Present recommendations of caloric intake made by scientific and medical institutions tend to overestimate the volume of calories required by the average person.

The modern method of calculating the calories required for various activities is based upon expenditure of energy as measured by discharge following activities rather than the actual amount of calories really required to carry on those activities. Guidelines based on such analytical examinations result in progressively higher recommendations of caloric intake needed in prosperous countries, where people are eating more rich and refined food, and progressively lower recommendations in countries where the people are eating more simply.

According to the macrobiotic view, ones natural appetite for whole, natural, properly cooked foods and ones regular bowel movements are more practical barometers for determining the necessary volume of food as well as required calories. Caloric requirements vary generally between 1,400 and 1,800 daily depending upon age, sex, and personal condition and need, if the standard macrobiotic diet is generally practiced in a temperate region, with two or three meals consumed per day. In contrast, the average American consumes about 2,400 to 3,300 calories daily.

Furthermore, it is necessary to consider that some foods convert into calories with higher speed than other foods. For example, sugar processed from sugarcane produces calories rapidly, but the caloric discharge soon ceases, while glucose metabolized from whole cereal grains burns slowly and produces caloric energy lasting longer. In this respect, a low-calorie diet centered around grains and vegetables is far superior to a high-calorie diet centered around meat and sugar. Recent scientific studies have borne out the theory that a low-calorie diet, or caloric restriction, can add years, possibly decades, to life. In laboratory studies, animals put on low-calorie diets lived significantly longer than usual.