Basal Metabolic Rate – How To Calculate and Find Your BMR


Have you ever heard of the term “basal metabolic rate”? Do you know what it is and why it’s extremely important to know your numbers? Do you know what to do to make your BMR numbers work for you regardless of whether your goals are to lose weight (body fat) or gain weight (lean muscle) and do it in a safe and effective way?

Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is defined as the minimum number of calories your body burns whether at rest, working out or lying down. This means that everyone has a set number of calories that they need in order to stay alive and it’s as different for you as it is for your children, friends, parents or even siblings. These calories are the absolute minimum amount of energy your body burns, and includes all involuntary (independent of your own will) activities that your body does to stay alive such as digestion, respiration, circulation, removing waste products and regulating body temperature.

Factors that affect your BMR include age, genetics, weight, heredity, body fat percentage and gender. For example, your BMR is the number of calories your body would need to spend 24 hours asleep in bed. Your BMR number will depend on many factors such as your weight, your diet and your current activity level.

The BMR includes the number of calories used for activities from breathing, maintaining your body temperature, your heart pumping, to your brain working at various levels and other functions that occur in the body while asleep. The calories you burn when awake, moving (including exercising) are not included in the BMR. Think of your BMR as the number of calories needed to stay alive if you were bedridden.

Your BMR slows down at roughly 5% every 10 years after the age of 20. This is why many people can’t understand why they gain weight as they get older, but they still have the lifestyle (or eat) the same way they did in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s. They need to reset their BMR to reflect the changes that are taking place in their bodies!

basal-metabolic-rate-bodyWomen will naturally have a lower BMR than men, as men usually have a lower percentage of body fat and a higher percentage of muscle. Of course this does not included female bodybuilders as their body fat is kept below the essential body fat amount (10-12%). By having a lower body fat percentage and a higher percentage of lean muscle mass, men require a higher metabolism to maintain that muscle.

Also, women that are leaner (those having body fat percentages between 15-25%, as well as those who are physically active in weight lifting and strength training (2-4 days a week) will also have a higher BMR than women who are more sedentary, have a higher level of body fat, and/or are overweight.

Your BMR also increases with your body weight, in both males and females, so the heavier you are (weight) the higher your BMR is. At the same time, your BMR decreases with age, due to the decrease in lean body mass that often occurs in older adults. Again, keep in mind the fact we noted earlier that there is about a 5% drop in your BMR every decade after the age of 20.

Did you know that your external temperature can also be responsible for raising BMR? If the weather is cold, the body must create more heat to keep warm. Anything that affects body temperature and tries to raise or lower it will cause the BMR to increase in order to counteract this effect.

Why It’s Important To Know Your BMR
Whether your goal is to lose weight (body fat), gain weight (lean muscle), or to just maintain your current weight, knowing your BMR can help you attain and maintain your goals. If like so many Americans who are eating right, exercising and living a healthy lifestyle, but still can’t seem to shed those extra pounds, knowing your BMR could be the missing link to your weight and health goals. To figure out your BMR the long way you’ll need to use the following formula:

Calculate Basal Metabolic Rate for Women

Women: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Example 1: You are a 38-year-old woman, who is 5’4″ and 142 pounds. First, convert your height into inches. 5’4″ equals 64 inches. Now include your values into the equation above.

  • 655 + (4.35 x 142) + (4.7 x 64) – (4.7 x 38)
  • 655 + 617.7 + 300.8 – 178.6 = 1394.9
  • Your BMR = 1394.9

Example 2: You are a 28-year-old woman, who is 5’7″ and 172 pounds. First, convert your height into inches. 5’4″ equals 64 inches. Now include your values into the equation above.

  • 655 + (4.35 x 172) + (4.7 x 67) – (4.7 x 28)
  • 655 + 748.2 + 314.9 – 131.6 = 1586.5
  • Your BMR = 1586.5

*Note: you can see that the younger (28 years old) woman’s BMR’s higher than the older (38 years old) woman’s BMR due to her height, weight and age.

