Calorie Maintenance: What It Is and Why It Matters

Once you hit your weight goal, what do you do? Calorie maintenance is important if you want to stay where you are. Read on to learn the basics.

Consuming a healthy number of calories from a range of nutritious foods is essential for feeling, looking, and performing your best. If you’ve never determined your optimal calorie count, however, you might not know if you’re on track or either under- or over-consuming. Find out why calorie maintenance matters and discover the best ways to calculate and track your maintenance calories.

What Does Calorie Maintenance Mean, Anyway?

Everything you eat and drink has a calorie count, end every calorie goes toward your body’s energy expenditure. Every day, your body requires a certain amount of energy to perform basic functions, such as muscle movement, cell growth, and energy conversion. The energy your body needs to do all of these things is known as maintenance calories, or total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

Whether you’re concerned about gaining weight, building muscle, or losing fat, understanding calorie maintenance is important. After all, when you consume exactly the number of calories your body needs to function on a daily basis, you won’t lose or gain either fat or muscle. Instead, you’ll maintain your current weight and form. This is ideal if you’ve reached the end of your weight loss journey and you simply want to maintain your weight, right where you are.

If you put more than just the maintenance level of calories into your body, you could build muscle or put on fat. In contrast, you can lose weight if you decrease your caloric intake below the maintenance threshold. Ultimately, it’s all about striking the right energy balance and knowing how to make slight adjustments to meet your weight goals.

Even though you’ll frequently hear generalized calorie count recommendations for women and men, there’s no single maintenance calorie intake level that works for everyone. That’s because everybody has different calorie maintenance requirements that depend on their size and activity levels.

How to Calculate Calories Needed to Maintain Weight

Before making any substantial changes to your daily caloric intake or your exercise routine, it’s important to know your TDEE, or how much energy your body truly needs. This measurement depends on a combination of your body’s basic energy needs, known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR), plus your typical activity level.

BMR is largely based on your height and weight, but TDEE is a little more complicated. Your typical activity level includes exercise, sports, and other physical pursuits, but it also factors in your habits, such as your tendency to fidget as you sit or your constant pacing as you work through difficult problems on the job. Together, both your exercise habits and your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) contribute to your activity level.

To calculate your TDEE, you first need to multiply your weight in pounds by 10 if you’re a woman. Men should use 11 as the multiplier. The tells you how many calories your body needs to do the basics each day — this is your BMR.

Of course, the basics aren’t enough to keep you going through any major activities. Next, calculate how much your level of physical activity affects how much energy you need. Use the following chart to find your multiplier:

  • You’re relatively sedentary on an average day: 1.3 for women or 1.3 for men
  • You typically do light activity on an average day: 1.5 for women or 1.6 for men
  • You do moderate exercise most days of the week: 1.6 for women or 1.7 for men
  • You’re active on an average day: 1.9 for women or 2.1 for men
  • You’re very active throughout the day: 2.2 for women or 2.4 for men

Now, take this multiplier and apply it to your BMR. This result tells you how many calories your body needs to sustain your daily lifestyle, or your maintenance calories.

It’s important to keep in mind that very few people’s maintenance calories are set in stone, so you should take the time to recalculate them periodically. If you’re working toward losing weight or you’re trying to bulk up, your maintenance calories could change on a weekly basis.

Why You Should Use an App to Track Maintenance Calories

With so many numbers to juggle, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, no matter where you are on your weight loss journey. Rather than trying to track every detail of your physical activity or your caloric intake on paper or in a makeshift spreadsheet, use an app instead. A calorie tracking app can streamline your daily food journal, and it can also help you stay healthy and meet your goals. After all, an app designed to track calories can ensure that you keep your caloric intake balanced throughout the day and consistent throughout the week.

To get started with a calorie tracking app, enter your maintenance calorie calculation. This will be your target calorie count for the day. Once you’ve logged your daily food consumption, you’ll be able to assess how far you are from hitting your daily goal with just a quick glance. If you’ve set goals related to proteins, fats, or carbohydrates, you can also assess your daily progress in that department.

Next, you’ll want to record what you eat for every meal of the day. The best apps include food libraries that list just about every food and dish you’ve ever heard of, so logging your daily food diary just requires a few swipes and clicks. If you tend to eat the same thing for breakfast or lunch every day, you can even save them as favorites so you can log them quickly. Don’t forget to track snacks or drinks, either. You’ll want to keep track of everything for accuracy.

Whether you want to maintain your current weight or you have a weight loss goal in mind, you need to know how you’re doing over time. The best calorie tracking apps even monitor your habits, helping you stay consistent and identifying key habits. After all, it’s about long-term goals and developing healthy habits that stick.

Understanding and tracking your maintenance calories requires a calculation here and there, but once you’ve got the math out of the way, you can focus on what your body needs to meet your weight loss goals. With the right calorie maintenance goal and effective tracking, you can achieve your ideal energy balance.

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.