When you create your profile, we ask you for your age, height, weight, gender, 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 our calorie calculations.
We also ask you for your weekly exercise goals, in order to provide an incentive for you to reach. We do not account for additional exercise outside of your reported daily activity level, until you log exercise to your diary under the "Cardiovascular" section. Please see this article to understand why we do not currently calculate calories burned 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, then your daily calorie goal will 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 Calorie
This means that 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 that any member consume fewer than 1200 net calories on any given day.
While the calorie goals we calculate for you are based on statistical averages, our millions of users have demonstrated that these goals are accurate enough to provide positive results for almost anyone.
However, if you would prefer a calorie goal that responds to your specific daily activity level, may 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 at http://www.myfitnesspal.com/apps. In our iPad app, tap "More" then "Get Started." In our Android and iPhone apps, open the menu drawer and tap "App Gallery."
If you are following a guided plan from your doctor or nutritionist, or if you have data that you believe is more accurate than our estimated goals, please see this article for information about customizing your goals.