Calculate Basal Metabolic Rate for Men

Men: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

Example 1: You are a 40-year-old man, who is 5’9″ and 175 pounds. First, convert your height into inches. 5’9″ equals 69 inches. Now input your values into the equation above.

  • 66 + (6.23 x 175) + (12.7 x 69) – (6.8 x 40)
  • 66 + 1090.3 + 876.3 – 272 = 1694.6
  • Your BMR = 1694.6

Example 2: You are a 30-year-old man, who is 5’9′ and 220 pounds. Now input your values into the equation above.

  • 66 + (6.23 x 220) + (12.7 x 69) – (6.8 x 30)
  • 66 + 1370.6 + 876.3 – 204 = 2108.9
  • Your BMR = 2108.9

*Note: you can see that the younger (30 years old) male’s BMR’s higher than the older (40 years old) male’s BMR due to his height, weight and age.


Okay, now that you know your BMR, you’ll need to calculate your activity level. Keep in mind the more active you are, the more calories your body burns on a daily basis. After you’ve entered your activity level (choices range from light to heavy) you’ll have the amount of calories you must consume daily to stay at your current weight.

Calculate Total Calorie Needs 
Did you know that even the most inactive individual will burn additional calories over their BMR by just doing normal bodily functions like laughing and smiling? For a much better understanding of how many calories your body uses each day, you need to add your activity level into the overall equation. To find out your total daily calorie needs or TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), just multiply your BMR by the activity factor that is appropriate for your lifestyle as indicated below:

  • Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly active (easy exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
  • Extremely active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job): BMR x 1.9

With the example above, let’s presume you are only lightly active. All you need to do is multiply your basal metabolic rate from above (1394.9) by 1.375 to get the total of 1,917.98 calories. This equals the total number of calories you would need to consume in order to maintain your current weight. If you are consuming more calories, you will gain weight, and if you’re consuming fewer calories, you will lose weight. The key in all this is again, is knowing your basal metabolic rate.

Tying It All Together!
We all know that in order to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than your overall needs. Weight loss can and will occur when you burn more calories than you eat. To lose one pound a week, you’ll need to reduce your intake of calories by at least 500 calories a day.

basal-metabolic-rate-cardioYou can also lose one pound a week by burning an extra 500 calories a day with exercise. For some, the combination of both diet and exercise works the best (burn 250 calories during exercise and decease caloric intake by 250 calories = 500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 or 1 pound). Keeping a journal handy to document your workouts as well as your caloric intake will help you stay on track with your fitness goals. If you’re not sure how many calories you’ve burned during your physical activity, estimate the amount and decrease that total by 100-200 calories.

When journaling for weight lost (now that you know your BMR) make sure that you write down everything you eat and drink each day. This will include the serving size amount, calories, fat, protein, fiber and carbohydrates that are contained in all of the foods and liquids that you consume. Documenting your water intake is also a great idea.

For weight gain, make sure that you’re eating clean carbs (i.e. lots of vegetables), and lean proteins so that you succeed in gaining nice lean muscle tissue not extra body fat.

Calculate Calories to Lose Weight
One pound, whether it’s body fat or lean muscle, is equivalent to 3,500 calories. This means that an individual must reduce that many calories from their food intake or burn those calories with exercise in order to lose a one pound a week. By creating a deficit of 500 calories a day, you will end up losing one pound a week. If your total daily calorie needs equal 1,917.98 to maintain your current weight, just decrease 500 from that, and you will have the amount of calories you can eat every day and still lose 1 pound each week. In this example, the total will be 1,418 calories per day.

Calculate Calories to Gain Weight
To gain one pound per week, you’ll need to increase your calories by 500 in your nutritional plan each day. If your daily caloric need is 1,917.98 to maintain your current weight, adding 500 to your overall calories will mean you can consume a total of 2,418 calories a day. Again, make sure those calories are coming from nutrient dense foods so that you’re eating clean and lean!

