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Calorie Guidelines for Women

Calorie counting can be a source of frustration and focus for many girls and women. Although formulas have been standardized, calories might need to be adjusted for each individual based on genetics, amount of muscle or fat, and other activity in addition to athletic activities. The amount of calories required to maintain weight for one woman can be more or less than for another; and, just like sleep, training, and other aspects of life, the amounts can never be exact, as all bodies are different. Still, estimates of calorie needs can provide helpful guidelines.

Nutritionists have devised various complicated formulas for estimating calorie needs. The standards are all in kilograms (kg) of body weight, which can be converted as 1 kg= 2.2 pounds. There are three formulas commonly used by nutritionists, the Harris Benedict, the Total Energy Expenditure Method, and Activity Factors. The first two formulas do not account for additional calories burned in exercise, and they should only be used as a guideline for basic calorie needs.

Harris Benedict Equation
Daily calories (kcal) = [447.6 + 9.2 (Weight in kg) + 3.1 (Height in cm) -4.3 (age)] x 1.7

Total Energy Expenditure Method
Daily calories (kcal) = Weight in kg x 40 kcal/kg

To make it easier and more specific to your athletic activity level, measure your weight in pounds by the following numbers based on activity level. Light, for which you multiply your body weight by 13, implies 20 to 30 minutes total aerobic activity a day (heart rate at 65 to 80 percent). Moderate, a factor of 16, implies 45 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day. Heavy, a factor of 19, implies 75 to 90 minutes. Exceptional, a factor of 22, implies more than 2 hours a day.

Activity Factor
Daily Calories = Weight in lbs. x Activity Factor (AF)

Calories Required at Various Body Weights, Based on Activity Level

Weight Light Moderate Heavy Exceptional
Pounds AF* = 13, Light AF* = 16, Moderate AF* = 19, Heavy AF* = 22, Exceptional
115 1,495 1,840 2,185 2,530
120 1,560 1,920 2,280 2,640
125 1,625 2,000 2,375 2,750
130 1,690 2,080 2,470 2,860
135 1,755 2,160 2,565 2,970
140 1,820 2,240 2,660 3,080
145 1,885 2,320 2,755 3,190
150 1,950 2,400 2,850 3,300
155 2,015 2,480 2,945 3,410
160 2,080 2,560 3,040 3,520
165 2,145 2,640 3,135 3,630
170 2,210 2,720 3,230 3,740
175 2,275 2,800 3,325 3,850
180 2,340 2,880 3,420 3,960
185 2,405 2,960 3,515 4,070

Modern technology also makes it possible to have your baseline calorie burning rate measured. This test is now being done in some health clubs. It is done by monitoring breathing to measure oxygen used during a short time. This gives an estimate of your basal metabolic rate, or how many calories your body burns in a day of rest. Unless this testing is done in a specific physiology lab, the results can vary, and, just like the formulas on previous pages, should be used only as a guideline. The healthiest assessment of body composition, weight, and appropriate caloric intake and activity levels specific for you are made with the combined efforts of your physician and nutritionist. It is highly recommended to consult with both of these health professionals if you are seeking help with weight changes.

A Balanced Diet
The ideal diet for an active woman includes 50 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 to 30 percent protein, and 20 to 30 percent fats. To fulfill your vitamin and mineral requirements, a multivitamin is always recommended, and if you do not eat at least four servings of dairy or calcium-fortified foods a day, add a calcium supplement. The best brands are those made by reputable drug companies.

Essential Components of a Healthy Diet

  • 50 to 60 percent carbohydrates
  • 20 to 30 percent protein
  • 20 to 30 percent fat
  • Enough calories
  • A daily multivitamin
  • Four servings of calcium-rich foods or supplements
To make it easy, the following chart breaks down the recommended calories and grams (in parentheses) of each nutrient required for a diet that is 55 percent carbohydrate, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. These numbers are only guidelines, not strict dietary rules, and should be adjusted if you require extra carbohydrates for training (eat slightly less fats and proteins).

Guidelines for a Healthy Athletic Diet

Total cal/d Protein Fat Carbo
  cal(g)—25% cal(g)—20% cal(g)/day—55%
1,200 300 (75) 240 (27) 660 (165)
1,500 375 (94) 300 (33) 825 (206)
1,800 450 (113) 360 (40) 990 (248)
2,000 500 (125) 400 (44) 1,100 (275)
2,200 550 (138) 440 (49) 1,210 (303)
2,400 600 (150) 480 (53) 1,320 (330)
2,600 650 (163) 520 (58) 1,430 (358)
2,800 700 (175) 560 (62) 1,540 (385)
3,000 750 (188) 600 (67) 1,650 (413)
3,200 800 (200) 640 (71) 1,760 (440)
3,400 850 (213) 680 (76) 1,870 (468)
3,600 900 (225) 720 (80) 1,980 (495)
3,800 950 (238) 760 (84) 2,090 (523)
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From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.


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