Advice for a healthy diet is the same for men and women: Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Limit sodium, sugar and saturated fat. But when it comes to the dirty details – the individual nutrients – there are some notable differences between the sexes, largely due to differences in male and female hormones.

Blood loss through menstruation increases a woman’s daily need for iron. Thanks to testosterone, men have more muscle mass and higher metabolic rates than women, driving up requirements for protein, many B vitamins and zinc.

Nutrient requirements change as we get older, in large part because of changing hormone levels. Aging can also affect whether you’re better off getting a certain nutrient from a supplement rather than food.

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Tailoring food intake to match nutritional needs is important to maintain immune function, prevent bone and muscle loss, preserve eyesight and protect our cells from free-radical damage.

The following guide will help you – whether you’re male or female – eat healthfully and meet daily needs for key nutrients across the decades.

In your 20s: Focus on calcium, folate, iron

Men and women continue to build bone into the mid-20s, although not as readily as when younger. Meeting daily calcium requirements is important to help bones reach their peak strength. Doing so can help protect against osteoporosis and fractures later in life.

Men and women need 1,000 mg of calcium each day. One milk serving (e.g., 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup plain yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces hard cheese) supplies about 300 milligrams of calcium. Fortified non-dairy beverages such as soy, rice and almond milks contain 300 to 330 mg of calcium per one cup. So do calcium-fortified juices.

Other good sources include canned salmon (3 ounces = 212 mg), legumes, firm tofu, almonds, tahini and cooked green vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, rapini and bok choy.

Folate is vital to making and repairing DNA, the genetic material of cells. While both sexes require 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) daily, women who plan to get pregnant must pay extra attention to the B vitamin to guard against neural-tube defects, birth defects that affect the brain and spinal cord.

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Iron supports metabolism, transfers oxygen to muscles, aids mental concentration and is used to make hormones and connective tissue. Men need 8 mg of the mineral each day while women need 18 mg to offset iron losses from menstruation.

Oysters, red meat, enriched breakfast cereals, soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, cooked spinach, prunes and raisins are good sources.

In your 30s: Focus on calories and magnesium

In the 30s, the onset of age-related muscle loss slows down our body’s metabolism and calorie requirements begin to decline. If you keep your same eating pattern in your 30s (and 40s) as you did in your 20s, you’ll likely gain weight. (Strength training and eating enough protein can help mitigate muscle loss.)

For every year after 30, men require 10 fewer calories a day and women need 7 fewer. In other words, by age 40, men should be eating 100 fewer calories each day than at 30; women should cut 70 calories from their daily diet at the age of 40.

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Trim calories from refined (white) starchy foods, sweets and sugars added to beverages and foods. Continue to emphasize foods rich in calcium, folate and iron.

Men and women should also focus on magnesium, a mineral that helps generate energy for the body, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar and maintain strong bones. At the age of 31, daily requirements increase for both men (420 mg) and women (320 mg).

In your 40s: Focus on antioxidants

While vitamin and mineral requirements remain unchanged in the 40s, both sexes should focus on making nutrient-dense food choices, not only to meet daily requirements but also to pave the way for the next few decades.

Include foods high in vitamins C and E, antioxidants that fend off harmful free radicals. Free-radical damage is thought to contribute to aging and many chronic diseases.

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Excellent sources of vitamin C include red and green pepper, citrus fruit, kiwi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries and tomato juice. Vitamin E is plentiful in wheat-germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, sunflower oil, hazelnuts and peanut butter.

Unlike supplements, whole foods provide vitamins and minerals along with fibre and hundreds of phytochemicals, which work in concert to protect health.

In your 50s and beyond: Focus on calcium, vitamin D, B12

At the age of 51, women need 1,200 mg of calcium each day to help counter the rapid bone loss that occurs at menopause. Calcium requirements don’t increase for men until the age of 71, when bone loss and fracture risk rise significantly. With age, men and women have a reduced capacity to produce vitamin D through sun exposure. The official recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D increases from 600 IU (international units) to 800 IU at the age of 70. However, many experts recommend adults older than 50 supplement with 1,000 to 2,000 IU each day to maintain sufficient stores.

Vitamin B12, needed to make red blood cells, nerves and DNA, should also be supplemented after 50; a multivitamin will do the trick. Many older adults do not produce enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach to absorb the vitamin from foods.

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Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She is a regular contributor to CTV News Channel.

Why Older Adults Should Eat More Protein (And Not Overdo Protein Shakes)

Older adults need to eat more protein-rich foods when losing weight, dealing with a chronic or acute illness, or facing a hospitalization, according to a growing consensus among scientists.

During these stressful periods, aging bodies process protein less efficiently and need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions.

