How Many Calories Do I Need?
Nearly everyone has wondered how many calories they should eat. There are calorie calculators all over the internet. Sure, they’ll spit out a number for you, but is this number really correct? Should every 35 year old female that weighs 150 pounds eat the same amount of calories? No.
Your metabolism is as unique as your personality. Everyone metabolizes fat, carbohydrates, and protein in different ways. These calorie calculators are nice for getting a general idea for what your caloric intake should be, but they shouldn’t be the last word on the subject.
In order to calculate how many calories you should eat, you need a little bit of information first. What you don’t need is your height or age. What you do need is an understanding of how many calories you burn, and what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to lose weight? How much do you want to lose? Maybe you’d like to gain weight. Set yourself a goal first, but set realistic, sustainable ones.
A swing of .5-1% body fat per week in either direction is the maximum you should aiming for. Anything more and the muscle to fat ratio on your body can take a change for the worse. You also have a higher chance of maintaining your weight loss or gain if you take it slow. I realize everyone wants what they want, and they want it now. However, .5% body fat a week for six months equates to a reduction of 13% body fat, which will completely transform your body. That’s a lot of weight considering it probably took you a lifetime to put the weight on in the first place.
How Many Calories Do I Burn?
You might be wondering how many calories you burn during a particular exercise. Instead, you should be trying to figure out how many calories you burn the rest of the day. Exercise only burns a small amount of calories compared to the number of calories your body burns the rest of the day. A typical person may burn 100 calories for every mile they run. Run 3 miles, and you’ve burned 300 calories. This is great, but the rest of the day, even while you are relaxing or sleeping, you are burning thousands of calories.
Your muscle is extremely metabolically active. It takes a lot of calories to maintain. This is why it is so important for you to build muscle if you want to efficiently burn fat. Your workouts are great to get a few hundred extra calories burned, and for creating a favorable metabolic environment for fat loss, but the real magic happens when you focus on your nutrition. Your diet is going to be your biggest game changer.
How Many Calories to Lose Weight?
OK, OK, you understand that now, but you still need to know how many calories you should eat to lose weight. The best way to determine how many calories you need is to follow these steps:
- Set a goal of how much weight loss/gain you desire each week (.5-1% body fat per week at most). You can measure with this cheap pair of body fat calipers.
- Plan your exercise program. Make sure you have a combination of resistance training and cardio. I recommend high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for maximum muscle building and fat loss. Read more about why HIIT is great for fat loss and see a dozen sample workouts.
- Get yourself a food journal, or use an app like LoseIt or MyFitnessPal so you can write down every single thing you eat. You should be writing down the calories for everything.
- Eat 12 times your body weight in calories per day. Plan your diet out in advance so that you know you are eating this much every single day. Fill your calories with healthy meals. Here are 100 healthy foods you can eat.
- Watch the scale. Is your weight going up or down? Give it at least 2 weeks to get an accurate measurement. Be patient!
- If it’s going down, add 300 calories to your diet. Your goal is try and find how many calories you need to eat before you start to put on weight. Once you find this calorie amount, congratulations, you’ve just found that magic number that everyone is seeking – the calorie number that all future weight loss/gain formulas are based off of.
- If after adding 300 calories your weight is still going down, add another 300 calories until your weight increases on a week to week basis. Do NOT be afraid of adding a pound or two in the beginning. Everyone wants to see the scale go in one direction only. This isn’t going to happen. The important thing is you find the calorie amount that is going to enable you to eat as many calories as possible and still lose weight. This will keep your fat loss progress going, and ensure that the weight you lose is fat instead of muscle. Read more about why you might not be eating enough calories to lose weight.
- Once you find the calorie intake that causes you to add weight, start to subtract 500 calories per day for every pound you want to lose per week. If you want to lose 1 pound per week, then subtract 500 calories per day. If you want to lose 2 pounds, then subtract 1000 calories per day. Be careful though, as a 1000 calorie deficit can result in you eating too few calories. Read more about why you should create a smaller calorie deficit to lose weight.
- If when you started off eating 12 times your body weight in calories you immediately started gaining weight on a week to week basis (for at least 2 straight weeks), then you can go ahead and start cutting calories.
I realize some people just don’t have the patience to pull this off. Unfortunately, this is the only way to 100% (or close to it) accurately figure out how many calories you need. The second best way? Short of estimating with calorie calculators, I’d highly recommend you check out the BodyMedia FIT Armband. It can accurately determine your calorie burn to within a 10% margin of error.
One of the top reasons diets fail is because people eat too few calories. When you do this, you force your body to slow down its metabolism. This causes all kinds of hormonal changes that work against you and your fat loss goals. Hormones such as testosterone, thyroid, and growth hormone are all negatively affected. Make sure that when you diet you are keeping your metabolism high, and you will be well on your way towards success, instead of deciding what diet you’re going to try next.
How many calories do you eat per day? Do you keep a food journal? Share you thoughts in the comment box below.MUST USE FITNESS DEVICE: BodyMedia FIT Calorie Tracking Armband
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