Minimum Calories to Survive: How Many Calories Do I Need to Survive?

August 25, 2022 5 min read

Minimum Calories to Survive: How Many Calories Do I Need to Survive?

On a day-to-day basis, most of us are fortunate enough not to have to ask ourselves, “how many calories do I need to survive?” However, suppose a natural disaster strikes or civil unrest breaks out, and SHTF. You may be forced into a survival situation, where you become more concerned about the minimum calories per day you need to survive.


minimum amount of calories to survive


The minimum number of calories per day to survive depends on the person. The amount of calories a person needs is largely impacted by their:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Activity level
  • Body type.


If you are prepping emergency food in case of disaster, and are curious about the minimum amount of calories you and your family need to survive, keep reading. Below you will learn about the intricacies of calories, the importance of your Basal Metabolic Rate, and the most nutritious types of emergency food.

Click to download our free survival guide that will help you calculate the calories you need each day. 


What Are Calories?

minimum calories per day to survive


Simply put, calories measure how much energy a food item or drink contains. The number of calories, or energy, you need daily depends on multiple factors.

  • Your age – typically, growing children or teenagers require more calories. As you age, fewer calories are required.
  • Your lifestyle – how active you are affects how many calories you need to fuel your body. The more active you are, the more calories your body needs.
  • Your body type and size – the height and weight of your body will affect how quickly you burn calories.
  • Your sex – typically, men consume more calories than women due to the larger average body size of men compared to women.


Besides age, lifestyle, and body type, other factors may affect how many calories you burn daily. For example, some hormones, such as thyroid hormones, impact how you burn calories. In addition, some medicines may affect how your body processes the calories you consume.


Are you curious about how many calories you need to survive? Download our free survival guide today!


download our survival guide


How Our Bodies Burn Calories to Survive

how many calories do you need to survive


Before we get into the minimum amount of calories you need to survive, it’s important first to review how our bodies burn calories in the first place. Knowing this will help strengthen your understanding of caloric intake and how to feed yourself properly during survival situations.


But first, let's learn about the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Our body’s BMR is the minimum number of calories needed to sustain vital functions, such as brain function, breathing, and heart rate.


Every person's BMR is unique to them. Calculating your BMR will help inform the decision regarding the minimum number of calories you need to survive.


Three major physiological processes are responsible for burning the calories we consume. 


  1. The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): TEF is the number of calories our bodies burn while digesting food.

  2. Thermic Effect of Exercise (TEE): TEE is the number of calories our bodies burn as it performs a physical activity, such as running or walking.

  3. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): NEAT is the process of burning calories while our bodies are more or less at rest but still fidgeting around or changing position, like when we sit at our desks to work.

Calorie Consumption Based on Age, Sex, Activity Level, & Body Type


Every person is different, and every body has different needs. The number of calories a person needs will fluctuate based on age, sex, activity level, and body type. Below you will find some basic recommendations on behalf of the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.



Recommended Daily Caloric Intake

2-4 years

Male: 1,000 -1,600 calories

Female: 1,000 - 1,400 calories

5-8 years

Male: 1,200 - 2,000 calories

Female: 1,200 - 1,800 calories

9-13 years

Male: 1,600 - 2,600 calories

Female: 1,400 - 2,200 calories

14-18 years

Male: 2,000 - 3,200 calories

Female: 1,800 - 2,400 calories


Recommended Daily Caloric Intake

19-30 years

2,000 - 2,400 calories

31-59 years

1,800 - 2,200 calories

60+ years

1,600 - 2,000 calories


Recommended Daily Caloric Intake

19-30 years

2,400 - 3,000 calories

31-59 years

2,200 - 3,000 calories

60+ years

2,000 - 2,600 calories

Activity Level

Recommended Caloric Intake


Sedentary Lifestyle

Your BMR x 1.2

Slightly Active Lifestyle

Your BMR x 1.375

Moderately Active Lifestyle

Your BMR x 1.55

Active Lifestyle

Your BMR x 1.725

Very Active Lifestyle

Your BMR x 1.9

The Best Emergency Food For Survival Calories

When faced with a natural disaster or emergency scenario, the emergency food you have with you will depend on if you have chosen to bug out vs. bug in. If you choose to grab your bug out bag and leave, you will burn more calories. You will probably only have your 72-hour kit until you reach your bug out location where hopefully, you have more food stored.


minimum calories per day to surviveOn the other hand, if you have chosen to bug in, you will be burning fewer calories, and you will be closer to the emergency food you have prepped to survive.


Nevertheless, whether you decide to bug out or bug in, certain foods are better than others for keeping you and your family at least at minimum calories in survival situations.


The best emergency food should satisfy the following criteria:

  1. Requires no extra tools or appliances other than cooking.
  2. Has a 25- to 30-year storage life.
  3. Contains all the essential nutrients and is calorically dense.



Freeze Dried Meat

●     Beef

●     Chicken

●     Sausage


●     Whole Oats

●     Steel Cut Oats

●     Oatmeal

●     Rice

●     Corn

Freeze Dried Prepared Meals

●     Mac and Cheese

●     Risotto

●     Chili

●     Soup

●     Fettuccine Alfredo

Beans and Legumes

●     Black Beans

●     Kidney Beans

●     Navy Beans

●     Peas

●     Chickpeas

●     Pinto Beans

Freeze Dried Fruits and Freeze Dried Vegetables

●     Apple Slices

●     Bananas

●     Blackberries & Blueberries

●     Onions

●     Carrots

●     Celery

●     Potato flakes


●     Sugar

●     Honey

●     Syrup

Other Essentials

●     Salt

●     Baking Soda

●     Vinegar

●     Water

●     Multivitamins


Final Thoughts On The Minimum Calories Needed to Survive

While the number of calories a person requires for survival depends on their sex, age, lifestyle choices, and body type, don’t just take our word and run with it. We recommend you do some personal research and find out what’s best for you and your body specifically. For example, the Body Weight Planner from the National Institute of Health is a fantastic tool for getting started.


And if you are asking yourself, “how much food storage do I need” or when you are ready to talk about freeze-dried food and long-term food storage buckets, do not hesitate to reach out. We have product experts waiting at the ready to help you prepare for the unexpected.