Even healthy seniors need more protein than when they were younger to help preserve muscle mass, experts suggest. Yet up to one-third of older adults don’t eat an adequate amount due to reduced appetite, dental issues, impaired taste, swallowing problems and limited financial resources. Combined with a tendency to become more sedentary, this puts them at risk of deteriorating muscles, compromised mobility, slower recovery from bouts of illness and the loss of independence.

Impact on functioning. Recent research suggests that older adults who consume more protein are less likely to lose “functioning”: the ability to dress themselves, get out of bed, walk up a flight of stairs and more. In a 2018 study that followed more than 2,900 seniors over 23 years, researchers found that those who ate the most protein were 30 percent less likely to become functionally impaired than those who ate the least amount.

While not conclusive (older adults who eat more protein may be healthier to begin with), “our work suggests that older adults who consume more protein have better outcomes,” said Paul Jacques, co-author of the study and director of the nutritional epidemiology program at Tufts University’s Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

In another study, which was published in 2017 and followed nearly 2,000 older adults over six years, people who consumed the least amount of protein were almost twice as likely to have difficulty walking or climbing steps as those who ate the most, after adjusting for health behaviors, chronic conditions and other factors.

“While eating an adequate amount of protein is not going to prevent age-associated loss of muscle altogether, not eating enough protein can be an exacerbating factor that causes older adults to lose muscle faster,” said Wayne Campbell, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University.

Recommended intake. So, how much protein should seniors eat? The most commonly cited standard is the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight per day.

For a 150-pound woman, that translates into eating 55 grams of protein a day; for a 180-pound man, it calls for eating 65 grams.

To put that into perspective, a 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt has 18 grams; a half-cup of cottage cheese, 14 grams; a 3-ounce serving of skinless chicken, 28 grams; a half-cup of lentils, 9 grams; and a cup of milk, 8 grams. (To check the protein content of other common foods, click here.)

Older adults were rarely included in studies used to establish the RDAs, however, and experts caution that this standard might not adequately address health needs in the older population.

After reviewing additional evidence, an international group of physicians and nutrition experts in 2013 recommended that healthy older adults consume 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily — a 25 to 50 percent increase over the RDA. (That’s 69 to 81 grams for a 150-pound woman, and 81 to 98 grams for a 180-pound man.) Its recommendations were subsequently embraced by the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism.
When illness is an issue. For seniors with acute or chronic diseases, the group suggested protein intake of 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight while noting that the precise amount needed “depends on the disease, its severity” and other factors. (At the 1.5 grams-per-kilogram level, a 150-pound woman would need to eat 102 grams of protein daily, while a 180-pound man would need to eat 123 grams.) Even higher levels, up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight, could be needed, it noted, for older adults who are severely ill or malnourished.

(These recommendations don’t apply to seniors with kidney disease, who should not increase their protein intake unless they’re on dialysis, experts said.)

“Protein becomes much more important during events in an older adult’s life that force them into a situation of muscle disuse — a hip or knee replacement, for instance,” said Stuart Phillips, director of McMaster University’s Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Health Research in Canada.

“Higher amounts of protein have value when something in an older adult’s body is changing,” Campbell agreed. He co-authored a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine that did not find benefits from raising protein intake for older men. This could be because the intervention period, six months, wasn’t long enough. Or it could have been because the study’s participants had adjusted to their diets and weren’t exposed to additional stress from illness, exercise or weight loss, Campbell said.

Per-meal amounts. Another recommendation calls for older adults to spread protein consumption evenly throughout the day. This arises from research showing that seniors are less efficient at processing protein in their diet and may need a larger “per-meal dose.”

“The total dose that you eat may not matter as much as the dose you eat at a given meal,” said Dr. Elena Volpi, a professor of geriatrics and cell biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. “If I eat too little protein during a meal, I may not adequately stimulate the uptake of amino acids into skeletal muscle. If I eat too much, say from a large T-bone steak, I won’t be able to store all of it away.”

Based on her research, Volpi suggests that older adults eat 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal. Practically, that means rethinking what people eat at breakfast, when protein intake tends to be lowest. “Oatmeal or cereal with milk isn’t enough; people should think of adding a Greek yogurt, an egg or a turkey sausage,” Volpi said.

Protein in all forms is fine. Animal protein contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need; plant protein doesn’t. If you’re a vegetarian, “it just takes more work to balance all the amino acids in your diet” by eating a variety of foods, said Denise Houston, associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina. Otherwise, “I would typically recommend having some animal protein in your diet.” As long as red meat is lean and you don’t eat it too often, “that’s OK,” Houston said.

Supplements. What about powdered or liquid protein supplements? “There’s generally no need for supplements unless someone is malnourished, sick or hospitalized,” Volpi said.

In a new study, not yet published, she examined the feasibility of supplementing the diets of older adults discharged from the hospital with extra protein for a month. Preliminary data, yet to be confirmed in a larger clinical trial, shows that “this can improve recovery from a hospitalization,” Volpi said.