How to Improve Your Metabolism
So, what is the big deal with the metabolic rate and why is it so important? Your metabolism is the true indicator of your overall dieting and fitness success. You really need to keep your engine running hot in order to burn the most amount of calories each day. Unfortunately, there are lots of things that can slow it down. These include:

  • Age: Your metabolism actually slows down by 5% every 10 years after the age of 20.
  • Fat: Lean muscle tissue burns 3 times more calories than fat.
  • Dieting: Drastically cutting calories shocks your body and sends it into starvation mode. It basically slows way down and runs cooler in order to maintain calories because it believes that there is a short supply of food available. When this happens, your weight loss progress hits a plateau.

Building lean muscle mass with weight training two to three days a week (minimum) can increase your metabolism which in turn can help you decrease unwanted body fat and help you get leaner. Remember, knowing your BMR and utilizing these important numbers, along with good nutrition and exercise will give you the body that you’ve been working so hard for!

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About Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor

I’ve been in the fitness, health and nutrition field for over 18 years and have been certified for 18 years. I live in the beautiful city of Ocean Beach, California. My goal is to assist and reach people who are ready to make a positive change in their lives by providing various types of fitness programs. See my profile page for more information!


  1. Avatar

    In the beginning of the article you state that metabolism slows down 2% for every 10 years however, in your conclusion you state that is is 5% every 10 years.

  2. Avatar

    What if you want to gain muscle and also a little bit of fat? Why does it take longer when you are not in a caloric surplus? A lot of people say that bulking and cutting is a myth, but is it really? Isn’t the 1 gram of protein per pound good enough? If you are a moderately active person and add 500 calories to your diet, would you gain more muscle than if you were doing it by not going into a caloric surplus?

    • shapefit

      In order to gain muscle you need to overload the muscle group with resistance training and then consume enough calories via clean carbs, lots of protein and healthy fats to saturate your muscles with optimal nutrients to recover and grow. The specific number of calories each person needs to consume will depend on many factors (genetics) so it’s a fine balancing act to find what works the best for you. A good rule of thumb is to add 500 calories per day for about 3-4 weeks and then see how your body responds (muscle gain, fat gain) and then adjust these numbers up/down to dial in the results you want.

  3. Avatar

    Thanks for the article. There is only thing that is bugging me. You said BMR is the basic calorie requirement for our bodies to function at their full capacity. So say my BMR is 1665, and I lead an extremely sedentary lifestyle, so 1665×1.2=1998 calories is what I should be consuming to MAINTAIN my weight. And you said if I want to lose weight, I can create a calorie deficit of 500 calories, which means I will have to take about 1500 calories. Now this goes BELOW my basic BMR requirement. So if eating BMR is required basically to stay alive in a proper manner, won’t eating full 200 calories less than BMR affect my metabolism and ability to lose calories? I feel like that is contradictory information. Apart from that, your article is perfect n explains things in a easy-to-understand and detailed manner. Thanks for that. 🙂

    • shapefit

      Hi Divya – Your BMR is your body’s calorie requirement if you are completely sedentary and basically stay in bed all day long doing nothing at all. Once you get up and start moving around then this is where the activity multiplier of 1.2 comes into play. Even if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you are still walking around, moving and picking things up during the day which takes energy, thus burning some additional calories. The 1,998 calories are what’s needed to maintain your weight. The 500 calorie deficit might need to be adjusted in your case to around 250-300 calories per day since you don’t need too many calories per day and you really don’t want to go under 1,500 per day. It’s also better to create the calorie deficit through exercise versus a decrease in calories via food. It’s better to supply your body with 1,998 calories of nutrient dense food per day to give you the energy needed and also keep your metabolism revved up while choosing to do cardio/weights to burn the extra 250-300 calories to create a minor deficit. Everyone’s body is different so it’s very important to keep detailed notes and photos of how your body looks, your overall composition (body fat vs. muscle) and also how you are feeling (tired, energized, etc). It’s a fine balancing act and takes time to really dial in the optimal calories needed per day to burn fat while maintaining and even building lean muscle tissue. Hope this explains it a little better 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Muhammad Jamal Khan Qureshi on

    Pleased to see your above mentioned article on the subject matter of BMR. This was absolutely worth reading and praiseworthy. I need to learn one important thing from you. What does it mean when you say that our daily diet should contain of 60% carbohydrates, 30% proteins and 10% fats?

