories you need to lose weight at a safe rate of loss. If this number falls below 1200, please consult with your doctor or a registered dietician as eating under 1200 calories a day can create long term health issues.

If you want to gain muscle mass, add about 250-300 a day to your TEE to determine the number of calories you need to safely gain mass. If you are in this category, make sure you are following a proper strength training program, like Beachbody’s Body Beast so you gain muscle mass and not fat!

Too much math? No Problem! Team Beachbody has an online calculator that you can fill out you height, current weight and activity level and have the work done for you.

If you happen to be using a Beachbody program (like Piyo or P90X3-my two favorites) for your Rider Fitness program, this calculator is even better because you can input the exact program that you are using.

As popular as it is to count calories it is not actually the best practice for determining how much you should eat on a daily basis. I always encourage riders participating in my Rider Fitness Boot Camp to move toward measuring portion control rather than becoming obsessed with calorie counting. Click HERE to learn how you can get a HANDle on portion control!

†Keep in mind the calculated TEE is only a starting place. RMR can be influenced by age, sex, genetics, hormones, body size and composition, medication, diet, and several other factors.

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