“The first line of defense should always be real food,” said Samantha Gallo, assistant director of clinical nutrition at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “But if someone isn’t able to consume a turkey sandwich and would rather sip a protein shake during the day, we’ll try that.”

However, older adults should not routinely drink protein shakes instead of meals, Gallo cautioned, adding: “That’s a bad idea that can actually result in reduced protein and calorie intake over the long term.”

We’re eager to hear from readers about questions you’d like answered, problems you’ve been having with your care and advice you need in dealing with the health care system. Visit khn.org/columnists to submit your requests or tips.

Related Topics

Aging Navigating Aging Public Health Chronic Disease Care Nutrition

Calories Calculator

Use this calorie calculator to determine how many daily calories your body needs to lose, gain, or maintain your weight.

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YOUR BASAL METABOLIC RATE (BMR):
YOUR DAILY CALORIE NEEDS TO
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2152 Calories

Activity Levels Defined

Sedentary Lifestyle — Little or no exercise.

Lightly Active Lifestyle — Light exercise or sports 1 – 3 days/week.

Moderately Active Lifestyle — Moderate exercise or sports 3 – 5 days/week.

Very Active Lifestyle — Hard exercise or sports 6 – 7 days/week.

Extra Active Lifestyle — Very hard exercise or sports 6 – 7 days/week.

Note: This calculator is very accurate in all but the very muscular (will under-estimate calorie needs) and the very fat (will over-estimate calorie needs).

What are Calories?

A calorie is a unit of energy. Generally, a calorie refers to energy consumption through food and beverage consumption, and energy usage through physical activity. Everyone requires different amounts of energy per day depending on age, size and activity levels. Using the calculator above will help you determine your bodies daily caloric needs.

In order to maintain your current weight, you must consume the same number of calories as you burn. Calories in is equal to calories out. Conversely, if you are wanting to lose weight, this can be accomplished by consuming less calories or burning more calories, i.e. calories in is less than calories out. If you wish to consume less, you will want to eat 500-1000 fewer calories per day than calculated, or as an alternative, eat 15-20% fewer calories than calculated. If you wish to burn more calories over consuming fewer, you should increase your physical activity – you can consume more calories and still sustain weight loss as long as you eat fewer calories than calculated. Keep in mind that leaner bodies need more calories than less lean bodies. Lastly, if you wish to gain weight, calories in should be greater than calories out. This should be accomplished by having a caloric-dense diet.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories your body while at rest. Some body processes requiring energy include: breathing, blood circulation, controlling body temperature, cell growth, brain and nerve function, and contraction of muscles.

Your BMR accounts for roughly 60 to 75% of your daily calorie expenditure.

  • Liver: 25%
  • Brain: 19%
  • Skeletal Muscle: 18%
  • Kidneys: 10%
  • Heart: 7%
  • Other Organs: 19%

BMR will vary from person-to-person. Some intrinsic factors affecting basal metabolic rate include: weight, height, surface area, gender, body composition, body temperature, age, hormone levels, and overall health.

  • Metabolic rates increase with an increase in body weight, height, and surface area.
  • Metabolic rates are lower in fat tissues that muscle tissue.
  • Metabolic rates are lower in women than men.
  • Metabolic rates decrease with age.
  • Metabolic rates increase with an increase in body temperature.
  • Metabolic rates vary in response to T4 hormone levels. T4 is the key hormone released by your thyroid glands and has a significant affect on body weight.
  • Metabolic rates increase with a decrease in overall health.

To lose weight, you will need to reduce your daily caloric intake below your total daily calorie requirement indicated by your BMR plus your activity level.

Calorie Density

2.04 Calorie Density

In this HeartStrong.com video/article, we are going to talk about the very important topic of “calorie density.” Understanding this concept is crucial for those who are overweight or obese and still important for those at a normal weight.

While on a whole foods plant based diet, calories are not counted. Lets not forget this important fact. Having said that, understanding how many calories are in a given food is still important. The information you will learn here will reinforce the reasons why sticking to whole plant foods leads to weight loss and good overall health. Also, if you are not losing enough weight, examine the foods you are eating to see if you are overeating those with a higher calorie density.

Humans on average eat 3-5 pounds of food each and every day. A lot of people do not think of food as measured in pounds, but you will see why this concept makes sense. So 3-5 pounds of food every day.

Lets look at an example of an obese man, 5 foot 10 inches tall weighing 240 lbs at age 50. This man has a body mass index (BMI) of 35 which is significantly obese. His basal metabolic rate which we have already learned about is about 1800 calories. Say he is quite active and exercises as he is trying to lose weight and burns another 700 calories per day. This means overall he burns 2500 calories each and every day.

