When you create your profile, we ask you for your age, height, weight, sex, and normal daily activity level. We use these factors to determine the calories required to maintain your current weight. We also ask how much weight you would like to lose or gain per week, and with this goal in mind we subtract calories (for weight loss) or add calories (for weight gain) to determine your daily calorie and nutrient goals.
We ask for your goal weight when you create your profile, but this is only for purposes of reporting how many pounds remain until you meet your goal. Your goal weight does not affect your initial calorie calculations.
Additionally we also account for weekly exercise goals (which should not be included in your initial activity level), in order to provide an incentive for you to reach. However, we do not account for additional exercise outside of your reported daily activity level, until you actually perform and log exercise to your diary under the "Cardiovascular" section. Please see this article to understand why we do not currently calculate calories via strength exercises.
Because your daily calorie goal already accounts for your intent to gain or lose weight at a particular rate, you can achieve your goal by eating the specified number of calories per day, with no additional exercise required. If you do exercise, your daily calorie goal will then increase for the day, to stabilize your weight loss or weight gain at the rate you initially specified.
We set your daily calorie goal in Net Calories which we define as:
Calories Consumed (Food) - Calories Burned (Exercise) = Net Calories
This means if you exercise, you will be able to eat more for that day. For example, if your Net Calorie goal is 2000 calories, one way to meet that goal is to eat 2,500 calories of food, but then burn 500 calories through exercise.
Think of your Net Calories like a daily budget of calories to spend. You spend them by eating, and you earn more calories to eat by exercising. We do not recommend women consume fewer than 1200 calories per day, or men fewer than 1500 calories per day. Eating too little can produce negative health effects.
As you continue with the program, if your weight changes, your goals may also change. Please see this article for more information on how your goals will update.
While the calorie goals we calculate for you are based on statistical averages, our millions of users have demonstrated these goals are accurate enough to provide positive results for almost anyone. For real member success stories please visit our success forums.
If you would prefer a calorie goal that responds to your specific daily activity level, we suggest looking into our third party integrations. Several of our integrations offer solutions for monitoring your calorie burn over the course of the day, and can update your MyFitnessPal calorie goals based on this information.
On the site you can find out more about our integrations here. In our Android and iOS apps, tap "Apps & Devices" in the Menu (or "More" page).
If you are following a guided plan from your doctor or nutritionist, or if you have data you believe is more accurate than our estimated goals, please see this article for information about customizing your goals. You may also wish to consider upgrading to MyFitnessPal Premium, which allows advanced users or users with very specific nutritional goals to customize their nutrition plan with even greater control.