Overeating? How to Figure Your Daily Food Needs

woman looking at her snack optionsThere are many factors at work with our body systems. This we know for sure: if you overeat, your body stores the excess, often as fat. So how much should you eat, of what?

Most weight loss happens when you use more energy (calories) than you’ve consumed. Still, there’s more to getting the metabolic advantage that will help you reach your goals.

Weight Loss Versus Fat Loss

Losing body weight requires a “calorie deficit.” That is the physical condition in which your body doesn’t have enough energy (calories) available to perform its tasks (anything from healing an injury to running a marathon to moving a heavy object).

Because calories are transformed by the body into energy, your muscles, the immune system, even digestion, all use a certain amount to perform their functions. How efficiently your body uses calories also comes into play—otherwise known as your metabolic rate.

Confusion often occurs when we take a look at how energy is stored in the body. Calories are always converted—whether they be ready for immediate use as glycogen in your muscles, or saved for later as fat stores around the belly. It is the biology of how and where they are stored that variables can come into play.

Calories In – Calories Out?

Variables that come into play, like the nutrients you take in, your meal frequency, and your body type and size, can affect what happens to the calories your body either uses or stores. To simplify the calories in – calories out equation, think of it this way: food (and beverage) is fuel. It does matter how much is in your tank when you want to hit the road. It also matters where you want to go on that trip, and how many miles you get per gallon.

But unlike a vehicle when the gas tank runs dry, your body has a reserve and will continue to use what it can to keep operating. Which is why, if you recently consumed calories from carbohydrates, your body will tap into that energy (about 2000 calories worth stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver, on average) to help you push through your activities.

However, if your body doesn’t have easy access to energy from what you’ve consumed, it will have to look elsewhere for to get the job done. This is the secret to weight loss. Your body can get its energy from what is stored in fat (or muscle) to do what it needs to do. When you are in a calorie deficit—meaning, you’re using more energy than your body has—then it resorts to burning fat.

Even more than weight loss (which can also be loss of muscle or even water), fat loss is vital if you’re overweight. Which is why everyone needs to know how much they should be taking in, and of what food types, for the lifestyle and body type they have, in order to achieve the body weight and composition they desire.

So, How Much Should I Eat?

At the end of the day, you need to know what targets to aim for when it comes to food intake. Although it’s not really a universal equation, there are some basic factors to consider when figuring what you should consume daily.

As mentioned, your body type, size, and composition (percentage of fat versus lean tissue) all matter. So does your health status—a young male in perfect health, a pregnant woman, or a senior citizen with extra fat around the midsection all call for a different approach to calculating dietary needs. So does your goal: would you like to drop a pants size, or do you need to lose 100 lbs? And so does your activity level: a bodybuilder will have different needs than a desk worker or a marathoner.

However, once you have several of these questions answered, you can get a baseline idea of how much to eat, and what to eat, to support your goals.

A visit with a trainer, nutritionist, or dietician, can provide the custom answers you seek. But there are also sources for calculating your general daily food needs, which you can access online. You can simply enter your stats and goals, and then get the results as guidelines you can follow.

Online Sources for General Guidelines

Topping our list for dietary needs calculators is the Healthy Body Calculator. Here you can not only input your basic information like height, weight and gender (all important to deciding how much energy you need to support basic body systems), but much more.

For example, you can detail the amount of activity you participate in, and indicate your health status. You will receive guidelines that include more than calories, too, like vitamins, minerals, carb grams and protein grams. And you can customize your readings per your goals and lifestyle. Need fewer carbs? Fine. Want more protein? You can adjust for that, too.

Other simple food intake calculators that you can access for free online include:


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