If this man eats 5 pounds of food per day, so how many calories per pound should he eat to not gain or lose weight?

5 lbs/day x ____ calories/lb = 2500 calories

The answer is 500 calories/lb

Alright this makes a lot of sense. He has to eat 500 calories per pound to keep his weight the same. To lose weight he will need to eat less than 500 calories per pound OR burn off more calories through physical activity OR or use willpower to restrict the overall amount of food he eats. We know that you can never out exercise your diet and willpower can only last so long before it fails, thus the best way is to be sure that his food choices average under 500 calories per pound.

Now, lets examine every single food group we can think of to see how many calories per pound they have. Once you have this information in your head, you will understand why we avoid certain high calorie foods and stick to whole plant foods.

Lets look at a line with 0 calories per pound on the left and 4000 calories per pound on the the right. The most calorie dense food that we eat in the human diet is oil which comes in at 4000 calories per pound. This includes olive oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and any other kind of oil you can think of. Oil is pure fat and packs 9 calories per gram.

Many people say, “there is no way I eat a pound of oil” but guess what? The average American eats about 85 pounds of fat every year and about half of that is oil! That makes almost 1 pound per week if you add it all up.

This insanely high calorie density of oil is one important reason we avoid it, however oil also has other negative effects on endothelial cell function, those important cells that protect our arteries. Oil should be avoided at all costs if your goal is to reverse heart disease and should be severely restricted and limited if you are just trying to lose weight and prevent the development or progression of heart disease.

The next most calorie dense food that we eat is butter which is mostly fat. High in the bad saturated fat and cholesterol, butter packs a huge 2800 calories per pound. Everyone knows butter is bad for them. Don’t let any sneak in your diet.

The next one surprises people a bit and that is nuts and seeds which actually have the same number of calories pound for pound as butter! Of course the type of fat in nuts and seeds is much healthier, the good unsaturated fats and some omega-3 fatty acids, but they do pack a large calorie punch. This is why nuts and seeds are severely limited in serving size in most recommendations to 1.5 oz per day only 4-5 days per week.

Think to yourself how many nuts and seeds do you eat? Do not just think about eating the nuts or seeds by themselves like many do, but this about how they sneak in all over the place. Nuts in cereals, on salads, candy or granola bars and even in breads. Then the ever popular peanut butter. Lets look at the ingredients of peanut butter now. We have peanuts as the first ingredient, then oil??? They actually add oil to the peanut butter! This is cheap for food companies and gives an even better, fatty taste. The third ingredient is usually sugar.

Sugar sugar sugar…this is the next most calorie dense food at 1800 calories per pound. This makes sense though. One pound is about 450 g. One g of sugar is 4 calories. So pure sugar will come out to 1800 calories per pound. Again, people really think “I will never eat a pound of sugar”, but the data shows that each American eats about 100 pounds of sugar every year. That is almost 2 pounds per week! Considering how calorie dense sugar is, it is no wonder why so many Americans are overweight and obese.

The food industry has not helped us any in regards to sugar in food. One study showed added sugar was found in 80% of products in the grocery store. Sugar comes in many different names, 61 to be exact. So this gets very confusing to people reading labels to see if sugar was added to a product.

The next most calorie dense food is cheese coming in at 1600 calories per pound. Cheese is 70% fat, high in cholesterol and saturated fat of course. Cheese is simply the fat that is taken off skim milk and solidified. Salt is added. Cheese is very unhealthy and even the USDA recognizes that. Their recommendation is to use “low fat cheese”. Who do you know that eats low fat cheese on a regular basis? Call a pizza place and ask them if they have low fat cheese available. The answer will be no. Cheese just needs to be avoid completely, but in America we put cheese on our breakfast, lunch and dinner increasing the calorie density of each meal!

Coming in at 1400 calories per pound is refined carbohydrates. Think noodles, white bread and white rice. Remember these “processed carbs” have had the fiber and micronutrients removed leaving behind mostly just the calories.

Compare this to whole grains like whole wheat noodles, whole wheat bread and brown rice.

One quick side note. The problem with almost all breads that increase their calorie density is added oil and sugar to the bread. Look at the ingredients. The “light” breads or “healthy” breads that are lower calorie frequently remove or significantly reduce the oil and sugar. If you looking to be completely oil free which is ideal, bread is difficult to include.

Meats/Seafood

Lets examine now the calorie density of different meats and seafoods. There will be quite a bit of variability here which mostly relates to the fat content of the food, but lets be sure to remember to compare these values to other foods high in protein such as legumes which we will get to soon.

