Calorie Requirements for Seniors

How Many Calories Your Body Needs Each Day as You Get Older

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How do your calorie needs change as you age? Whether your goal is to maintain body weight or lose weight, knowing this number is useful. Whether you’re young or old, the number of calories you should be consuming each day varies according to your gender, height, weight, body composition and, perhaps most of all, activity level.

Calories are a measurement of energy in food. If you take in more calories than you expend through bodily processes (like digestion and breathing) and physical activity (everything from standing, fidgeting, or marathon running), you will gain weight.

If you consume fewer calories than your body burns off each day, you will create a calorie deficit, and will subsequently lose weight.

You Need Fewer Calories as You Age Due to Muscle Loss

As people age, they often need fewer calories, generally because they are less active. Basal metabolic rate also drops over time. It’s often been suggested that people who have more muscle on their body will burn more calories (even at rest) than someone who’s less muscular because muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat -- though the degree to which metabolism may increase is a matter of debate.

Calorie Needs to Maintain Current Weight

How many calories does your body require to maintain your current weight? The National Institute on Aging offers the following general guidelines, for men and women over the age of 50:

Calorie Needs for Women Over Age 50 
Activity LevelDaily Calorie Requirement
Not physically activeAbout 1,600 calories/day
Somewhat activeAbout 1,800 calories/day
Active lifestyleAbout 2,000-2,200 calories/day
Calorie Needs for Men Over Age 50 
Activity LevelDaily Calorie Requirement
Not physically activeAbout 2,000 calories/day
Somewhat activeAbout 2,200–2,400 calories/day
Active lifestyleAbout 2,400-2,800 calories/day

In addition to a change in your daily caloric intake needs, you may also notice a change in the shape of your body as you get older, even if you are not gaining weight.

A shift of fat towards the mid-section is typical in women after menopause, and in men, due to dropping testosterone levels.

Nutrient Requirements as You Age

Traditionally, people over the age of 70 find their appetite decreases, as their activity level and basal metabolic rate drop. This poses nutritional challenges since they need the same vitamins and minerals as younger people and even more when it comes to nutrients like protein and vitamin D.

To stay healthy and avoid disease, follow an anti-aging diet made up of a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, healthy fats, and foods that are high in fiber. Since older adults with chewing or swallowing difficulties might steer clear of fresh high-fiber foods, nutrition researchers have modified the “MyPyramid” daily food recommendations to include stewed and canned fruits and vegetables (without added sugar or salt). Green smoothies —a blended mix of greens and fruit—also offer a simple way of boosting your consumption of fresh produce that may be easier to digest and easier to swallow.

Sources:

Age Page: Healthy Eating after 50. NIH National Institute on Aging Public Information Sheet. Accessed April 25, 2012.
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/healthy-eating-after-50

Alice H. Lichtenstein, Helen Rasmussen, Winifred W. Yu, Susanna R. Epstein, and Robert M. Russell. "Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults." J. Nutr. January 2008 vol. 138 no. 1 5-11 

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/1/5.full

Charles E Matthews et al. “Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults” Am J Clin Nutr February 2012 vol. 95 no. 2 437-445.

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