    • shapefit

      Jamal – This will be the breakdown of your overall daily diet (60/30/10), so you will want to structure your meals around these percentages. You can also adjust these numbers and go a little lower/higher on carbs and fat if you tend to gain weight on too many carbs. So, you might want to change the macro ratios to 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat to help you lose body fat and get lean.

  5. Avatar

    I am 30 years old, 185 pounds and 5’6″. It’s a very informative article. One thing which I wanted to know is how to keep the body away from going into starvation mode? Will it help to do 3 days of dieting and then 1 day of overeating and then go back to 3 days of dieting?

    • shapefit

      Jamila – You want to avoid going too low on your calories when you’re trying to lose fat. It’s a fine balancing act between eating enough to fuel your body and build muscle while also burning fat. It takes time to dial it in and it’s different for every body so be patient. You definitely don’t want to overeat too much on sugary, high fat foods on your re-feed day or you will pack on even more body fat. Make small changes in your caloric intake when you’re cutting and adding calories into your diet.

    • shapefit

      Hi Jan – A good rule of thumb is to re-evaluate every 90 days (3 months). A lot of progress can be made in 12 weeks so it’s always smart to monitor everything (BMR, measurements, photos) around this time to make sure you’re on the right track.

  6. Avatar

    I am 52 years old, my height is 5 feet and my weight is 75kg. I am active and walk for 1 hour daily along with doing other exercises. I eat around 1,300 to 1,600 calories per day. As per your calculation, my BMR shows I need 2,611 calories per day. At my current calories, I’m not losing weight. My hormone levels are also normal.

    • shapefit

      Hi Rupa – We did the calculation and it came out to only 1,502 calories per day. Here is the formula we used from the article (66 + 1,027.95 + 762 – 353.6 = 1,502.35). We used 60 inches for your height, 165 pounds for your weight and 52 for your age.

  7. Avatar

    This is a very informative article. I am a 44 year old woman with a BMR of 1,254.90 and my calorie intake is 1,596.50. I have joined a gym and have been weight training for the past 6 months. In January of 2016 (six months ago) I was 60 kgs (132 pounds). Now, in June I am 53.5 kg (119 pounds). My weight loss has been achieved with proper diet and nutrition. I do weight training 3 days per week. I want to increase some mass on my cheeks since my face is now looking a little dull and pale. How can I do this?

    • shapefit

      Hi Ashwini – Unfortunately, weight training is not going to increase the fullness of your face. It’s very common to lose fat from around the face when a person loses weight and overall body fat. You might look into topical facial creams or other lotions to provide nutrients to your face which will hopefully rejuvenate the skin and provide a fuller look.

      • Avatar

        Thanks for replying. Now, I am doing 2 days of yoga and two days of light weight training (one day is upper body and one day is lower body) along with cardio on one day. Is this considered light or moderate exercise?

  8. Avatar

    Would 16 miles on a recumbent stationary bike (an hour a day), 3 days a week plus 30 minutes a day doing Nautilus upper body weight training on the other three days plus a rest day be “light” or “moderate” exercise?

  9. Avatar
    Anshul Nigam on

    Can you please tell me how to calculate target weeks to achieve my goals on the basis of activity level and calorie deficit?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Anshul – It’s best to keep it simple and focus on creating a calorie deficit with a weekly target of 3,500 calories (500 calories per day) which was equal a loss of 1 pound over the course of 7 days.

