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IBX Insights

How Many Calories Do You Actually Need?

By June 1, 2016August 17th, 2021Well-being
Salad being served

From the time you learned the definition of a calorie, you probably also heard that adults need 2,000 of them per day. But how could that be true, considering how different we all are? Some of us train for triathlons, burning a lot of calories, while some of us would rather pass the time watching a Chopped marathon.

Calories help to provide the human body with energy. If you are very active then you may need to consume more calories to make up for the energy lost during your workout. You may also need to burn calories if you are aiming to lose weight and better manage your diet. If you don’t consume the recommended amount of calories (or eat or drink too much), then it could lead to health complications. So how many calories do you need based on your age, activity level, and gender?

The Latest Data on Your Calorie Needs

Luckily, the 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes a handy chart listing recommended daily caloric intake by age, gender, and activity level. We included a section of it below.

One thing to note: the chart reflects people of average height and healthy weight as reference points: a man who is 5’10 weighing 154 lbs. and a woman who is 5’4 and weighs 126 lbs. If that doesn’t match your stature, it’s best to consult a registered dietitian. And did you know that, as an IBX member, you may be entitled to six visits with a dietitian per year at no cost to you?


Age  Sedentary Moderately Active Active Age Sedentary Moderately Active Active
18 2,400 2,800 3,200 18 1,800 2,000 2,400
19-20 2,600 2,800 3,000 19-20 2,000 2,200 2,400
21-25 2,400 2,800 3,000 21-25 2,000 2,200 2,400
26-30 2,400 2,600 3,000 26-30 1,800 2,000 2,400
31-35 2,400 2,600 3,000 31-35 1,800 2,000 2,200
36-40 2,400 2,600 2,800 36-40 1,800 2,000 2,200
41-45 2,200 2,600 2,800 41-45 1,800 2,000 2,200
46-50 2,200 2,400 2,800 46-50 1,800 2,000 2,200
51-55 2,200 2,400 2,800 51-55 1,600 1,800 2,200
56-60 2,000 2,400 2,600 56-60 1,600 1,800 2,200
61-65 2,000 2,400 2,600 61-65 1,600 1,800 2,200


* Estimated calorie intake for women does not include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • Sedentary: A sedentary lifestyle includes only the physical activities of day-to-day, independent living.
  • Moderately Active: In addition to day-to day activities, a moderately active lifestyle includes walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour.
  • Active: An active lifestyle includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the daily activities of independent living.

Do You Track Your Daily Calories?

If you aren’t sure how many calories you consume daily, try one of the mobile apps we tested featuring calorie calculators and other tools to manage your health and fitness.


Lorrie Reynolds

With 25 years of preventive health and wellness experience, Lorrie Reynolds is Director of Wellness Client Accounts for Independence, accountable for leading and directing the Plan’s worksite wellness programs. At Independence she has been accountable for preventive health outreach, clinical guidelines, health education content, wellness solutions operations, and expansion of preventive health outreach in the community. She proudly serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Independence Blue Crew volunteer program, and is a certified National Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Coach.