2,000 Calories: Magic Number Or Myth?


2,000 Calories

You hear people talk about this all the time. Are you getting your 2,000 calories? Did you go over your 2,000 calories per day? 

Let’s get to the truth about 2,000 calories daily. It would be great if we could be told what to eat and exactly how much to eat for overall health and fitness. 

I’m sure that many have heard that 2,000 calories per day is a pretty standard ideal number to aim for to stay at your best weight and maintain good overall health and fitness.

But, is this absolutely accurate?

Well, from my experience working with clients over the years, I can say that it really does depend on the individual.

First, I think it’s important to understand a few basic facts in order to determine your calorie guidelines. If your activity level is sedentary (work out or exercise once or twice a week), then your daily calorie intake formula for weight loss would be your bodyweight in pounds times 10 to 12 calories. If your goal is to maintain weight, then your daily calorie intake formula would be your bodyweight times 14 to 16 calories. If your goal is to gain weight, then your daily calorie intake formula would be your bodyweight in pounds times 16 to 18 calories.

For someone who has a moderate activity level (work out or exercise three or four times a week) and your goal is to lose weight, then the formula would be your bodyweight in pounds times 12 to 14 calories. If your goal is weight maintenance, then your calorie intake formula would be your bodyweight times 14 to 16 calories.

Finally, if your goal is to gain weight, then your calorie formula would be your bodyweight in pounds times 18 to 20 calories.

If you’re very active (work out or exercise five to seven times a week) and your goal is to lose weight, then your daily calorie intake would be your bodyweight times 14 to 16 calories. If your goal is to maintain your weight, it would be your bodyweight in pounds times 16 to 18 calories. And lastly, if your goal is to gain weight, then the formula would be your bodyweight in pounds times 20 to 22 calories.

How Many Calories Should You Consume?

The how much to eat is as important. But, equally, if not more important, is what to eat. I want to emphasize the importance of quality nutrients. If like many, your main goal is to strengthen the muscles and maintain a healthy weight, there are some points to remember.

There are so many foods on the shelves nowadays, and for the average person trying to stay fit and at their ideal weight, it can be a big challenge choosing what to eat. A simple tip, whatever your goal, is to keep it natural. Processed foods such as cakes, ready meals, biscuits, fizzy drinks, among others, are generally low on essential nutrients and high in calories, sugar, and salt.

This does little to help in your quest for building muscle or burning body fat. Try to eat food at its most basic form. It will have a lower glycemic index, be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat.

Eat More Calories To Gain Muscle

If we assume that the average man needs around 2,000 calories a day just to maintain the same weight, then to gain muscle, you need fuel. This comes from food. You can even consider boosting your daily calorie totals to around 3,000. The extra energy will be needed to keep you going throughout your workout and go towards your growing muscles.

Following on from eating more to gain muscle, you can’t simply eat one type of food and think you’ll turn into a fitness pro! Balance is the key! You’ll need carbs to provide the muscle glycogen that fuels your workouts. Make carbs around 60% of your total calorie intake.

For most men, 20% of your total calorie intake or 180 grams a day is a good number to aim for. Don’t be afraid of fat! It’s not all bad. It can help you absorb vitamins and improve athletic performance, as well as protect joints and tendons against injury.

Ideally it should make up the final 20% of your calories. But, fat is more than twice as calorie-dense as carbs or protein. One gram of fat has nine calories, whereas protein and carbs have only four calories. timing of calories

The Timing Of Eating

When you eat is as important as what you eat. The most crucial times to eat are an hour or so before your workout and right after you finish. This ensures that your muscles have plenty of stored glycogen for training and rebuilding. Other than these times, it’s important to eat small meals throughout the day at regular intervals of two to three hours. Ensure you have some protein with these meals. This keeps your glycogen levels topped up and prevents your body from breaking down the proteins needed for building muscle.

The Goods On Supplements

Supplements shouldn’t be used as a substitute to a good diet. They’re also not magical muscle-building or fat-burning pills. They are, however, a convenient way of getting the carbs and protein you need without having to prepare special meals. Be sure you know what you’re taking before you buy them because they can be expensive. Always pick a reputable brand and read the label!

Hydration Is Key!

Being dehydrated will have a serious impact on your health. It also affects the way your body stores fat and repairs muscle because it induces poor organ function. To prevent this, keep sipping from a water bottle during workouts. Don’t gulp it all at once or you’ll spend more time in the bathroom than in the gym!

The2,000 Calories Meal Plan

The next thing would be to see what a 2,000 calorie meal plan might look like for a typical day. The following 2,000 calorie meal plan consists of five small meals spread throughout the day.

This is known to boost your metabolism allowing your body to turn into a muscle building/fat burning machine!