Salmon is quite a fatty fish and comes in at 920 calories per pound and quite a bit of cholesterol and saturated fats as well. This would then mean that salmon is not a healthy choice for someone trying to lose weight, despite the belief of most people. Here is how different fish look like with their calorie density (assuming baked and not fried):

Now lets see the calorie density of different “fatty protein” sources, those that come from meat. It is clear that bacon and sausage is not at all healthy. Short ribs are quite fatty and even 85% lean ground beef comes in at 975 calories/lb. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is only 499 calories per pound, but still packs a large amount of cholesterol and saturated fat.

Eggs are about 630 calories per pound, just barely over the 500 we are looking for. Of course remember one egg will have 200-240 mg of cholesterol which ideally we should not have any at all in our diet. Eggs are also high in saturated fat as well. A heart healthy diet should completely avoid eggs.

Beans and Legumes

Lets not forget about the beans. Legumes, lentils and the many variety of beans come in around 200-700 calories per pound. They are high in protein and high in fiber. Compare these protein sources to that of meat and seafood. You will see that beans and legumes win not only in calorie density, but their fat content will be quite low, usually less than 10% which is important as you will see on a heart disease reversal diet. Most importantly, no cholesterol and minimal if any saturated fat!

Vegetables

Vegetables that are non-starchy come in around 100-200 calories per pound! Why are vegetables so low in calorie density? One word…fiber. Fiber has no calories at all, but gives food a lot of “bulk”. Remember animal based foods contain absolutely no fiber while whole plant based foods are high in fiber.

The starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn get a bad rap. They actually come in at 349 calories per pound! Why do potatoes have such a bad reputation? The main reason is…sour cream, butter, frying them in oil…all of this adds significant fat calories and thus calorie density to them. Many of the most successful civilizations and longest living cultures were predominately “starch” based getting 70-90% of their calories from potatoes, frequently sweet potatoes. These vegetables are healthy as long as you do not add extra fat to them that will increase their calorie density.

Fruits

Examining the calorie density of fruits you will see that they can be a great part of a healthy eating plan to lose weight. People focus too much on the sugar content of fruit, however there are high amounts of fiber and other nutrients which make them quite a healthy part of a heart healthy diet. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Make note of the higher fat vegetables. Avocado and coconut are quite high in fat significantly increasing their calorie density. Eating too much avocado and/or coconut will make it difficult to keep your weight in a healthy range.

Junk Foods and Processed Foods

Now lets look at some foods common in the American diet that may be a combination of many of the above that we talked about.

The “Standard American Diet” is high in processed foods and whole plant foods are essentially not included at all. Think potato chips, french fries, Cheetos, Oreo cookies, beef jerky, soda and juice, candy, fruit loops, yogurt, popcorn, hot dog (with bun), chili cheese dog, nachos, ice cream, pizza, Big Macs, crackers, bagels, bologna, salami, pepperoni, sausage biscuit with cheese and candy bars. You get the point. These need to completely out of all American’s diet.

Now you can get a good idea why 1/3 adult Americans are obese and another 1/3 are overweight. Perhaps more importantly, you may see why so many children struggle with their weight. Kids have a very high metabolism and are very physically active, yet there is major childhood obesity problem in America. Foods with a high calorie density, especially liquid sugar calories and junk/processed foods are the culprit.

Understand this concept of calorie density and use it to your advantage. Stuff your face with fruits and vegetables that are low in calories. Avoid all high calorie density foods except in certain situations small amounts of nuts and seeds. Do this and you will keep your weight right where it needs to be and you will be healthy forever.

Applying Calorie Density

Lets now look back at our example person who needs to get their food to under 500 calories per pound to lose weight. What food can they eat to get there?

Whole plant foods win. While other animal foods such as boneless, skinless chicken breast may be somewhat low in calorie density, one 4 oz serving packs a whopping 70 mg of dietary cholesterol and even worse for eggs. Stick to whole plant foods with no added sugar or oil and you will keep your overall calorie density low and lose weight while still getting every bit of nutrition you need to be healthy. The best part is, you have thousands of great plant foods to chose from!

Precision Nutrition’sWeight Loss Calculator Eat less? Move more? Here’s what it really takes to reach your goals.

It’s a question that comes up from new Precision Nutrition Coaching clients all the time:

“I’ve been tracking my calories in and calories out religiously… but I’m not losing as much weight as I should. Why isn’t this working?!?”

Yes, conventional wisdom states that reducing your calorie intake (or increasing the amount you burn) by 500 calories a day should lead to about 1 pound of fat loss per week. (Math: 500 calories a day x 7 days = 3500 calories a week = 1 pound.)

But that conventional wisdom is wrong. As discussed in this article all about the myth of metabolic damage, your metabolism is adaptive. As you eat less, your metabolism slows, throwing off common assumptions about calorie balance.

This excellent weight loss calculator—based on the NIH Body Weight Planner and adapted from research collected at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases—takes into account the adaptive nature of metabolism and gives more accurate information on how hard you’ll have to work (and how long it may take) to reach your goals.

