If you have read any of my other posts or subscribed to my free newsletter, you will probably know that I am a huge advocate of tracking the amount of calories you eat each day. Why do I recommend keeping track of these? It’s simple, you really can’t fail if you do this. The overall factor that determines whether or not you lose weight, is whether or not you are burning more calories than you are consuming each day.
As a side benefit, tracking what you eat for a period of time is one of the very best ways to learn what the foods you eat regularly contain from a nutrition standpoint. It also teaches portion control, over time you will get to know how much of a certain food type you can eat. Once you learn this, you will not need to use a calorie tracker anymore, you will be able to judge your intake largely by eye.
Now, I do always recommend that the calories you eat should come from natural, unprocessed sources for the most part. However, for this post, all I want to focus on is getting you to know how many calories you need to be eating each day in order to lose the amount of weight you want to lose.
Step 1: Take the necessary measurements.
There are various formulas out there that can be used to determine the amount of calories you will need. Some are slightly more accurate than others, but for the most part we are actually only using these formulas as a guide to get a starting point.
So to make it as easy as possible, the formula I will use here (the Harris-benedict revised formula) just requires you to know your weight in kg (take this first thing in the morning, no clothes, after using the bathroom), your height in cm and your age.
Step 2: Calculate your calorie intake
For men: 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)
For women: 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)
Example, 70kg women who is 160cm tall and 40 years old
447.593 + (9.247 x 70kg) + (3.098 x 160cm) – (4.330 x 40) = 1417.363. Round that down and that gives us 1417kcals per day.
This number is what is called your basal metabolic rate or BMR. It is the amount of energy (calories) expended whilst completely at rest and fasted. Basically the number of calories you need just to survive.
Step 2a: Take into account your activity level
Now that you know how many calories you need at rest, you must work out how many you need in order to sustain your daily activities. This number is called your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE.
To get this, we use an activity multiplier. Simply multiply your BMR from step 2 by the value below that best matches your daily activity level:
Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/wk)
Mod. active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/wk)
Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk)
Extr. active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job or 2X day training, i.e marathon, contest etc.)
Using the example of our lady from earlier, if she was to be moderately active, her TDEE would be as follows:
1417(calories) x 1.55 = 2196. Round up to 2200 for simplicity.
She now knows she must eat roughly 2200 calories each day at her current activity level and bodyweight in order to maintain her current weight.
Step 3: Calorie intake for weight loss
The final calculation that you need to do is to work out your weight loss calorie target. To lose weight, consuming less calories than you are burning each day. From the calculation above, we have worked out the number of calories that you will be burning each day. To lose weight simply eat below that amount.
A good starting point is to subtract 500 calories from your TDEE. There is roughly 3500 calories in 1 pound of fat. Therefore a deficit of 500 calories each day should yield around 1 pound of weight loss per week. This number will vary from person to person but it serves as a good starting point.
Step 4: Track your calories and adjust over time
Using a calorie tracking application like myfitnesspal will ensure that you are always eating the right amount of calories for your goals. You will need to make little adjustments to your calorie goal over time as you lose weight.
As a rule, keep an eye on your measurements and only adjust your goal when progress halts. Be patient though, give it a couple of weeks since weight fat loss is rarely linear. If after a couple of weeks, you see no changes in your measurements then you can make a small adjustment to your calorie target. Decrease by only around 200 calories at a time. The goal is to keep your calorie intake as high as possible whilst still seeing progress.
Step 5 (bonus step): Save yourself some time:
There are a number of online calculators that can instantly do all of the calculations above for you. Myfitnesspal even has its own built in calculator. Before you swear at me for not just stating this in the beginning, let me explain why I thought it important to write this article. I believe that learning how something is done gives you a better chance of success since you understand the processes and reasoning behind it. Now you can go ahead and use an online calculator without being confused by the numbers it is throwing out at you.
I will take this further in a future article and tell you how to work out how many carbohydrates, protein and fat you should eat per day. For now though, I will leave you with the task of going away and working out your own individual calorie goal, downloading a calorie tracking app like Myfitnesspal and begin tracking your nutrition now.
My Free 7 day meal plan has a whole week of healthy meals that you can use alongside your calorie tracking to really ignite your fat loss. Click below to download it now.
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Thanks for reading,