I get asked ALL the time where to start with calories, protein, etc. I know there are a lot of calculators out there, and all of them come up with crazy high numbers for me! This is the only one that has consistently worked for me.
(Please remember that I am not a doctor and this is not actual medical advice so it would be good to check with yours before making dietary changes. Also please use good judgment and please don’t hold me accountable if you decide to do things that aren’t healthy. ❤)
First, figure out your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate, or how much food you need to eat to stay alive):
BMR = 370 + (21.6 * LBM)
LBM is lean body mass, which is your weight minus your body fat. If you have a scale that measures body fat, you have an OK estimate of this number. A set of calipers and a friend can help you, too.
LBM = (1-BF% expressed as a decimal) * total body weight
Example: In June 2014 I weighted 193 pounds at about 42 percent body fat, so my LBM calculation looked like this:
1 – .42 = .58
.58 * 193 = 111.94 lbs
Then you need to convert that number into kilos (2.2 pounds to a kilo) to get the final LBM.
My LBM = 111.94 lbs / 2.2 = 50.88 kg
Then we can use my final LBM to calculate my BMR using the first equation.
My BMR = 370 + (21.6 * 50.88) = 1469.1
Now. This is number does not include exercise. For that, we need to add in Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE.
- BMR * 1.2 if you exercise 1-3 hours per week
- BMR * 1.35 if you exercise 4-6 hours per week
- BMR * 1.5 if you exercise vigorously 6+ hours per week
I work out 3-4 days/week for about 40 minutes, so this means:
My BMR with TDEE = 1469 * 1.2 = 1763
So that’s how many calories my body uses, on average, in a day. If I wanted to maintain my weight, I could eat about that many. But I’m trying to lose weight.
Unlike a lot of sites, I do not recommend just subtracting 500 calories. Yes, 3500 calories = 1 pound and 500 should be a pound a week. But that can be too little for some, and too much for others (not to mention that the flat math just doesn’t work that way for a lot of people). Instead, I recommend a deficit of 20-25%.
Finally, subtract 20-25% for weight loss.
My final numbers:
1763 – 20% = 1410
I found that that worked exactly right for me. I ate more calories when I weighed more, and as my weight/body fat have dropped, I’ve recalculated and eat a bit less. My calorie count is on the low end, but my metabolism is sloooow. I assume it’s because my LBM is on the low/my body fat is kind of high? If it seems like your numbers are a little too severe, you can bump them up by about 100 calories and see how that works. If you’re still not losing after a few weeks, try racheting down by 100. (Note: I never recommend eating under 1200 calories as a rule because I believe it can screw with your metabolism.)
I hope this works well for you, too! It takes a little bit of calculation, but it’s been worthwhile for me.
A lot of weight loss and particularly bodybuilding sites emphasize protein like crazy, to the point of telling you you need 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Guys, I cannot eat 250 grams of protein a day! I just can’t. Besides the fact that that would be 1000 calories, I would be eating all day. Gross. Here’s what I do:
- 1 gram of protein per pound of LBM (not weight! I’m rounding up 111.94 to 112. )
- .3 – .4 grams of fat per LBM
- The rest of your calories from carbs
In case you don’t know how, here’s how I calculate that:
112 grams protein * 4 calories per gram = 448 calories
45 grams fat * 9 calories per gram = 405 calories
448 carb calories + 405 fat calories = 853
1410 total calories – 853 = 557 left for carbs
557 / 4 calories per gram = 139 grams carbs
You don’t have to get this technical, but since I’ve started lifting, it’s been really helpful for me to track how much protein I’m getting. I am NOT obsessive about hitting these numbers, but they’re good goals to shoot for. The more protein I get, the more muscle I build. I find it’s been helpful. I hope you do, too!