How many calories should I burn a day? That question is best answered once you understand nutrition. Nutrition is a critical element to your success in fitness and I learned that long ago. I’ve done a lot of research over my time training, so I have a pretty good idea as to what good nutrition entails. That said, I always struggled with gaining weight as I was always a smaller guy, so I took a lot of time to research what an individual interested in losing weight would have to do in order to do so.
Now it’s important to keep in mind that there are health conditions that could affect your ability to lose or gain weight. If you find this to be the case, you should consult a medical professional to determine the best course of action to meet your goals.
The goal of this article is to help you determine how many calories your body needs based on your personal fitness goals. Continue reading to learn the answer to the question “how many calories should I burn a day.”
Deciding a Goal
While your goal may likely be losing weight, there are some who may want to know the answer to the question, “how many calories should I burn a day,” even when not trying to lose weight. The answer to meeting your goal is simple:
If you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. This is a calorie deficit. Be careful though. If you have too much of a calorie deficit, you can begin to lose muscle mass and your metabolism will actually slow down.  This can be offset by doing resistance training. 
If you want to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn. This is a calorie surplus.
If you want to maintain your weight, you need to match the amount of calories you consume to the amount that you burn.
Keep in mind that whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain weight, the safest way to do so is slowly and gradually.  Remember, fitness is a marathon, not a race.
The next step is to learn what things burn calories and how many calories you need based on your goals.
What Burns Calories?
When asking yourself the question “how many calories should I burn a day,” you should first consider how many calories your body needs everyday. Then you need to determine what burns calories.
Your body requires energy in order to function. Its basic functions (things like breathing and heartbeat) will burn calories even when you’re doing nothing. This is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).  Your BMR varies based on age, weight, amount of lean muscle mass, and gender. [4,5]
Physical activity also burns calories. The more physical activity you do and the more intense it is, the more calories you burn. A heavier individual will burn more calories doing the exact same physical activity as a lighter individual. 
Finally, muscle burns more calories than fat. That means that a more muscular individual will burn more than someone of the same size who has a higher amount of body fat. 
Now that you know what burns calories, you can start creating a game plan.
How Many Calories Should I Burn a Day? – How to Figure Out The Answer
This is where things can get a little complicated. You will need to use a few tools to help you reach your goals.
You’ll need the help of some online calculators or an app to help determine two things: the amount of calories your body needs to function (your BMR) and how many calories you burn from your daily physical activity. You can use the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation for the best results.  Once you know these two numbers, you will know how many calories your body uses per day. This is your baseline for following the guidelines above.
Once you know the amount of calories your body needs per day, you simply need to make some adjustments to your diet and daily physical activity to reach your goals.
You can use this calculator to find out your BMR.
You can use this calculator to find out how many calories you burn from your daily physical exercises.
How many calories should I burn a day? Add the results of these two calculations and follow the above guidelines (Deciding a Goal) to answer it!
Dieting to Meet Your Goals
What you eat will determine how successful you are in meeting your goals with weight loss/gain/maintenance. Make meeting your nutritional needs a lifestyle. You can’t eat healthy only once or twice and expect to reach your goals. You have to maintain your nutrition over a long period of time to see results.
Learn how to read nutrition labels. You can find them on every food item you buy at the store. By knowing the nutritional value of the foods you’re eating, you’ll be able to achieve your goals more easily.
Here are some basic tips to help with watching your nutrition :
- Count your calories. You can use apps to help with this. It will help you keep track of how many you’ve eaten to see where you’re at in relation to your calculated BMR.
- Watch your portion sizes. These will vary depending on your goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, eat smaller portions. If you’re trying to gain weight, eat larger portions.
- Eat more fruits and veggies.
- Drink more water.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks. These will add in unnecessary calories to your diet and aren’t good for you anyway.
- Avoid fried food.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcoholic beverages tend to be very high in calories.
Physical Activity to Meet Your Goals
The goal you have for yourself will determine the type of physical activities you do.
Now if you’re trying to lose weight, increasing your overall physical activity along with maintaining a calorie deficit will give you the best results. Be careful though. If you have a very low calorie deficit, you can lose muscle. This is especially true if you do not exercise at all.  To combat this, incorporate weight training into your routine.
If you’re trying to gain weight, focus on incorporating more meals into your day in order to reach your caloric needs. Continue to lift weights during this time. Muscle may burn more calories, but it also weighs more than fat. Try not to engage in too much other physical activity if possible, otherwise, you will need to eat even more to compensate for the calories you’re burning.
Putting It All Together
How many calories should I burn a day? The answer is it depends. But you can answer it by following these simple guidelines:
- Determine Basal Metabolic Rate with an online calculator or app
- Determine how many calories you burn from your daily physical activity with an online calculator or app
- Adjust Calorie Intake to meet your goals based on 1 and 2 added together
- Lose Weight: Calorie Deficit
- Gain Weight: Calorie Surplus
- Maintain Weight: Calories Consumed = Calories Burned
- Adjust Physical Activity to meet your goals
- Lose Weight: More Physical Activity
- Gain Weight: Less Physical Activity
- Maintain Weight: Do no more than the amount of calories you consume
Now that you know what you need to do, find out your caloric needs, adjust your nutrition, start training and achieve your goals!