Technically, the title should have been “The 2000 Calorie Myths […]”, as there are two very closely related calorie myths we will be reviewing today, before we get to the two nutrition label misconceptions.
The Calorie Myths
Myth 1: 2’000 calories a day is the recommended daily allowance (by the FDA)
This is just so very wrong. 2’000 calories is what the percentages of the daily values for macronutrients are based on (on nutrition fact labels), but it’s by no means the recommended amount of calories for everybody.
It’s hard to understand where this one comes from, as it even says on some of those very labels that “Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs”.
Myth 2: The average person requires 2’000 calories per day
This piece of misinformation is frequently encountered in explanations about those nutrition fact labels, sadly often while addressing the first myth, doing away with one, but creating another.
The fact is that a 2’000 calorie diet was chosen as a standard value, on which the recommended minimum intake values are based. But if it is neither a recommended amount, nor the average person’s requirement, then what is it?
2’000 calories a day is the required amount of energy for a 30 year old non-pregnant, non-lactating woman of average height (US: 64.6 inches), a healthy (not average) weight, and a somewhat active lifestyle.
As you can see, this is not exactly the description of the average person. Even if we just add average men to the mix, the average calorie requirement would shift upwards dramatically. So why was this value chosen above all other types of people they could have based the labels on? My best guess: 2’000 is a nice, round number.
Your Individual Calorie Requirements
Most likely, you don’t fit the description of the 2’000 calorie person (exactly), but how many calories do you need per day? That depends on a number of factors, such as your gender, age, height, weight, physical activity, and pregnancy status.
To get a rough idea, here are some examples:
We will just list weight, not height, but assume that the listed weight is ideal for the person’s height.
|Age||Sex||Weight (Kg)||Weight (lb)||Level of Activity||Daily Calories|
|30||Female||45||99.2||Somewhat Active (Some slow walking; Light housework; Light exercise)||1693|
|30||Female||45||99.2||Moderately Active (Walking 10km/day; 30-50min moderate to high intensity exercising 3-5x/week)||1908|
|30||Female||45||99.2||Active Lifestyle (25km+ Walking/Biking; 60min/day high intensity exercising 6-7x/week)||2124|
|30||Female||65||143.3||Somewhat Active (Some slow walking; Light housework; Light exercise)||2024|
|30||Female||65||143.3||Moderately Active (Walking 10km/day; 30-50min moderate to high intensity exercising 3-5x/week)||2282|
|30||Female||65||143.3||Active Lifestyle (25km+ Walking/Biking; 60min/day high intensity exercising 6-7x/week)||2539|
|30||Male||65||143.3||Somewhat Active (Some slow walking; Light housework; Light exercise)||2211|
|30||Male||65||143.3||Moderately Active (Walking 10km/day; 30-50min moderate to high intensity exercising 3-5x/week)||2492|
|30||Male||65||143.3||Active Lifestyle (25km+ Walking/Biking; 60min/day high intensity exercising 6-7x/week)||2773|
|30||Male||85||187.4||Somewhat Active (Some slow walking; Light housework; Light exercise)||2692|
|30||Male||85||187.4||Moderately Active (Walking 10km/day; 30-50min moderate to high intensity exercising 3-5x/week)||3034|
|30||Male||85||187.4||Active Lifestyle (25km+ Walking/Biking; 60min/day high intensity exercising 6-7x/week)||3377|
As you can see, the range of actual calorie requirements per day is quite large, and we hadn’t even factored in different ages, pregnancy, or athletes and hard physical laborers.
To get a more precise idea of your daily requirements, not just for calories, but also macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, check out the free FooDosage Nutrition Calculator and figure out your own personal optimal diet!
One More Nutrition Label Misconception: Daily Values = Optimal, Recommended Amounts
The DVs (Daily Values) and their percentages listed on nutrition facts labels do not represent the ideal intake amounts for two reasons:
Just like calories, individual requirements of carbs, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals may differ wildly depending on many of the same factors, and the chosen standard values may not apply to you.
But more importantly, because it is probably the bigger surprise at this point: They are the minimum recommended intake values for Protein, Vitamins and Minerals. Not optimum, minimum. Exception: For saturated fat, carbs, sodium, and potassium, they use the maximum values, while total fat is somewhere in between. You can read the details of what exactly the DV guidelines are here (FDA).
Whenever you hear someone say “50 grams of protein is the recommended daily amount”, this is the error they have fallen victim to. It’s the recommended minimum for someone on a 2000 calorie diet.
In most cases (protein, vitamins & minerals), the ideal amounts are much higher than what is listed, and 100% DV just gets you barely above the threshold of what is considered a safe value to maintain normal bodily functions (in most people).
However, overshooting those values by too far, for example by using supplements to get 1000% of everything, is not a good idea either. As you probably know if you’ve been reading the Nutrients Overview page, or the posts in the “Between the Sheets” category, there are Upper Limits to what is considered safe too. Depending on the nutrient, the effects of excessive consumption can be quite severe.
So, a healthy middle ground then. Unfortunately, upper limits are not typically listed on nutrition labels (except for carbs, fat, sodium, and potassium, where the minimum isn’t listed), just as they fail to mention that DVs are minimum/maximum values. All this “to limit consumer confusion”.
Once again, my personal solution to this dilemma is the Nutrition Calculator I built in Excel. It will tell you your own personal requirements, as well as allowing you to analyze how well your current/future diet stacks up. I created it because I wasn’t quite satisfied with the scope of information any of the tools I found online could provide, and I hope you will find it as useful as I do.
Questions? Suggestions? Would you like to add another calorie myth? Please leave a comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe, like & share 🙂