  10. Avatar

    This article is very helpful for people who want to lose weight. I go to the gym 3-4 times per week doing weight training and 20 minutes of cardio each session. I eat about the same amount of food every day which is between 1,000 to 1,500 calories. Why is it that the next morning, when I step on the scale, I sometimes gain 1 pound and sometimes I lose 1 pound? I’m a 43-year-old male who weighs 220 pounds.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Vince – This could be due to a number of factors which include your last meal of the day, the amount of sleep you get, the amount of water you drink each day and your overall stress levels. Gaining or losing a pound overnight is not uncommon and you should not be too worried about it.

  11. Avatar

    I’m a 22-year-old male who weighs 114 pounds and my height is 5’9″. I am living a sedentary life, but going to the gym 3 times a week to lift and doing 1.5 hours of rollerblading two times a week. I would like to gain some muscle. Which number should I use to get my TDEE? BMR x 1.55 or 1.725? I’m exercising 5 times a week and I spend around 1.5 to 2 hours at the gym on lifting days. So that means I’m exercising roughly 7-8 hours per week. And of course, I’m resting on the weekends. My main goal is to build some muscle mass.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Gergely – We recommend using 1.725 for your TDEE. It sounds like you have a fast metabolism and will need the extra calories to pack on lean muscle. You might also want to cut down on your cardio if your main goal is to put on size.

        • ShapeFit

          Hi Gergely – Yes, you can drop it down to 1.55 but use that number as a general rule of thumb. It’s important to gradually increase your calories every 2-3 weeks if you’re not gaining any size and getting bigger. You should be eating a lot of high quality, clean foods and always push yourself to eat more (6-7 meals per day). Your diet will be the key for packing on lean muscle mass, so you need to eat big to get big.

  12. Avatar

    A pound of muscle and a pound of fat are not the equivalent in calories. Lean muscle, if converted to energy, provides 4 calories per gram. Fat, if converted to energy, provides almost 9 calories per gram.

  13. Avatar

    I have replaced my cardio with two 20 minute HIIT spinning sessions per week. I do 12 miles per week and also spend 1.5 hours at the gym lifting weights 3 times per week. Is this still a “moderate” level?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Gergely – It also depends on the level of physical activity during your work day. What does your job consist of (moving around or sitting at a desk)?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Gergely – With your level of daily activity, you can go with the “moderate” activity level for your BMR calculation.

  14. Avatar

    I have calculated my BMR to be 1,844 using the calculation for lightly active. I work in an office and power walk 4 times a week for 1 hour. Can you confirm that this is “lightly active”? I would like to lose 2 pounds a week so I will reduce my calories to 844 per day, but would this be too low? Would my body think that I have gone into starvation mode and retain fat?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Julie – Yes, 844 calories per day is way too low! That’s basically starving yourself and you definitely want to eat more calories. Stick with what the calculator says and tweak things from there. Your level of activity can be either “lightly active” or “moderately active”. Lightly active will be light exercise or sports 1-3 days per week and moderately active is moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days per week. You can also take the calculations for these two numbers and divide it by two to get your average. You should also focus on losing 1 pound per week to be on the safe side. You can tweak both your diet and exercise plan to see what works but give it a little time (3-4 weeks) to see how your body reacts.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Adrien – Being a student, you’re sitting at a desk most of the day so you’re pretty inactive other than when you workout. If you had a strenuous day job (construction, manual labor) then this would affect your activity level significantly. Your activity level would be classified as “moderate activity” when choosing the correct option for this calculator.