(Keep reading below the calculator to learn why it’s more advanced than many others.)

Body Weight Planner Starting Information Advanced Controls: {{baselineAdvancedCtl ? “ON” : “OFF”}} Starting Weight in {{weightUnitsRadioGroupLbl}} Weight {{weightUnitsRadioGroupLbl}} Sex Sex Age Age Height in {{heightUnitsGroup}} Height ft. in. cm. Physical Activity Level Physical Activity Level Uncertainty Range % Uncertainty Range % Calories from Carbs % Calories from Carbs Sodium Intake (mg/day) Sodium Intake (mg/day) % Body Fat % Body Fat Initial Resting Metabolic Rate as {{energyUnitsRadioGroupLbl}} Resting Metabolic Rate

({{energyUnitsRadioGroupLbl}}) Simulation Options Goal Weight Lifestyle Change

Weight Goal

Goal Weight ({{weightUnitsRadioGroupLbl}}) I want to reach my goal in (# days) OR select a date I want to reach my goal by

Physical Activity Change (Optional)

Weight Change Phase
To reach my goal, I will change my physical activity by % Calculate Goal Maintenance Phase
To maintain my goal, I will change my physical activity by % Calculate Advanced Controls: {{lifestyleAdvancedCtl ? “ON” : “OFF”}} Change your calories (intake) or activity (expenditure) to see how your weight will change.

Change 1 On Off

Gradually Ramp Changes: {{int1_gradulalRampField ? “ON” : “OFF”}} {{int1_gradulalRampField ? “Complete change on day” : “Change starts on day”}} with an intake of {{energyUnitsRadioGroup}}. Change your physical activity by % Estimate New % Calories from Carbs New Calories from Carbs (%) New Sodium (mg/day) New Sodium Intake (mg/day)

Change 2 On Off

Gradually Ramp Changes {{int2_gradulalRampField ? “ON” : “OFF”}} {{int2_gradulalRampField ? “Complete change on day” : “Change starts on day”}} with an intake of {{energyUnitsRadioGroup}}. Change your physical activity by % Estimate New % Calories from Carbs New Calories from Carbs (%) New Sodium (mg/day) New Sodium Intake (mg/day) Results Calories Kilojoules In order to maintain your current weight, you should eat:

{{maintCalsField | number:0}}

{{energyUnitsRadioGroup}} To reach your goal of {{goalWeight}} {{weightUnitsRadioGroupLbl}} in {{goalTime}} days, you should eat:

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{{energyUnitsRadioGroup}} To maintain your goal of {{goalWeight}} {{weightUnitsRadioGroupLbl}}, you should eat:

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{{energyUnitsRadioGroup}} At the end of {{simulationLengthField}} days, you would weight:

{{finalWeightField}}

{{weightUnitsRadioGroupLbl}} At the end of {{simulationLengthField}} days, your Body Fat % would be:

{{finalBfpField}}

% At the end of {{simulationLengthField}} days, your BMI would be:

{{finalBMIField}}

Simulation Details Warning: Low BMI The goal weight you entered is below a healthy weight for someone of your height and age.
A healthy weight range for you is between {{weightRangeLow}} and {{weightRangeHigh}} {{weightUnitsRadioGroup | lowercase}}. The lifestyle changes you entered resulted in a low BMI for someone of your height and age. Warning: High BMI The goal weight you entered is above a healthy weight for someone of your height and age.
A healthy weight range for you is between {{weightRangeLow}} and {{weightRangeHigh}} {{weightUnitsRadioGroup | lowercase}}. The lifestyle changes you entered resulted in a high BMI for someone of your height and age. Dangerously Low Intake: Please adjust your lifestyle intake Daily intake must be at least 1000 calories/day. Food group targets and nutrient recommendations will not be met below 1000 calories/day. Dangerously Low Intake: Please adjust your goal The information you entered results in a {{energyUnitsLblSrt | lowercase}} level that is too low.
Calorie goals must be at least 1000 calories/day. Food group targets and nutrient recommendations will not be met below 1000 calories/day.
The last change you made has been reset so that you can enter a different value. Try giving yourself more time to achieve your goal, changing your activity level, or setting a different goal. Length of Simulation (days) Length of Simulation (days) Initial Weight ({{weightUnitsRadioGroupLbl}}): {{initialWeightField2}} Initial % Fat: {{initialBfpField2}} Initial BMI: {{initialBMIField}} Final Weight ({{weightUnitsRadioGroupLbl}}): {{finalWeightField}} Final % Fat: {{finalBfpField}} Final BMI: {{finalBMIField}} Weight Body Fat % Intake & Expenditure Click and drag to zoom Reset View

Note: If you have questions about how to use the calculator, check out this video tutorial.

