Your calorie intake is probably the most important piece of information you need to determine when undergoing a weight loss program. Unfortunately, the number most people come up with is wrong from the start. To keep you from making a huge mistake before you even get going, you’ll need to understand how to calculate your calorie intake the right way.
How to Calculate Your Calorie Intake
There are a few different ways you can estimate your intake, and each one has its pros and cons. The more accurate you want the number to be, the more time and effort you will likely have to put into determining your calorie intake.
I’m going to share with you 3 different methods you can use to calculate your calorie intake. I’d suggest you give all 3 of them a try just so you can further understand the concept and how your body reacts to proper nutrition.
A very easy way to derive your intake is to take your body weight in pounds and multiply it by 10-12. This number works more times than not, but can overestimate intakes for people that are very overweight. If you are very overweight, you will be better suited to use the lower number.
Go ahead and do it now. Take your body weight and add a zero to the end of it. Congratulations, you just multiplied your body weight times 10 and found the lower calorie limits of what you should start eating to lose weight. Very rarely do you ever need to go below this number when starting a weight loss program.
The second and most accurate way to determine your intake is through experimentation. This takes time and patience. Your goal is to slowly raise your calories on a week by week basis until you reach your maintenance calories. From there, you cut your calories by 15% to get the weight loss process going.
For the people who are patient, this method is highly recommended. Not only will you find your own individual maintenance calorie intake, but you will have fully restored your metabolism to its full potential through the process of reverse dieting.
Here is how you do it. Take your body weight and multiply it times 12. Eat at that level for 2 weeks while you monitor your weight. If your weight does not increase, add another 50-100 calories to your diet. Eat at this level for another week and monitor your weight. You want to keep increasing your calories until you finally gain weight on a week over week basis for 2 consecutive weeks.
This method offers piece of mind that you have finally found your own true personalized calorie intake. It takes the guess work out of weight loss. Be patient, and most importantly, don’t be fearful of weight gain.
Be mindful of the fact that not all weight gain is fat. You will also increase muscle glycogen stores and intracellular water retention, which is good weight.
This is probably the most often used method. You input your stats and your activity levels into a calculator, and through the use of highly-researched formulas and population averages, the calculator comes up with a fairly accurate intake for you.
The good news is I’ve created a calorie calculator you can use. It uses the Harris Benedict formula for its calculations. I went ahead and took it a couple of steps further for your benefit. You may also select your degree of calorie restriction and also your macronutrient ratios. The calculator will then break down your daily fat, carbohydrate, and protein grams.
It’s very easy to use. You should see what number it comes up with and then compare that number to the other 2 methods outlined above to see how close they are. If you do at least 2 of the 3 methods you should have an effective starting calorie intake for weight loss.
Start High and Come Down as Necessary
Finally, it’s worth noting that with any method you use for calculating your calorie intake you should always be conservative with your calorie deficit. Cutting your calories further than necessary is not going to give you faster results.
Instead, it will likely accomplish the opposite of what you’re trying to do. Keep your deficit small and aim to lose no more than .5-1% of your body mass each week. Doing so will ensure that you keep your metabolism high throughout your program and will leave you plenty of room to cut calories further when your weight loss stalls.