  15. Avatar

    I’m 36 years old and weigh 160 pounds at 5’6″ and have 17.5% body fat. During my work day, I walk around 10,000 to 15,000 steps in a 10 hour period, 5 days a week. I also carry 10-50 pound items constantly during the day. I also do 30 minutes of bodyweight HIIT type of workouts 4-5 days a week (burpees for life). Would I be considered moderate, very active or extremely active? Would my bodyweight HIIT exercises be considered cardio, resistance training, or both? Any suggestions about how much weight I should be gaining weekly if trying to go up to 170 pounds (lean muscle)? How much of a caloric surplus above my TDEE would I need to follow?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Eugene – Your high level of activity during your long work day along with your weekly workouts would be considered extremely active. Your bodyweight HIIT exercises would actually be classified as a little of both (cardio and resistance) since you are increasing your heart rate and also training your muscles with resistance (burpees is a great example). If your goal is to gain lean muscle, it might be difficult to pack on muscle at a rate higher than 5-10 pounds per year (training naturally), especially at 36 years old. For your TDEE and caloric surplus, focus on increasing your calories by 500-800 calories per day over your base number. Since you are getting so much activity during your work day, you might even need to increase it by 1,000 calories per day. If your goal is to gain maximum muscle mass, try including weight training exercises instead of bodyweight style exercises. Multi-joint compound exercises like deadlifts, squats and bench press are the key movements you want to perform to pack on muscle and get bigger.

  16. Avatar

    I am a 66-year-old male and I currently weigh 224 pounds. I exercise by walking 5 miles, 3 days a week and I also walk 2 miles before working out with weights at the YMCA 3 times a week. I typically burn about 1,000 calories working out each day. I lost 109 pounds a few years ago and have kept it off, mostly. Recently, I gained about 20 pounds on a trip I was on for a month. I had no scales to check my weight and had a terrible sense of how many calories I was taking in during that time. I’ve been tracking my weight since I got home and have been keeping a food journal using an online diet system. If I eat over 1,000 calories a day, I can’t lose weight, even though I’m burning nearly 1,000 calories a day (based on the online diet app). How can this be? I know I take in more calories than I record, but I can’t imagine those incidental additions (like adding milk to my tea) add up to more than 1,000 calories per day. My BMR is around 1,900 and I set my lifestyle as sedentary, but every system I’ve looked at says I should be able to take in well over twice as much as I do and still maintain my weight. I don’t have any thyroid problems, according to my doctor. So, what could possibly be wrong?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi John – Eating only 1,000 calories a day at your weight along with all the exercise you’re doing doesn’t sound like the best plan. That’s very little food to be consuming with all the activity (weights and cardio) and your body is probably screaming for more calories and nutrients. You might be in starvation mode where your body holds onto all of the fat possible for survival. With such low calories per day, your body will use lean muscle for fuel which is a very bad thing. Have you ever had your doctor perform a complete metabolic panel (blood labs) to see where your important hormone levels are at (testosterone, estrogen, etc)? Make sure to see how both your free testosterone and total testosterone levels are at since this will give you a good insight into what is happening in your body.

      • Avatar

        My concern is that it doesn’t make sense. I gained 20 pounds in about a month because I was eating about 1,500 calories per day. I was exercising less and was only doing 15 miles per week and no weights. I suspect I’m doing something wrong without realizing it. Maybe the app I’m using to tell me how many calories I’m taking in is significantly underestimating, or it is over-estimating the number of calories I burn. It’s the same app that I get through the YMCA, so I think that theory is unlikely to be true. So I’m in a quandary. I’ve been able to lose weight relatively easily before, when I had gained 5 pounds or so. The 20 pounds seems to have made a difference for some reason. I eat foods high in protein and low in carbs. I eat very little or no sweets. I drink diet Coke and diet root beer, as well as water with no calories, tea with no calorie sweetener and skim milk. I’ll discuss this with my doctor when I have my next physical, but he did a battery of blood tests last year. I’m not sure what they were off the top of my head, but they probably did not include testosterone labs. Anyway, thanks for responding. I’ll just keep plugging away. Maybe something will finally kick in.

  17. Avatar

    I’m a 22 year old female. I’m 5’3″ and weigh 105 pounds. I want to lose some fat and get leaner but not bulk up. I work from home so I sit all day, except I go for walks with my dog once or twice a day. I usually force myself to walk anywhere between 4,000 to 6,000 steps daily on those walks. I do 3 workouts a week with weights (30-40 minutes at home with heavy dumbbells and a barbell). The other 3 days I do either HIIT or power yoga, and I have 1 rest day. What is my activity level based on that info? Would it be considered “moderately active” or “very active”?

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