To understand why this calculator is so helpful, let’s use an example client: Vanessa. She’s 40 years old, 5’ 6” tall, weighs 185 pounds, has a very low level of activity at work, and a moderate level of activity outside of work.

Based on this information, the calculator has determined that she needs around 2,445 calories per day to maintain her weight.

Let’s say Vanessa would like to lose 40 pounds in a sustainable way over the course of the next year, without doing much additional exercise.

The calculator suggests she’ll need to reduce her food intake to around 1,770 calories per day. (That’s 675 calories fewer than required for maintenance.)

If you do conventional calorie math, these numbers don’t make sense.

A daily calorie deficit of 675 calories would lead to a deficit of 246,375 calories over a full year. (Math: 675 calorie deficit x 365 days = 246,375 calories.)

This would, theoretically, lead to a 70-pound weight loss for Vanessa. (Math: 246,375 calorie deficit / 3,500 calories in 1 pound of weight = 70 pounds lost.)

But the body doesn’t work that way. Instead, Vanessa would lose only about 40 pounds. (Which is still awesome, obviously.)

Why this very large disparity?

As mentioned above, your metabolism adjusts as you eat less and lose weight. And conventional math doesn’t take this complex nature of human metabolism into account.

That’s why it’s important to make sure your expectations about weight loss and body change are in line with how your body actually works.

This calculator helps with that. It makes easier to set appropriate behavior goals, and gives you a more realistic view of what you potential progress could look like.

But here’s what it can’t do: Predict all the other factors that affect your ability to lose weight. It doesn’t take into account your unique food preferences, lifestyle, or abilities.

So while meticulously tracking calories can be a viable approach to weight loss for some, our experience coaching more than 100,000 clients says there are easier, more successful approaches to losing weight and keeping it off.

That’s why at Precision Nutrition we coach the whole person, addressing all the factors that lead to sustainable and life-changing results.

From learning to eyeball portion sizes and better gauge hunger, to improving sleep and managing stress, to finding easier ways to make time for exercise, we help every client build the array of skills they need to get in the best shape of their lives… no math required.

Want to get in the best shape of your life?

With Precision Nutrition Coaching, every clients works with a personal coach to achieve the lasting results they want.

We’ll help you lose fat, get strong, and improve your health, no matter what challenges you’re dealing with. And we’ll meet you wherever you are right now: any body type, any fitness level, any goal. You tell us the results you want, and we’ll show you the way, with compassion and expertise.

Join us and discover what’s really possible when you have the right help: a highly-skilled coach who’ll guide you every step of the way.

(If you’re a health and fitness professional who wants to learn the Precision Nutrition method—which has been validated in multiple peer-reviewed scientific journals—explore what our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs have to offer you.)

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, I’d encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

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Low-Calorie Diets Mean High-Quality Lives, Research Shows

For people who’ve tried a low-calorie diet in the past, the thought of cutting calories each day probably brings back bad memories.

Most diets involve reducing calories in some way or another: Some introduce foods that fill you up faster but contain fewer calories, such as fruits and vegetables in place of processed foods. Other diets restrict your options, and eating the same food sources becomes repetitive and less interesting, so you consume fewer items.

Still other diets combine both strategies, such as diets recommending a low-calorie food such as a tomato, or a special shake that you make, for most or all of your meals.

But new research shows that low-calorie diets can help with surprisingly more than your weight.

What Is a Low-Calorie Diet?

A low-calorie diet is one that restricts your intake to 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day for men, and 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day for women. Some people go on a very low-calorie diet for rapid weight loss, often consuming only 800 calories a day. This type of diet usually includes special foods such as shakes, bars, or soups to replace meals and for added vitamins. Very low-calorie diets can help a person achieve weight loss of up to 3 to 5 pounds per week.

For weight loss, most people should consider a low-calorie diet rather than a very low-calorie diet. Less extreme diets are easier to follow, they interrupt normal daily activities less, and are less risky if you’re over 50 or have other health problems. In addition, gallstones have been reported in people who go on very low-calorie diets.

Keep in mind that most diets only work when you make healthy lifestyle choices at the same time, including increasing daily exercise and reducing your sedentary time throughout the day.

Good Reasons to Try a Low-Calorie Diet

The obvious reason to restrict calories is to help with weight loss. Why else give up something that you enjoy? Yet very interesting data from animal studies throughout the animal kingdom shows additional effects of calorie reduction. As reviewed in Molecular Aspects of Medicine in June 2011, studies show that animals subjected to periods of calorie restriction, including primates, have:

  • Longer lives
  • Higher levels of physical activity
  • Lower rates of cancer
  • Less age-related degeneration of the brain
  • Improved reproductive performance

Some of these findings may seem odd to anyone who’s tried to fast or restrict their calories and then felt the early fatigue, weakness, lack of energy, nausea, and stomach pains associated with their efforts.

