Calculate your energy needs

A useful guide for those trying to shift a few pounds…

For many new runners, the initial motivation was weight loss. For those of you who are still trying to shift a few pounds, here’s our formula for working out whether energy ‘out’ is more than ‘energy in’…
Given the number of fad diets, fanciful theories and dubious exercise regimes out there, you would be forgiven for thinking that the whole business of weight loss, metabolism and calorie expenditure was highly complex. But maintaining a stable body weight is not rocket science – it’s, er, maths! If you can solve the energy equation, the number you see when you step on the scales will not change. And here’s the formula:

IF CALORIES IN = CALORIES OUT: WEIGHT GAIN = 0 (nope, not an ounce!)

In other words, keep the amount of energy consumed and the amount of energy expended equal, and your weight will remain stable. If you want to lose weight, then you need to take in fewer calories than you expend, or increase the number you burn through activity. Ideally, do both - sensibly. Simple!

With a little vigilant label-reading and a beady eye on portion sizes, it isn’t too difficult to estimate how many calories you are consuming. But what about the ‘energy out’ side of the equation? Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) is a product of three things:

  • Your resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy needed to enable the body to function over a 24-hour period).
  • The amount of energy used in digesting and processing food (known as the thermic effect of food, and not enough of a contributing factor to get too excited about) and finally…
  • The amount of calories you expend during activity (both with and without your trainers on). This final factor is the one that has the greatest potential for change – it can account for between 15-30% of your TEE – which is why exercise is such a crucial part of any successful, sustainable weight loss programme.

You can get a good estimation of your average total daily energy expenditure, encompassing all three of the main components, by filling in the following sums.

  • Find your weight in kilograms (1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs).
  • Put your weight into one of the following formulae to get a resting metabolic rate:


18-30 years old: weight x 14.7. Answer + 496 =RMR

31-60 years old: weight x 8.7. Answer + 829 = RMR


18-30 years old: weight x 15.3. Answer + 679 = RMR

31-60 years old: weight x 11.6. Answer + 879 + RMR

Now take this figure and multiply it by the number below that most closely matches your typical daily activity level. This should NOT include activity in the form of workouts or sports (that comes next) – it is simply your day-to-day activities. The majority of us would be described as sedentary.
Sedentary (sit or stand most of the day) 1.4

Moderately active (some walking each day and regular active leisure pursuits such as gardening, DIY) 1.7

Very active (physically active each day through work or leisure) 2.0

Now estimate the number of calories you expend on all the workouts you typically do in a week, and divide the figure by seven to get an average daily value. Use the figures on [refer to 10 Rules for Fat Burning Exercise feature chart] to help you gauge your workout energy expenditure. Remember, the heavier you are, the more energy you burn during any activity.


Typical calorie expenditure 9 ½ stone woman 11 ½ stone man
Running (calories per hour at 8-minute mile pace) 720 913
Swimming (calories per hour for continuous laps) 630 730
Uphill walking at a 10% gradient (calories per hour ) 590 694
Rowing (calories per hour at a moderate pace) 540 611
Cycling (calories per hour at 12-14mph pace ) 500 584
Jogging (calories per hour at 12-minute mile pace) 440 511
Walking (calories per hour at 15 minute mile pace) 252 365

TOTAL EXPENDITURE divided by 7 = ____________
Add together the results from stage 3 and 4 and you have a reasonable estimate of how much energy you need per day to maintain your current body weight.

Now all you need to do is keep the balance right!