How Many Calories Do You Burn Every Day?

Learn ways to change your daily energy expenditure to lose weight

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If you are curious how many calories you are burning in a day, you can calculate your energy balance and figure out how much to eat each day when you know your number. If your goal is to lose weight, you need to reach a negative energy balance; and if your goal is to gain weight you will need a surplus.

To reach a negative energy balance, you need to make sure that you put less energy in your body than your body uses. That means that you need to consume fewer calories than you burn each day. To do that, though, you need to know how many calories you burn.


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Daily Calorie Burn

When researchers evaluate the total number of calories you burn, they refer to the number as your total energy expenditure (TEE) or total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). TEE (or TDEE) is a combination of these different factors.

These include resting metabolic rate (RMR), non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), thermic effect of food (TEF), and calories burned during exercise.

Total Energy Expenditure Factors

Mira Norian / Verywell

Here is a closer look at each of the factors used to measure your daily calorie burn.

  • Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR): Your RMR is the amount of energy your body needs to maintain basic functions like breathing, circulating blood and building cells. Things like age, body size and gender affect your resting metabolic rate. Your RMR accounts for 60% to 75% of the total number of calories you burn each day.
  • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): This is the amount of energy that your body uses to do daily activities like washing dishes, typing on your computer, or walking around your office. The number of calories you burn from NEAT varies greatly based on your activity level.
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): Your body burns calories to chew, digest, and store food. Each type of food (macronutrient) has a different TEF. Eating protein burns the most calories by a small margin. TEF accounts for about 10% of the total number of calories you burn each day.
  • Calories Burned During Exercise: The actual number of calories you burn during your workouts will depend on the intensity and duration of each session. Calories burned through exercise and non-exercise physical activity account for roughly 15% to 30% of your TEE.

Total Energy Expenditure

There are three common methods to estimate the number of calories burned each day. There are pros and cons to using each method. You can use more than one method and compare results to get the best estimate.

Metabolic Testing

The equipment required to perform metabolic testing is fairly expensive and used to be available only in hospital or lab settings. However, many health clubs now offer metabolic testing at affordable prices.

For some people, the test results help them schedule workouts and diet plans more effectively. But some critics feel the tests are not very accurate and therefore not worth the cost.

If you choose metabolic testing in a health club, make sure your trainer or technician is qualified to perform the test.

When you get re-tested to measure progress, it is usually smart to have the same technician re-do the tests and to use the same equipment. And since your body weight can vary by several pounds from morning to evening, it's also best to do your re-test at the same of day as the previous test(s).

Activity Monitors

Devices by brands like Polar, Garmin, and FitBit and are widely available online and in sporting goods stores. The gadgets monitor your daily movements to determine an estimated number of calories burned each day. 

Some independent tests have shown that the devices are not completely accurate at providing an accurate number of calories burned. But the devices are easy to use and can provide a very general estimate of variations in your day to day calorie expenditure.​ 

We've tried, tested, and reviewed the best pedometers. If you're in the market for an activity tracker, explore which option may be best for you.

Online Calculators

Calculators like the one above can estimate your daily energy expenditure. Of course, the number is simply a guideline, but it's a good place to start if you want to maintain your weight. If you want to gain or lose weight, use a weight loss calorie goal calculator to calculate your daily caloric needs by adjusting your daily calorie count goal down (or up).

Daily Calorie Expenditure

To reach your negative energy balance and lose weight successfully, try to increase the amount of energy you use each day. Of course, there are some components of your TEE that are hard to change. 

Increasing your resting metabolic rate, for example, is fairly difficult. And increasing the number of calories you burn when you eat food isn't an effective way to reach your negative energy balance, either. But you can change your daily physical habits.

The most effective way to increase your TEE is with exercise and NEAT. Learn how to plan consistent workouts that are vigorous enough to burn fat but also allow your body enough time to recover, rebuild, and stay healthy.

Between workouts, stay active. If you are able, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the store instead of taking the car and stay active at home to burn calories. You'll boost your calorie-burning potential and you may be able to increase lean muscle mass on your body, which can boost your resting metabolic rate. 

A Word From Verywell

Remember that all calorie counts are estimates. Even the calorie counts on food packages are estimates. So, if you're trying to lose weight, expect that you will need to take some time for trial and error before you find the numbers that are right for you.

Use several different methods to find out how many calories you burn each day. Then experiment with food intake to find the right balance to meet your goals.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Westerterp KR. Control of energy expenditure in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017;71(3):340-344. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.237

  3. Shin G, Jarrahi MH, Fei Y, et al. Wearable activity trackers, accuracy, adoption, acceptance and health impact: A systematic literature review. J Biomed Inform. 2019;93:103153. doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2019.103153

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.