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How many calories you should be eating to reach your goals

INSIDER logoINSIDER 10/8/2018 feedback@thisisinsider.com (Holly Smith)

a man sitting on a table: Woman Eating Food Rice © Provided by Business Insider Inc Woman Eating Food Rice Weight-specific goals can essentially be broken into three parts: gain weight, lose weight, and maintain weight. And although working out plays a part in achieving these goals, so does eating the right amount of calories. 

Of course, everyone's calorie count will be different and calories aren't the only measurement that matter. But determining how many calories you should eat is a helpful starting point as you create a plan that works best for your body and your target weight. 

Here's how to know how many calories you should be eating based on your goals.

For weight loss, you need to create a healthy calorie deficit. 

a group of people sitting at a table: weight loss myth regina © Provided by Business Insider Inc weight loss myth regina Just as over-exercising without a change in diet isn't the answer, neither is a drastic decrease in calorie consumption. A healthy caloric deficit is going to come from a combination of exercise, increased consumption of nutrient-dense foods, and an overall decreased caloric intake.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthy weight loss is one to two pounds per week, and evidence shows that those who lose weight at this gradual rate are more likely be successful at maintaining the weight loss long-term. Although everyone's total calorie count will be different, losing one to two pounds per week requires an average deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day between physical activity and decreased caloric intake. 

If you're looking to gain weight, a gradual caloric increase could be in order.

weight scale bathroom © Provided by Business Insider Inc weight scale bathroom Healthy weight gain is achieved via steady, gradual increases in your overall caloric intake. Livestrong.com lists that half a pound to one pound per week, or two to four pounds per monthis a moderate, safe pace of weight gain.

To achieve weight gain at the above rate, you'll want to slowly and steadily increase your caloric intake by about 250 calories to 500 calories per day. 

A thing to note with a goal like weight gain is that you'll want to be mindful of the types of foods in which you are consuming to increase your caloric intake. Steer clear of empty calorie foods, and excess calories from food sources that aren't nutritious, or beneficial for your goals. Lean protein sources and complex carbohydrates are great food options for healthy weight gain.

Additionally, you'll want to ensure you're consuming enough calories to balance out the calories burned from physical activity throughout the day. 

If you're focused on weight maintenance, your height and weight will play a huge role in your calculations. 

a bowl of food on a plate: oatmeal toast breakfast © Provided by Business Insider Inc oatmeal toast breakfast With weight maintenance, the main things to account for are basal metabolic rate ( the "number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest"), your total daily energy expenditure (the amount of calories you burn per day from your "basal metabolic rate), physical activity, and the thermic effect of food." Essentially, one must consume enough calories to counteract the calories burned in order to maintain weight. 

Be mindful that everyone's calorie needs will be different. A great tool to use to measure and calculate total energy expenditure is to use a formula, such as the Harris Benedict Equation, which is a formula that uses your BMR and then applies an activity factor to determine your total daily energy expenditure.

If you're focusing on sports performance, you may require more calories than average.

a group of people playing football on a field: kids playing soccer game © Provided by Business Insider Inc kids playing soccer game Athletes, and those with similar performance-related goals, typically require more calories than the average person.

Calories from carbohydrates, in particular, are especially important for individuals with a sports performance goal. Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel and energy during high-intensity activities, and therefore must be consumed and replenished in appropriate amounts, based on individual needs.

With a goal like sports performance, or eating perform at a higher level with any type of physical activity, Intensity, duration of exercise, and the amount of muscle mass you carry are important considerations, as all of these will impact your total calorie needs.

Sports dietitians Michelle Rockwell and Susan Kundra developed an extremely helpful table that outlines estimates for the calories needed per pound of bodyweight based on one's training and workout intensity.

Related video: Research: Women More Prone To Office Snacking, Rack Up 100,000 Extra Calories A Year (Provided by CBS Philly)

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