How Many Calories Do You Burn in a Day?

by Suzanne Hiscock

The number of calories you burn in a day depends on three factors:  1) your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR); 2) the amount of exercise and physical activity performed; and, 3) to a lesser degree, digestion of food. That number can change each day depending on how much exercise you get.

You might burn 1500 calories on a quiet Friday spent working and then going out to a movie.  But then you can burn 2500 calories on Saturday by doing strenuous activities like heavy yard work, riding your bike or taking a long hike with a backpack.

Once you know how many calories you burn in a day, you can set a daily calorie goal that creates a calorie deficit.  A calorie deficit is when you eat fewer calories than your body burns.  Your body will burn your excess body fat to make up the difference. And that's what we want to do:  burn that excess fat.

I've got the math and formulas involved, if you like to calculate this yourself. But you'll also find a variety of calculators down below too.

Calculate Calories Burned in a Day

Use this calculator to estimate how many calories your burn in a day.  Remember, this number can change depending on your activity level.  Play with the calculator by changing the activity level.  You'll see how much more calories you burn when you're active!
 

Calories Burned in a Day

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The Formula for Calories Burned in a Day

The Calories Burned in a Day Calculator calculates your BMR and then uses an activity correction factor better estimate the calories you burn in a day. (See the formulas down below for BMR calculations.)

Activity Correction Factors
  • Sedentary: 1.2
  • Lightly Active: 1.375
  • Moderately Active: 1.55
  • Very Active: 1.725
  • Extremely Active: 1.9
Calories Burned in a Day Formula
Lifestyle Formula Description
Sedentary BMR x 1.2 Little or no exercise, desk job
Lightly Active BMR x 1.375 Light exercise, sports 1-3 days per week
Moderately Active BMR x 1.55 Moderate exercise, sports 3-5 days per week
Very Active BMR x 1.725 Hard exercise, sports 6-7 days per week
Extremely Active BMR x 1.9 Hard daily exercise or sports and physical job or twice daily training, i.e marathon, contest, etc.

Calculate Your BMR

Your BMR is the number of calories you burn naturally in a day. It's the estimated minimum level of energy required to sustain the body's vital functions when at rest.

You can calculate your BMR with this calculator or use the formulas in "The Math" section.
 

BMR Calculator

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The Formula for Calculating BMR

If you like the challenge, get out your calculator and use the Harris-Benedict formula. 

Women
BMR = (9.563 x weight[kg]) + (1.850 x height[cm]) - (4.676 x age) + 655.1

Men
BMR = (13.75 x weight[kg]) + (5.003 x height[cm]) - (6.775x age) + 66.5
 

You can also buy yourself a wearable fitness tracker to tell you approximately how many calories you burn in a day. I use a FitBit Charge HR, myself.

Check out the FitBit website to see what they have to offer.  Or look for different varieties of trackers over at Amazon.  Garmin products are usually at the top of the "best of" lists.

See:  Which FitBit is Right for You?

Create a Calorie Deficit to Lose Weight

​If you want to get rid of excess body fat, you need to know how many calories you burn in day. Knowing how many calories you burn in a day will give you an idea of how many calories you should be eating.  You can then adjust the amount of calories you eat if you want to lose weight and burn fat.

You see, if you eat fewer calories than your body burns, you’ll create what’s called a calorie deficit -- and your body will burn your excess body fat to make up the difference.
 

Calorie Deficit Calculator

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How to Burn More Calories

Your body burns calories in three different ways:

1) Basal Metabolism - Your body needs energy every day to survive—even when you sleep!  Your body is constantly working: heart pumping, keeping a normal body temperature, repairing damage, growing.  To do all that work requires energy!

It may be hard to believe, but roughly 60% to 70% of the calories you burn every day are not from exercise.  It’s from keeping all of your body’s systems working.

2) Physical Activity - The second way your body burns calories is through any sort of physical activity.  Whether it’s from walking around while you work or from more formal exercise, any type of movement will burn calories. 

The amount of calories you burn from physical activity can be anywhere from 25% to 40% of the total amount of calories you burn in a day.

3) Digesting Food - In addition to exercise, your body uses up energy to digest the food you eat.  A high-protein meal requires more energy to digest than a high-carb or high-fat meal.  But that doesn’t mean you should just eat protein!  A balanced diet is better for you in the long run.  Digesting food accounts for only 5% to 10% of calories burned.

The best way to burn more calories is through more exercise and physical activity, especially if you don't exercise much.

You can calculate how many calories you burn through exercise with my Calories Burned Calculator

And here a few different ways of burning more calories:

On the flip side, if you already exercise a fair amount and it would be unrealistic to add more exercise, cutting back on calories can create a calorie deficit, too.  


FitWatch Calorie Tracker users have access to Calorie Cutting 101, a 9-page ebook full of calorie cutting tips.  

And if you really want to dig in, sign up for my free 28 Day Calorie Counting Bootcamp.  Learn more about the bootcamp!


Knowing how many calories you burn in a day is a key factor in weight loss. It can help you create realistic daily calorie goals.
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About the Author

Suzanne is the owner of FitWatch. She's had strong interest in nutrition and exercise for over 20 years, and is an ACE-certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach. Back in 2002, she started FitWatch.com because she wanted to help people lose weight by creating helpful tools and calculators. A huge fan of calorie counting, Suzanne created the FitWatch Fitness Tracker to make it easy for people to count their calories.