TDEE... Surprisingly Simple Answer to "How Many Calories Should I Eat?"

Your TDEE - Total Daily Energy Expenditure - is the combination of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and all of the other stuff you do during the day.

This includes your workouts, eating meals, etc. It really get's us to the the answer to the question, "how many calories should I eat?"

And the neat thing is that it works for you whether you are wanting to burn fat or build muscle. Read on to learn more...

What is Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure?

One of the most often questions that comes through my inbox is "how many calories should I eat?" Of course, the answer depends on whether you are looking to build muscle or burn fat. But, more importantly, you can't answer that question without knowing how many calories you burn.

TDEE Definition: The total number of calories you burn in a day. It is made of of you BMR and all other activities you perform throughout the day, including the thermogenic effect of food. This is the number of calories you need to eat each day to maintain your weight.

As I mentioned here, the calories you burn each day is made up of your base calorie burn, your basal metabolic rate, and all of the other stuff you do each day. This includes going to work, exercising, washing the dishes, etc.

When you add those daily activities to your BMR (or RMR, if you prefer), you get your total daily energy expenditure.

This article is number 1 in a 3 part series on your metabolism and how it affects your ability to build muscle and burn fat.

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR
  2. Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)
  3. The Plan

If you want to know the answer to "how many calories should I eat?", whether you want to burn fat or build muscle, you should calculate your daily energy expenditure.

How to Calculate Total Daily Energy Expenditure

You're probably wondering if this is going to be a hard math problem... you're going to be pleasantly surprised. To calculate your total daily energy expenditure, all you need to do is multiply your BMR by an "activity multiplier." That's pretty much all there is to the total daily energy expenditure formula.


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That activity multiplier is based upon the amount of exercise you do (or don't do) on any given day. There are a couple of activity multipliers you could use. The first is from Harris-Benedict (yes, there they are again!). The table below shows you the activity multiplier for various levels or exercise.

TDEE Chart
Calculating Total Daily Eneregy Expenditure
Amount of Exercise TDEE Formula
Little or No Exercise, Desk Job TDEE = 1.2 x BMR
Light Exercise, Sports 1 to 3 Times Per Week          = 1.375 x BMR
Moderate Exercise, Sports 3 to 5 Times Per Week          = 1.55 x BMR
Heavy Exercise, Sports 6 to 7 Times Per Week          = 1.725 x BMR
Very heavy exercise, Physical Job, Training 2 Times Per Day          = 1.9 x BMR
What factors affect TDEE? Easy! Exercise. Do more, your energy expenditure goes up. Do less, it goes down. It's that simple.

If you're thinking that using the total daily energy expenditure formula is easy, you're right!

Can You Show Me an Example of Calculating TDEE?


Let's say you are wondering "how many calories should i eat?"

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Imagine you went through the steps to find out your BMR. Now, let's say your basal metabolic rate turned out to be 1,600 calories.

Now imagine you go to the gym 4 times per week and exercise hard 1 hour each trip. You would simply multiply your BMR by 1.55 (for moderate exercise).

Now use the total daily expenditure formula...

TDEE = BMR x Activity Multiplier

     = 1,600 x 1.55

     = 2,480 calories per day

This means that over a normal day, you burn 2,480 calories. Therefore, if you want to maintain your weight, you would eat 2,480 calories per day.


Your total daily energy expenditure is an estimate of total calories you burn in an average day. It includes your BMR and the activities you do. To calculate the estimate, you multiply your BMR by an "activity multiplier." This multiplier ranges from 1.2 to 1.9, and depends on the amount of exercise you do each day. It is the number of calories you need to eat each day to maintain your weight, and the 2nd step in answering your question of "how many calories should i eat?"

Notice how this is just the calories you eat to maintain your weight. Suppose you want to burn fat or build muscle? What do you do then?

Next Steps

  1. If you haven't already done so, calculate your BMR (check out this BMR calculator, or calculate it by hand using the BMR formula).

  2. Use the TDEE chart above to find your activity multiplier.

  3. Calculate your TDEE using the total daily energy expenditure formula.

  4. Go to Part III, "How Many Calories Should I Eat?"

  5. Click the "Like" button.

  6. Give us a +1.

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