Calorie Requirements for Seniors

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How do your calorie needs change as you age? Whether your goal is to maintain body weight or lose weight, knowing this number is useful. Whether you’re young or old, the number of calories you should be consuming each day varies according to your gender, height, weight, body composition and, perhaps most of all, activity level.

Calories are a measurement of energy in food. If you ​take in more calories than you expend through bodily processes (like digestion and breathing) and physical activity (everything from standing, fidgeting, or marathon running), you will gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than your body burns off each day, you will create a calorie deficit, and will subsequently lose weight.

Lower Calorie Needs Due to Muscle Loss

As people age, they often need fewer calories, generally because they are less active. The basal metabolic rate also drops over time.

It’s often been suggested that people who have more muscle on their body will burn more calories (even at rest) than someone who’s less muscular because muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat—though the degree to which metabolism may increase is a matter of debate.

Calorie Needs to Maintain Current Weight

How many calories does your body require to maintain your current weight? The National Institute on Aging offers the following general guidelines, for men and women over the age of 50.

Calorie Needs for Women Over Age 50

Activity Level Daily Calorie Requirement
Not physically active About 1,600 calories/day
Somewhat active About 1,800 calories/day
Active lifestyle About 2,000-2,200 calories/day

Calorie Needs for Men Over Age 50

Activity Level Daily Calorie Requirement
Not physically active About 2,000 calories/day
Somewhat active About 2,200–2,400 calories/day
Active lifestyle About 2,400-2,800 calories/day

In addition to a change in your daily caloric intake needs, you may also notice a change in the shape of your body as you get older, even if you are not gaining weight. A shift of fat towards the mid-section is typical in women after menopause, and in men, due to dropping testosterone levels.

Nutrient Requirements By Age

Traditionally, people over the age of 70 find their appetite decreases, as their activity level and basal metabolic rate drop. This poses nutritional challenges since they need the same vitamins and minerals as younger people and even more when it comes to nutrients like protein and vitamin D.

To stay healthy and avoid disease, follow an anti-aging diet made up of a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, healthy fats, and foods that are high in fiber. Since older adults with chewing or swallowing difficulties might steer clear of fresh high-fiber foods, nutrition researchers have modified the daily food recommendations to include stewed and canned fruits and vegetables (without added sugar or salt).

Green smoothies —a blended mix of greens and fruit—also offer a simple way of boosting your consumption of fresh produce that may be easier to digest and easier to swallow.

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2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kitazoe Y, Kishino H, Tanisawa K, Udaka K, Tanaka M. Renormalized basal metabolic rate describes the human aging process and longevity. Aging Cell. 2019;18(4):e12968. doi:10.1111/acel.12968

  2. National Institute on Aging. Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging.

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