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The typical American eats 3,600 calories in one day. That's a huge jump from 1961 when the average calorie intake was just 2,880 calories.

If you've been struggling to lose weight, you might need to start calculating the number of calories you eat every day. Keeping track of your calories is the key to successfully shedding extra pounds. Our free calorie calculator can help you figure out your calorie requirements that are specific to your needs.

If you're clueless about counting calories, take a look at our guide below.


Why use a calorie calculator?

Online calorie calculators can help you figure out the number of calories you should eat in order to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your weight. After you enter information about your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level, the calculator will give you the amount of calories you should consume.

Using a calorie calculator makes it way easier for you to set limits on your caloric intake, allowing you to lose or gain weight at a faster and healthier rate.

What are calories?

A calorie is defined as the volume of heat that is required to increase the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. Simply put, a calorie is used to measure energy. These calories help us live and function properly.

You might also hear of a kcal or kilocalorie. This is a large calorie and represents the quantity of heat that is required to increase the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. Kcals are equal to 1000 small calories.

You may also notice that people convert calories to joules. Joules also measures energy. 4.2 joules equals one small calorie, while a kcal equals 4.2 kilojoules.

So, what does this scientific calorie definition have to do with weight loss?

Calories are in our food. When we eat, calories give us energy from heat. Our body accumulates, and eventually, burns calories to use as fuel for energy. The calories in healthy food are essential if you want to maintain strong bones and muscles.

Are some calories better than others?

You may think that all calories are the same, but that's not true.

Empty Calories

Some calories are "empty," meaning that they have no nutritional value. Empty calories are often in sugary drinks, processed snacks, and other junk food.

Nutrient Dense Calories

There are also calories that can help you lose more weight. These calories are from nutrient-dense whole foods, like sweet potatoes, vegetables, and animal or plant-based proteins.

One gram of protein contains four calories. This may seem like a lot, but the calories in protein actually benefit muscle growth. The more muscle you have, the easier it is for you to burn calories and maintain a high energy level throughout your day.

If you eat food that has calories from fiber (like steel cut oatmeal), you will feel less hungry throughout the day. When you crave less food, you'll eat less, and be less likely to gorge on empty calories.

How many calories should I eat a day?

The daily amount of calories a typical American should consume can be from 1,000-2,000. The amount of calories you eat depends on variables like gender, age, weight, height, and activity level.


Men who want to maintain their weight should consume 2,500 calories. The lowest amount of calories that a man should consume is 1,800. It's not healthy to consume anything lower than this amount.


Because women have smaller bodies, they don't need as many calories as men. Women who want to keep the same weight should eat 1,800 to 2,000 calories. The lowest recommended daily caloric intake for a woman is 1,200.

Does counting calories help you lose weight?

Yes, and we'll explain why.

Eating 3,500 extra calories will make you gain one pound.

To lose excess weight, you'll need to be in a calorie deficit. This means that you'll either have to:

  • Lower the number of calories you consume, or
  • You'll need to burn more calories.
  • You can, and should, use both of these techniques to improve your body composition.

    Calorie Counting Pitfalls

    A common misconception is to think that you have to starve yourself to lose weight, but this is unhealthy and dangerous. Eating a low amount of calories will trigger the body's starvation response, which contributes to yo-yo dieting.

    Setting Up For Success

    Instead of not eating at all, you should slowly reduce the number of calories you eat in a day.

    Tip: Lowering your caloric intake by 500 calories each day is a safe way to lose weight. This should result in you losing one pound every week, which is a healthy rate of weightloss.

    Preventing Plateaus

    If you notice that you stop gaining or losing weight, you might be experiencing a weight plateau. This occurs when your body adjusts to the amount of calories that you consume.

    To counter this, you can boost your metabolism by doing cardio, weight training, or by eating high-calorie foods every once in a while, called cheat meals.

    Ideally, you should have one every seven to 14 days during periods of strict dieting.

    What's the best way to track my calorie intake?

    There are many ways to keep track of the number of calories you eat--some methods are old-fashioned, while others are more advanced.

    Food Diary

    If you prefer the simplest method possible, try keeping a physical food diary. All you need are a pen and paper. Log each food that you eat, along with its quantity and amount of calories that it contains.

    Calorie-Tracking Apps

    You can also use various mobile apps and websites to track your calories. Most apps or websites can calculate the number of calories in your food for you. You'll also be able to log your calories on a daily basis.

    Does It Work?

    You may think that logging your caloric intake is useless, but it actually helps you lose weight. In fact, a weight-loss study shows that a group of women who were keeping food diaries lost 4% more weight than those who didn't. This equals out to a weight loss of about six pounds per woman.

    Before Getting Started

    If you're trying to lose weight, get started with our online calorie calculator. From there, you can find out how many calories you need to eat in order to gain, lose or maintain your weight. Make it a point to put a cap on the number of calories you consume so you can achieve your health goals.

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