The meal plan is a well-balanced diet for fat loss and building lean muscle. All the meals contain essential nutrients and high-quality protein, along with moderate servings of complex carbs. You’re also getting plenty of healthy fats. These are vital for overall health.

It’s not too much, but just enough to give you the essentials your body needs.

2,000 Calorie Diet Meals

2,000 Calorie Meal 1 Calories Protein Carbs Fat
2 Whole Eggs 160 14 0 10
4 Egg Whites 80 14 0 0
Oatmeal – 1 cup 210 8 42 2
Cottage Cheese – Fat Free 20 1 1 2
Totals 470 37 43 14
2,000 Calorie Meal 2 Calories Protein Carbs Fat
Protein Powder – 1 scoop with water 120 22 4 2
Banana 121 1 31 0
Almond Butter – 1 tsp 161 6 6 14
Totals 402 29 41 16
2,000 Calorie Meal 3 Calories Protein Carbs Fat
Lean Ground Beef – 7% fat – 4 ounces 170 23 0 8
Whole Wheat Rice 210 7 41 1.5
Mixed Veggies or Salad 50 1 10 1
Totals 430 31 51 10.5
2,000 Calorie Meal 4 Calories Protein Carbs Fat
Cottage Cheese – 2% – 6 ounces 150 21 7 5
Apple/Pear 80 0 20 0
Natural Almond Butter – 1 tsp 97 4 3 9
Totals 327 25 30 14
2,000 Calorie Meal 5 Calories Protein Carbs Fat
Grilled Salmon – 4 ounces 232 24 0 12
Sweet Baked Potato 103 2 24 0
Mixed Veggies or Salad 50 1 10 1
Totals 385 27 34 13
Calories Protein Carbs Fat
Totals 2,014 149 199 68


If you’d like more detailed options on a good breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that fit in with the 2,000-calorie meal plan theory, then please refer to the end of this article.

Remember, this is just a sample simple diet plan/meal plan. You should really learn what works best for you. There are so many theories and diets out there, it’s hard to know what to believe or choose. As I said earlier, individuals differ enormously.

I strongly suggest trying the 2,000 calorie theory out for a few weeks and monitoring the results. All you need to do is start eating the 2,000 calories of quality nutrition each day and then just weigh yourself about once per week (first thing in the morning on an empty stomach). Monitor your progress.

How To React To The Scale And Mirror

If you are gaining weight at the ideal rate, and this is your goal, then congrats! Keep eating this amount of calories each day and make sure you’re using an intelligent and effective workout program.

If you are losing too much weight or lacking energy, your surplus is too low and therefore needs to be increased. Just add about 200 calories to your current calorie intake and then monitor what your weight does over the next couple of weeks.

Based on what happens, return and reassess. If you are gaining weight or body fat faster than the ideal rate, your surplus is too big and it needs to be reduced. Just remove about 250 calories from your current calorie intake and then monitor what your weight does over the next couple of weeks. Based on what happens, return and reassess.

To sum it up, weigh yourself once per week first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and record the results. Or, weigh in every morning and take the weekly average. If you’re gaining muscle at the ideal rate, perfect. If you aren’t, then just adjust your calorie intake up or down in small 200-calorie increments until you are. No need to make it more complicated than that.

Counting Calories

It’s important to get a grip on calories to reach health and fitness goals. This can seem like a daunting task initially, but as you can see, it’s not that complicated. And, adding up calories can actually become quite motivating as the pounds drop off and/or muscle is gained.

Even if you’re trying to maintain your weight or gain a few pounds, counting your daily calories is wise and gives you a sense of control over your weight and health that’s very rewarding. In addition to knowing how many calories to eat each day, you also need to know how many calories should go into each meal and snack.

Men will probably be happy to hear they can eat more calories than the ladies!

Because men generally have more muscle and less fat than women, their basal metabolic rate (BMR) is higher. That means men need more calories simply to function each day.

While it’s great that men can eat more calories, they need to make sure those extra calories come from healthy whole foods. It isn’t an excuse to eat a tub of ice cream!

good calories

The Best Options

Include lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and veggies in every meal.

Keep processed, fatty, sugary foods to a minimum.

In fact, these foods should become an occasional treat rather than a daily or even a weekly occurrence. When it comes to snacks, try to reach for nutrient-dense foods that will fill you up, rather than empty calories that’ll leave you hungry and craving more half an hour later.

Examples of healthy snacks include a small handful of nuts, a piece of fruit or a slice of wholegrain toast with two teaspoons of almond butter.

Keep an eye on the calorie counts of snacks to keep in line with calorie recommendations according to different goals.

Welcome to the world of calories!

