How to Calculate Your Daily Fueling Needs | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletter.

How to Calculate Your Daily Fueling Needs

January 12, 2011

Must See Nutrition Videos

At the 2011 NSCA Coaches Conference [which STACK wrote about here], Josh Hingst, director of sports nutrition for the University of Nebraska, presented a session on "Complete Nutrition for College Football." Although his presentation was directed at collegiate programs, several lessons can be learned and applied to your nutrition routine—regardless of your age and sport.

Hingst breaks down nutrition into six pillars and arranges them in a pyramid [see image above] to rank how they affect your performance. Although each pillar is critical for athletic success, Hingst says, “There is nothing more fundamental or foundational to nutrition than meeting your calorie needs.”

Too often athletes hear about cutting down portion sizes and their meal intake, but calories are critical for supplying energy. Without sufficient calories to match energy demands, your performance will suffer and your body will meet its energy needs by breaking down muscle—a negative for any athlete. Various studies have found that failing to meet caloric requirements can cause endurance performance to suffer, decrease the ability to build muscle, increase fatigue and reduce immune system effectiveness.

To counter this, Hingst suggests first estimating your resting metabolic rate, which is the energy required for your body to perform critical functions—such as breathing—while at rest [see equation below]. You are then able to calculate how many calories you should consume in a day based on an estimate of your activity level [see chart below]. Although the number of calories may seem quite high, some of Hingst’s Nebraska football players must consume more than 4,000 calories a day to simply maintain their weight at their current activity level.

Hingst believes the best method for supplying your body with energy is with five to six smaller meals throughout the day. This has been proven to provide stable energy levels and improve muscle recovery and repair, while also encouraging better food choices for a healthy, well-rounded diet.


  • Weight [lbs.] / 2.2 = Weight in kg
  • [% Body Fat* / 100] x Weight [kg] = Body Fat [kg]
  • Weight [kg] – Body Fat [kg] = Lean Body Mass
  • 500 + [22 x Lean Body Mass] = Resting Metabolic Rate

*Percent of body fat can be estimated by many bathroom scales or through a test at a local fitness facility.

Chart [Estimated Activity)

Light Activity 1.3 – 1.5
Daily Training 1.6 – 2.0
Two-A-Days 2.0 – 3.0

Resting Metabolic Rate x Estimated Activity = Calories Required Per Day

Topics: DIET
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is an Associate Content Director at STACK Media. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is an Associate Content Director at STACK Media. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Should Athletes Follow a Pescetarian Diet?

Should Athletes Try Going Pescatarian? As a sports nutritionist I always get lots of question regarding the best type of diet to follow for boosting...

How to Stick to Your Diet at Starbucks

The Only 2 Running Diet Rules You Need to Know

Detoxing the Safe, Natural Way

How to Maximize Tennis Performance With Your Diet

Diet Tips to Improve On-Ice Performance

High Protein Diets Won't Fix Everything

Why the Number of Meals You Eat Per Day Doesn't Matter

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Ketogenic Diet 101

Orthorexia: Can 'Eating Clean

How to Use Cheat Meals to Lose Fat Fast

The 9 Strangest Foods Favored by Athletes

3 Nutrition Hacks to Improve Your Sports Performance

Should You Go Gluten Free?

Easy Gluten-Free Meals for Athletes

Surprising Things You Can't Eat on a Paleo Diet

Vegetarian Recipes for the Carnivorous Athlete

4 Tips You Should Follow Before Becoming a Vegetarian

Can Instagram Affect Your Diet?

Natural Food and Beverage Choices for Athletes

Grading the Best (and Worst) Food Crazes of 2013

5 Eating Rules the L.A. Lakers Live By

You're Doing It Wrong: The Muscle Building Diet

Lose Weight by Changing Your Diet

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

Low-Carb Diet Plan

Does a Vegan Diet Contain Enough Protein for Athletes?

Power Your Training With Superfoods

Personalize Your Diet Plan With the ShopWell App

The Low-Stress Diet Game Plan

The 8 Most Common Healthy Eating Mistakes

Diet Changes: 5 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Plan

Weight Loss and the Mediterranean Style Diet

Wrestlers: Study Examines Effect of Rapid Weight Loss

The Meat-Free Athlete

Top 5 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

The Easiest Healthy Diet Tips

Vegetarian Diets for Football Players

Intermittent Fasting: Secrets of Success

Can the Paleo Diet Work for Athletes?