How much you eat should be determined by your goals. Typically people have a goal of fat loss or muscle gain. Some people, have both.
Generally it is very difficult to both gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.
So to simplify things, we will focus on either fat loss (known as cutting) or muscle gain (bulking).
Attaining either goal will start with some calculations. So dust off that old calculator from college and let’s get busy.
1. BMR Calculations
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the rate of energy expenditure by humans and other animals at rest.
The slang term for BMR is “coma calories”.
It is called such because if you were ever to fall into a coma, you would need that many calories to maintain your current body weight.
This can be calculated using the following formula:
Metric BMR Formula (Harris-Benedict)
Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x your weight in kilos) + (1.8 x your height in cm) – (4.7 x your age in years)
Men: 66 + (13.7 x your weight in kilos) + (5 x your height in cm) – (6.8 x your age in years)
2. Activity Adjustment
So let’s now adjust your calculation for activity. To add this you need to multiply your calculation by a number between 1.2 and 1.9 depending on your daily life/training.
- Sedentary (little to no exercise): BMR x 1.2
- Lightly Active (easy exercise/sports 1-3 days a week): BMR x 1.375
- Moderately Active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days a week): BMR x 1.55
- Very Active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.9
- Extremely Active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job): BMR x 1.9
An example here would be if your BMR were 1762.39 then you would multiply that by 1.2 (if you work a desk job and workout out lightly through the week) to give you a TDEE of 2114.87.
This Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is what you would need to eat daily if you wanted to maintain your current lifestyle and weight.
While you could supplement your routine with tons of running, sports, or weightlifting; the easiest way to lose weight is to simply eat less than your TDEE.
3. Goal Adjustment
Now you decide if you want to lose fat or put on some muscle.
Fat can be lost much quicker than muscle can be gained. It’s no secret that most people lean towards cutting a few pounds, if not many. So that is where we will start.
Your body fat percentage will dictate how much weight can be lost safely in a week. If you are 15% or below you should stick with a pound a week. If you are between 16% and 30% you should go with a pound and a half up to two and a half pounds per week.
If you have no idea what your body fat percentage is then you should go with 1 pound a week.
A pound of fat is 3,500 calories. So with 7 days in a week, you can safely drop 500 calories daily from your TDEE that we calculated before and lose 1 pound a week.
So with our previous example, if your TDEE is 2114.87 then you would simply subtract 500 calories from that number. Giving you a grand total of 1614.87.
Losing weight can be as simple as being more aware of what you are eating and knowing your magic number.
In this case, 1614.87 isn’t a pretty magic number and it is far from easy to remember.
A much easier method would be to round this down to 1600 calories so that not only is it easier to remember, but it is also easier to breakdown into meals. Some days you will be a few calories over your 1600 and some days you will be under. That extra 14.87 calories won’t ruin your goals.
Conversely, if you were wanting to put on some muscle than you would simply add calories to your TDEE. Adding 500 to your daily expenditure would work just fine for gaining muscle.
However, as mentioned before gaining muscle is more difficult and takes more time. It would be better to start with adding 200-300 calories to your daily TDEE to avoid added fat when gaining muscle. Add more calories if you aren’t seeing the results desired.
4. Meal Breakdown
Taking it a step further, you can divide your daily calories calculated in step 3 by how many meals you plan to eat.
So in our example we had 1600 calories. If you divide that by 3 meals you are left with round 533 calories per meal. If you only ate two meals a day it would be 800 calories per meal.
Losing weight can be as easy as some simple elementary math. If you take the time to figure out what all these numbers mean than you are well on your way to attaining whatever goal you see fit.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a perfect science. The goal here is to get you in the ballpark of eating the correct amount of calories to attain your goal. If you find after a few weeks you still aren’t seeing results, than add or subtract a 100 calories and test it again.
Now that you know the math and reasoning behind how much you should be eating, you can calculate and adjust much more quickly using a calculator online by clicking here.
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