There are so many elements that contribute to how many calories someone should aim for.

These factors include goals, age, lifestyle, training habits, sex, weight, to name just a few.

This Is A Sample Breakfast…

Scrambled Egg & Sardine Wrap Serves 2

Ingredients: 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1 red bell pepper, chopped 2 garlic cloves, chopped 4 eggs 2 3.5-oz. cans sardines, drained ¼ cup milk 2 green onions, sliced 1 tsp. curry powder (optional) Salt and pepper to taste 1 avocado, diced ½ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese 4 large whole-wheat or corn wraps 1 cup salsa In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.

Cook red pepper and garlic four minutes. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sardines, milk, onions, curry and salt and pepper.

Add sardine mixture to the skillet and cook five minutes, or until the eggs set, stirring often. Add avocado and cheese, and cook for one more minute.

Top wraps with sardine scramble and salsa, then fold.

Calories: 390

This Is A Sample Lunch…

Mediterranean-Style Chicken and Quinoa Salad Ingredients: 6 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast 3/4 cup of quinoa 1 1/3 cups of diced, seeded plum tomatoes 1 cup of fresh parsley 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice Salt and pepper to taste

Cook chicken breast in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and cook for 8 minutes. Let chicken cool and dice it.

Put quinoa with 2.5 cups of water in a saucepan and cook for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Mix chicken, quinoa, tomatoes, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper together and toss gently. Spoon salad into shallow bowls.

Calories: 415

This Is A Sample Dinner…

Turkey Chilli Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour Ingredients: 2 Tbsp. light olive oil 2 cups onion (peeled and chopped) 1 medium red bell pepper (seeded and chopped) 5 cloves garlic (peeled and minced) 2 lbs. lean ground turkey 3 cups chicken broth 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder 1 tsp cayenne 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper 2 tsp coarse salt Fat-free sour cream 2 green onions (cleaned and chopped)

Directions: In a large heavy pot, combine onion, pepper and garlic with 1 Tbsp olive oil over med-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until medium brown and onion is transparent.

At the same time, in a large skillet, brown ground turkey over medium-high heat. When turkey is browned, add to the onion mixture (once it’s fully cooked).

Add broth, chili powder, cayenne, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour. Serve warm and topped with fat-free sour cream and chopped green onion.

Calories: 410

This Is A Sample Snack…

Blueberry Blast Shake Mix together: 1 handful of oats 50 grams of blueberries 1 teaspoon of honey 150 grams of low fat vanilla yogurt

Oats – Oats have slow release carbs that provide sustained energy. Their high fiber content also fights hunger pangs.

Blueberries- Blueberries release energy slowly and are packed with phytochemicals that protect cells and tissues from free radical damage.

Honey – Honey is a natural source of energy. It is also high in zinc. That’s important for balancing blood sugar levels.

Yogurt – Yogurt provides your body with calcium and protein. This helps with weight loss and in maintaining muscle mass.

Calories: 320

Learning Your Ideal Rate

This means that the goal here is to get the surplus just right. With all of that said, here are my recommendations for most people, most of the time.

If you have properly created the ideal caloric surplus and are therefore eating the right amount of calories each day, it will cause you to gain weight at the ideal rate. What makes this rate ideal is that, if you exceed it, you’ll be gaining too much fat. If you fall below it, you’ll be gaining way too little muscle (or more likely, none whatsoever).

What is the ideal rate of weight gain when trying to build muscle?

Men looking to build muscle should aim to gain about 0.5 pound per week (or 2 pounds per month). Women looking to build muscle should aim to gain about 0.25 pound per week (or 1 pound per month). Got all that? Good. Now let’s make sure it all works right.

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 You need to calculate a target calorie intake per day that will maximize muscle gains while minimizing the amount of fat you put on. What follows is how to do that. First, determine your weight and body fat percentage.

Then, calculate your lean body mass. If you weigh 210 pounds and have 20% body fat, that means your lean body mass is 168 pounds. Note: If you don’t know your lean body mass, don’t worry. Use 0% in the prior calculation.

The result below will still give you a good starting point for determining how many calories you should eat per day to build muscle. Adjust the calories up if your lean body mass isn’t increasing. From there, you should determine your caloric needs per day by multiplying your lean body mass by 19. For example, sticking with the 168 pounds number, you should have 3,192 calories per day to build muscle.

Note: This calculation assumes you are undergoing a rigorous workout program that includes weight training several times per week.

– By Keith Cormican, RD


  1. I dont know if it’s a misprint or what but it says carb intake at 60% of calorie intake??? This cant be right! Maybe my coffee let me down and I misread it lol.

    So I’m supposed to eat 2100 g of carbs per day???

    Someone please clarify this! Thanks!


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