No doubt, you’re familiar with these words if you’re in the habit of reading the nutrition labels on packaged food. You do read the labels, right? But this number is confusing… 2,000 calories! Who eats that much? Or, maybe you’re saying, “who eats that little?” Let’s pull apart this mystery number a bit… starting with who it is that’s offering up this advice, to begin with…
Uncle Sam, the Chef
In the United States, the 2,000 calories-a-day-number originates from what is known as the 1968 Recommended Daily Allowances. “*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.” This benchmark was established as a guideline so consumers could be aware of the proper balance of nutrients required for healthy living regardless of age and sex. So, in other words, whether you’re a child of 10 weighing 60 pounds, or a 215 pound man in your mid-twenties, these guidelines were designed to cover everyone. Basic health requirements was what they were shooting for here.
Once the government agreed on how much of every nutrient every human needed for basic health, they needed to then extrapolate this information into percentages to keep things simple to understand (and to fit on a food label). The only way to do that was to reduce the math down to a single caloric number that would apply to everyone (child and adult alike)… and thus, we’ve ended up with 2,000 as our suggested caloric number.
Less or more?
Now that you’re aware the 2,000 number is simply a guideline meant as nutritional insurance, how do you figure out what is best for you? Some suggest simply monitoring the scale and your fluctuations in weight should be enough to guide you. However, a vast majority of others would disagree. For one, you could eat 2,000 calories of purely junk and not lead a healthy life, and you could eat only healthy food, feel full all day and not get enough calories. The best way to find out how many calories you need to consume personally is to get a little scientific –you need to figure out your BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate… see, we told you you’d need to get a bit scientific. It’s easy, though, trust us.
Here’s the deal on BMR. Make sure you find a calculator that allows you to run the numbers taking your activity level into consideration. Here are three we like:
Once you get a picture as to what works for you, you’ll get better results when you diet or exercise. And, getting that number right is important! Just check out the drastic differences in needed calories in this group!
Bottom line? It depends on you, and your needs. Curious as to what 2,000 calories looks like? Here’s a fun little video to help you visualize. 3.8 Big Macs, anyone?