Why Calories Needed for Men and Women Are Different

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If you are a man who is watching his weight, you may be frustrated by some of the calorie information provided online and in magazines. Much of it is focused on the daily energy requirements for women. But what about the number of calories per day for a man? Many women follow a 1,200 calorie per day plan to slim down. But the number of calories needed for men is usually much higher.

Calorie Needs for Men vs. Women

The use of a calorie calculator is most helpful when you are trying to figure out how many calories to eat per day.

Almost every calorie calculator will take your gender into account, in addition to your weight and your activity level. Why? Because a man's body will generally require more energy (in the form of calories) even when it is the same size as a woman's.

Men generally have more muscle mass than women. The extra muscle requires more energy. And men are usually taller than women. The extra height leads to increased calorie needs for men.

But even in similarly sized men and women, men often need more calories. Men generally have an increased lung capacity—as indicated by a greater average VO2 max—which allows them to work harder during exercise and physical activity and also requires more calories to maintain.

Your specific calorie needs will vary, which is why the calculator is helpful. As an example, an average height, 32-year old man who weighs 160 pounds and is moderately active will require about 2,600 calories to maintain his weight.

However, the calorie needs for men will change if he wants to gain or lose weight.

How Many Calories for a Man to Maintain Weight?

To maintain your weight, you want to consume enough food to meet your daily energy needs. If you don't eat enough calories per day you will lose fat and muscle mass. If you eat too many calories per day, your body will store the excess energy as fat.

You can use a calculator to find out how many calories you burn each day. Or scan these average calorie numbers for men to see how much energy you use each day and how many calories you should consume to maintain your weight. Each average calorie number is based on a moderately active man of average height ( or approximately 5'10") who weighs 175 pounds.

  • A 20-year-old man should consume about 2800 calories per day to maintain his weight
  • A 30-year old man should consume about 2728 calories per day to maintain his weight
  • A 40-year old man should consume about 2651 calories per day to maintain his weight
  • A 50-year old man should consume about 2573 calories per day to maintain his weight
  • A 60-year old man should consume about 2496 calories per day to maintain his weight
  • A 70-year old man should consume about 2418 calories per day to maintain his weight
  • A lightly active 80-year old man should consume about 2076 calories per day to maintain his weight

If you are sedentary or lightly active you should consume fewer calories per day to maintain your weight. If you are very active (you work a job that includes physical labor and/or you exercise vigorously on a regular basis) you should consume more calories per day to maintain your weight.

You might notice that the number of calories you need declines with age. As we get older, our metabolism slows down and we don't need as much food (energy) to fuel our bodies. Your metabolism may slow because of a decrease in muscle mass or because of a slower lifestyle. We typically become less active as we get older.

How Many Calories for a Man to Gain Weight?

But what if you are a guy who wants to gain weight? How many calories should a man eat to bulk up his muscle mass? You will need to consume more than your daily energy needs to gain weight, but you should also be mindful of the kind of calories you consume.

According to the American Council on Exercise, a caloric increase of 500 to 1000 calories per day should produce a positive energy balance and help a man to increase his body weight by approximately one pound per week. But whether he gains fat or muscle will depend on his exercise habits and his macronutrient intake.

To get an idea of the average calories per day for a man to gain weight, scan these estimates to see how many calories it would take to increase a man's weight from 160 pounds to 180 pounds at a rate of one pound per week.

  • 20-year-old man should consume about 3200 calories per day to gain weight
  • 30-year old man should consume about 3123 calories per day to gain weight
  • 40-year old man should consume about 3045 calories per day to gain weight
  • 50-year old man should consume about 2968 calories per day to gain weight

To make sure that you gain muscle weight and not excess fat, you should tailor your daily diet to promote lean mass. Focus on eating more protein, fewer processed foods with added sugars, and limit your intake of refined carbohydrates. You should also focus on healthy sources of fat and avoid eating too much saturated fat or foods with trans fat.

So how much protein is enough? Protein needs for men will vary based on your activity level. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, to increase your muscle mass you need to participate in a program of strength training. In addition, you should consume 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Good sources of lean protein include lean meat (lean cuts of beef, bison or pork), poultry (chicken breast or turkey), eggs, nuts, legumes, and seafood.

How Many Calories for a Man to Lose Weight?

If you're a guy whose goal it is to slim down, you'll want to create a calorie deficit for weight loss. A man should eat fewer calories than he needs to lose weight effectively. As a general rule, you should cut approximately 500 calories per day or 3500 calories per week to lose a pound of fat. If you want to lose weight faster, you can double those numbers.

Many meal plans for men use a standard figure for weight loss. Weight loss plans usually provide for about 1,600-1,800 calories per day for a man. This allows most guys to reach a 500-1000 per day calorie deficit and lose at a safe rate of 1-2 pounds per week.

Again, however, age and activity level is very important. See how the numbers change below based on the amount of activity a man gets and his age.

  • An overweight, sedentary 20-year-old man should consume about 1808 calories per day to lose weight
  • An overweight, moderately active 20-year old man can consume about 2481 calories per day to lose weight
  • An overweight, sedentary 30-year-old man should consume about 1748 calories per day to lose weight
  • An overweight, moderately active 30-year old man can consume about 2404 calories per day to lose weight
  • An overweight, sedentary 40-year-old man should consume about 1688 calories per day to lose weight
  • An overweight, moderately active 40-year old man can consume about 23​26 calories per day to lose weight
  • An overweight, sedentary 50-year-old man should consume about 1628 calories per day to lose weight
  • A moderately active ​50-year old man can consume about 2249 calories per day to lose weight

If you participate in a program of vigorous activity or if you work at a job that includes plenty of physical labor, you can consume more calories and still slim down.

Macronutrient balance is important in weight loss. When you cut calories, try to build meals around lean sources of protein and healthy sources of carbohydrate like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Protein and fiber-rich healthy carbohydrates will help you to feel full and satisfied so you can stick to your meal plan. Include healthy sources of fat to boost satiety and keep your body healthy.

Sources:

Bellemare F, Jeanneret A, Couture J. Sex differences in thoracic dimensions and configuration. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine. 2003;168(3):305–12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12773331

Dilgate Muth, Nathalie, MD, MPH, RD. Do men and women have different nutritional needs? American Council on Exercise. March 21, 2012. https://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/2461/do-men-and-women-have-different-nutritional/

Lewis D, Kamon E, Hodgson J. Physiological differences between genders. Implications for sports conditioning. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 1986;3(5):357–69. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3529284

Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance, American College of Sports Medicine, (2015). https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/brochures/protein-intake-for-optimal-muscle-maintenance.pdf.

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