August 6, 2023

When headlines and content have no context

Intense exercise could act as a ‘protective shield’ against metastatic cancer

WHO says aspartame, sweetener found in soda, may cause cancer

Influencer Lauds Maggi for Taking Action Against High Sugar in Ketchup After Previous Criticism

Spare just 11 minutes a day or 75 minutes a week for a quick walk: New study says this could reduce the risk of heart attacks

These are a few headlines I plucked from Google News in the last few months. All of it is vying for your attention. And they are all distracting you from one crucial number: How much energy do you need to be consuming in a day and how much energy are you consuming in a day? 

I don’t think our media, government or experts fixate enough on this number. We worry about the mileage of our vehicles and power consumption of our electrical appliances. But we don’t spend the same amount of time or energy on figuring out how much energy we need. 

The truth is we really don’t have data on how many calories the average urban Indian is consuming on a daily basis. We do know after a decrease in daily calorie intake between 2004 and 2009, the number increased in 2009 through 2012 and has continued to increase. Judging by increased rates of obesity, we do know urban India is not underfed. Far from it. 


Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommends an average consumption of 2400 kcal in rural areas and 2100 kcal in urban areas. 

Anecdotally, my experience tells me  that the 2100 kcal number is far too many calories for the average man or woman in urban India. Neither their body composition, lifestyle or activity levels can support this intake level. A case can be made that the 2100 kcal number is right for taller men or women, athletes, growing or active children/teenagers. 


The single most useful metric for those interested in improving their quality of life, health and body composition is their daily maintenance calorie intake. How much energy do you need to consume in a day for your weight to remain unchanged over the course of months or years?

No ICMR, WHO, glucose tracker, blog, influencer or government agency can help you with this number. They can give you a starting point. But it’s on you to figure out how you respond to the recommended number. It will vary based on sex, size, body composition, sleep, stress, exercise and activity levels. 

But if you don’t know this number, you have no context or starting point for what you need to do with your food intake. Generic measures like more protein, fibre, vegetables and healthy fat are a start. But to predict outcomes you need data. Your daily calorie requirement is the most important piece of data that you need to figure out.

About Adarsh

- I run a strength and conditioning facility in Chennai, India
- I work with my clients to make training and eating for better body composition a part of everyday life
- I coach online and in-person
- I design and manufacture strength training equipment for use in our strength training facility