Keep in mind that the animal studies and observations involved regular periods of calorie restriction followed by, or within the context of, a healthy diet. In other words, the animals’ bodies had time to adapt in a healthy manner to slightly less caloric intake over a long period of time.

What Happens When People Restrict Calories?

When I talk with patients about cutting calories for heart health, I don’t think I’ve had anybody tell me they want to do it to live longer, feel better, and have a better quality of life. But this is because most people think of exactly how they’re going to feel the first few days or weeks after they start, rather than taking a long-term outlook.

A study published in June 2016 in JAMA Internal Medicine provided unique insight into what happens to people when they restrict their calories. This study included people who were not obese specifically because weight loss in obese people is often used to lower risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and coronary artery disease in addition to improving their quality of life.

The investigators in this study followed 218 participants for two years. The average age was 38, and 70 percent were women. At the time of enrollment, they could have a body mass index (BMI) up to 28, but no lower than 22. The groups were randomized to either continue with their normal diet or participate in a calorie-restricted diet. The diet contained approximately 25 percent fewer calories than they had previously eaten.

Why did the researchers choose a 25 percent reduction in calories? They thought this level was the most that could be reduced and sustained for the entire two-year study. Participants met in groups and had web-based resources to assist with their diet. Registered dietitians monitored participants’ weekly food diaries to determine total calories. All participants were encouraged to exercise at least five days a week for 30 minutes at a time.

The authors reported several important findings. First, and not too surprisingly, the people in the group who ate fewer calories lost more weight. On average, people in this group lost 7.6 kg (16.7 lbs) compared to those in the other group, who lost 0.4 kg (0.9 lbs).

What was even more interesting was the impact of calorie restriction on quality of life. Those who restricted calories reported better moods and less daily tension, and they rated their overall health better throughout the study period.

The calorie-restricted group also reported improved sleep duration and quality. Finally, the calorie-restricted group experienced more sexual drive and arousal, and better sexual relationships, than the other group.

Is a Low-Calorie Diet Right for You?

If you’re overweight or obese, the choice may be simple. Weight loss is a critical lifestyle choice to improve your general health and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, premature joint disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

But lowering your risk for these diseases is only part of the potential benefit of cutting calories. Many other benefits of calorie restriction can improve your qualify of life and daily functioning. If you’re in the normal weight range, this new study also suggests a potential benefit of calorie restriction if done carefully — as long as your BMI doesn’t drop below 22.

If you chose to cut your calories, consider the expertise of the study investigators in this trial and aim for a 25 percent reduction. This is the level at which there was some benefit and that was at the same time tolerable, so it’s possible to keep it up. Here’s how to get started:

  • Keep an accurate diary of your food intake for one to two weeks.
  • Use an online calorie counter to help you determine your daily calorie intake.
  • Plan to restrict your calorie intake by 25 percent over the next month.
  • Write out a menu each week that includes a wide variety of foods that you enjoy.

One of the easiest ways to cut calories is to increase your intake of whole fruits and vegetables, which you’ll find are more filling and less calorie dense. Also consider making these diet changes with other people, who can provide social support and accountability — powerful ways to improve the likelihood that you’ll succeed.

As you begin to experience the improved quality of life, sleep, and other benefits, these will help positively reinforce your goals and make the calorie-restricted diet a daily habit. And as you feel better, become more active, and maintain a healthy diet, you’ll have the added benefit of having to see your local cardiologist less.

Follow Dr. Bunch @TJaredBunch on Twitter. He’s also a frequent guest on The Dr. John Day Show podcast, available on iTunes.

PHOTO: Getty Images

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or stick to your current weight, you might be tempted to look up the suggested calories per day for your gender, age, and activity level. The following chart should only be used as a reference point, because every person is so different metabolically even when they are the same size and gender. The following suggested calorie ranges are generated using the Institute of Medicine’s estimated energy requirement calculation.

To maintain weight, the chart below shows you your daily calorie limit. It’s based on your age, activity level, and the BMI (body-mass index) of 21.5 for women and 22.5 for men.

To lose weight — It used to be recommended that to lose a pound per week you would need to decrease total calories by 500 a day. Now researchers believe weight loss is a slower process and that a decrease of 10 calories a day leads to a loss of about one pound in a year, but it can take as long as 3 years to get there. The key is to be patient and work with a dietitian to help find the right plan for you.

To gain weight, it’s best to work on a plan with a dietitian.

For successful weight loss that you can maintain over time, experts recommend choosing foods that are lower in calories but rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients.

*Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes light physical activity associated with typical activities of daily living. Moderately active consists of walking 1.5 to 3 miles daily at a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour (or the equivalent). An active person walks more than 3 miles daily at the same pace, or equivalent exercise.

How many calories?

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