How Many Calories Should Vegans Eat? Are You Eating Too Many Calories Or Too Few?

If you don’t want to read this long treatise on how many calories should vegans eat, then here is the quick and dirty answer to that question: 1296.87 calories.

I joke, I joke. Let’s get serious about a topic that worries not only a lot of people generally but some vegans too. As I wrote in my post on gaining weight on a vegan diet, veganism is not by itself the magic bullet to staying slim. Yes, vegans have a helping hand with their diet and some evidence would suggest that eating a plant based diet may slightly raise the BMR (basal metabolic rate). But there are fat vegans just as there are fat meat eaters.

This post which deals with the important issue of how many calories a vegan should eat gets the very kernel of weight maintenance, weight loss or weight gain.

The BMR can be measured scientifically through the amount of heat that a body gives off during a period of time. This generation of heat is known as thermogenesis, and measuring it provides information about the amount of energy that the body has consumed.

To determine your specific BMR or RMR (resting metabolic rate) you would need to be under the care of specialists who study calorimetry. Calorimetry is the science of measure heat from chemical or physical changes. So when I said above that your body gives of heat (thermogenesis) as we just “live”, these scientists can measure that and determine your BMR. This BMR is given as a unit of measurement and for our purposes or the purpose of the layman this is known as calories. The calories we get from the food we eat.

Being studied withing a clinical environment as mentioned above is the most accurate way to determine your BMR in calories consumed per day.

However, thankfully, scientists have come up with formulas that we can use that will give us an idea of not only our BMR but also our total calories we likely consume during our daily activities. These formulas are quite complex, at least to me they are, but thankfully there are quick and dirty methods to determine our daily caloric requirement and there are online programs that will help us determine our daily caloric requirement too.

The most common formula in use is the Harris Benedict formula though many people believe that this overestimates your calorie requirements by 5% or more. There is another formula that many believe to be more accurate for most people and that is the Mifflin RMR formula. To err on the side of caution, we’ll use the Mifflin formula.

Mifflin formula for men:
(10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) + 5

Mifflin formula for women
(10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) – 161

w = weight in kg
h = height in centimeters
a = age

So let’s take a vegan man of 170 pounds who is 5 feet and 9 inches tall and age 50. 170 pounds is 77 kilograms and 5’9″ is 175 centimeters.

So the formula looks like this: (10 x 77) + (6.25 x 175) – (5 x 50) + 5 = 1620.

I have rounded up to the nearest tenth. So the RMR (Mifflin calculates for RMR rather than BMR) for our 50 year old male is 1620 calories per day. This is not however the total number of calories he needs to consumer per day to maintain his weight of 170 pounds. If he lay in bed all day then this is how many calories he would need, but most of us do some activity per day and so we need to add some calories to our RMR in order to compensate for this level of activity.

So we multiply our number above (1620 or our own RMR) by the following depending on our own daily activity level.

1.2 Sedentary Little or no exercise and desk job

1.375 Lightly Active Light exercise or sports 1-3 days a week

1.55 Moderately Active Moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days a week

1.725 Very Active Hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week

1.9 Extremely Active Hard daily exercise or sports and physical job

Let’s say that our vegan man plays tennis 3 or 4 times per week. I’d take his RMR (1620) and multiply it by 1.55 (moderately active level) and doing so we get 2511 calories.

2511 calories are his estimated required daily caloric intake if he wants to maintain his weight of 170 pounds.

If you want an online BMR calculator then I recommend FitDay. It is free to use and it does all of these calculations for you. FitDay from what I understand uses the Harris Benedict formula which is fine for our purposes.

So if you want to figure out how many calories you need to eat per day as a vegan these formulas will give you a good rough idea. Now one study of 150 adults did show that BMR can vary by around 30% between people.

That is only one study, but I’m sure that BMRs can vary at least 10 to 15% amongst normal healthy people and as such, relying on a formula is only a guide. What I would suggest when figuring our your vegan BMR is to choose an activity level one step below that which you think you are at. So if you workout consistently 3 times a week, you could choose between “moderately active” and “lightly active”, I would urge you to choose “lightly active” especially if you would like to lose a few pounds.

So that is how you find our how many calories a vegan like you should eat. It is personal and depends on your weight, height and age.


Stay plant strong!

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