Myth: Our caloric needs are 2000 calories per day.
Fact: Many people require much less, and will gain weight on a 2000 calorie a day diet.
Many Americans believe they can eat 2000 calories daily to maintain weight. Unfortunately, this is only true for some people. Being aware of your true daily calorie needs is important for meal planning. Otherwise, you may overeat and gain weight despite being mindful of intake. Understanding the factors that determine those needs will help keep you healthy.
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body needs to maintain weight. Your body burns calories at rest in order to fuel the beating of your heart, and functions of the brain, liver, kidneys and immune system. BMR is determined by your age, height, weight, and sex. Younger, taller, heavier men have a higher BMR. Older, shorter, smaller women have a lower BMR. Sadly, we can’t make you taller or younger, so there are limits to how much you can change your metabolism. You can, however make up for a lower metabolism with aerobic exercise and strength training. Each additional pound of muscle raises metabolism by 50 calories.
Which group of people is likely to have a much lower metabolism? Since metabolism decreases by 1% each year and more so with menopause, shorter postmenopausal women likely have a BMR of 1100-1400 calories. With this metabolism, you can see how easy it is to overshoot your calorie budget and gain weight. While you can make up for some of this low metabolism with exercise, overdoing cardio (more than 2 hours/day) will likely increase appetite.
FDA food labels are partly responsible for this 2000 calorie confusion. That is because at the bottom of every label, food producers are required to state “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.” Here is an example:
Estimating your BMR is easy to do by simply entering your age, height, and weight here. Tracking your intake by using standard meal replacements is quite easy. Another method is with a calorie counting app to make staying within your calorie budget easier.
Remember that each person’s calorie needs are different, and becoming aware of your personal needs will prevent weight gain.