If you’ve decided to take care of your body, build muscles, lose fat, and take care of your overall health then you must know that nutrition/diet is a key component.
There will be many variables which will determine whether your diet will be successful but this will determine whether you will be able to sustain it and make it effective for you and that is your caloric intake.
Why do calories matter so much?
How to calculate my optimal caloric intake for my purposes?
Stick with us and find out everything you need to know about calories and how to calculate them in order to lose fat/maintain muscle/build muscle and more.
Now let’s answer your questions, shall we…
How many calories should I eat per day?
So, how many calories should I actually eat per day to lose fat/maintain muscle/build muscle?
The number of calories you should eat if you want to do any of these 3 options above will be different.
There is a very simple and science confirmed fact called „calories in“ and „calories out“
This refers to all the calories that you take via food you eat and drinks you drink during the day (except water and zero-calorie drinks that are out there).
This refers to all the calories you burn per day. This doesn’t include only calories you burn during your training exercises but also includes calories you burn doing your everyday stuff and every possible movement and even the stuff your body does to keep you alive.
With this explained, there are 3 possible roads that you can take…
Road #1: Caloric surplus
This occurs when you consume more calories than you burn (calories in > calories out).
Caloric surplus can manifest itself in two possible ways on your body. If you consumed 3000 calories today and you burned 2500 of them you have 500 calories left in your body and they can’t just vanish from your body. Your body will either store them as fat cells or muscle tissue.
More often than not it will be fat cells that will be created because your diet isn’t a diet, to be honest…
But if your diet and training are designed for muscle gain, and we will explain more about that later, most of those leftover calories will be stored in the form of muscle tissue.
If you’ve ever gained some fat (extra weight) in your life it is because you’ve been in caloric surplus for some time.
Road #2: Caloric deficit
This occurs when your body burns more calories than you consume (calories in < calories out).
When you are in a caloric deficit your body lacks in fuel that is needed for its purpose. Now your body is starting to behave like those hybrid cars. After it runs out of calories to burn, your body needs to find other sources of fuel and in this case, we again have fat cells or muscle tissue.
When you are in a caloric deficit you will need to lose something of those two. For the majority of cases, people will primarily lose fat cells.
Yep, you heard me and don’t close this article now and eat 500 calories and expect to be all lean and muscular at the same time…CAUSE YOU WON’T!
If you are on a specific diet for losing fat we don’t wanna be carriers of bad news but you will still lose a small bit of your muscle mass alongside fat cells. But if you are taking good care of your body and consume all the right stuff that will be no problem for you as fat will take up the majority of weight that’s been lost.
If you are losing weight whether you want that or not it’s because of a caloric deficit that you are in right now. Every single pound of fat that you’ve ever lost comes up from a caloric deficit.
Road #3: Maintenance
As you can see from the word itself when you are on caloric maintenance you consume as many calories as your body burns (calories in = calories out).
Now if you’re going to skip this part because you want to lose fat/gain muscle you will miss something IMPORTANT.
Here’s the deal:
If you figure out your caloric maintenance, you will easily figure out what is your caloric deficit and what is your caloric surplus.
We’re glad that you asked that and now we will help you to closely figure out that „maintenance“ amount of calories that you want to be below or above.
To be honest, there is plenty of complicated ways for you to calculate your caloric maintenance which includes the fancy term TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure).
This is the total amount of calories that your body burns each day doing EVERYTHING, including:
- Basal metabolic rate (calories your body burns doing nothing)
- Thermic effect of activity „TEA“ (calories you burn while exercising)
- Thermic effect of food „TEF“ (calories you burn while digesting and absorbing foods you eat)
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis „NEAT“ (calories burned while doing all the things you do in course of one day, NOT INCLUDING EXERCISE)
This TDEE process will be different for each person based on their type of lifestyle, exercise frequency, and much many other stuff.
Even if some of you are the same age, gender, hight, doing the same job, same exercises etc…you can still see differences in TDEE that is the result of NEAT.
Now if you are going to calculate your maintenance level by calculating these 4 factors…good luck to you…
Every single day you will calculate the different amount of calories…
This is where we recommend you THIS!
Take your body weight (in pounds) and multiply it by 12 and 18.
It takes you 3 seconds to convert your weight in kilograms (1 kilogram is around 2.2 pounds)
Now do quick maths and return to us…
The results you’ve got will be your bottom and top calorie intake recommended for your body weight.
Now, most of the people will find out that their maintenance level is somewhere between 14 and 16 multipliers.
Let’s take someone with 200lbs for example…
Their calorie intake will be somewhere between 2400-3600 calories. Now, depending on that person’s lifestyle will also depend on how much calories should they take.
For female part of our community and those people who are less active during the day, we recommend being in the lower half of their estimated calorie intake and for the male community and those who are active throughout the day we recommend the upper half of the estimated calorie intake.
But if you are really unsure whether you should take bottom or upper half just slice it down the middle and you should be fine.
Assuming that you got this part we will now answer these questions…
How many calories a day should I eat to start losing weight?
We talked earlier about the caloric deficit and how that is the only reason why you lost any weight ever in your life…remember?
If you want to start losing weight your deficit should be below your maintenance level and for most of the people that will be between 10-25% below that level with 20% decrease as an optimal start for everyone.
Let’s say that your maintenance level is around 3000 calories. If you want to lose weight you should create a deficit of 20% for that amount of calories which is 600 calories. Then subtract that number from 3000 and you get 2400 calories. This is the number of calories you should eat in order to lose weight.
Quite simple, don’t you think?
Here’s the deal:
Not everyone has the same amount of extra weight that they want to lose and not everybody has the same daily routine and metabolism and so on…
If you want to lose weight faster you need to have a larger deficit and the other way around of course.
But remember not to go above 25% deficit because you can affect your body in a bad way and even harm yourself (hormonal disorder for example). The bigger the deficit the more you affect your whole body, not just the weight itself.
And there is one important thing for you to remember…
As you progress with decreasing your weight your maintenance level of calories will start to go down alongside your weight. You need to remember that.
If you lose 5-10 pounds you need to recalculate your maintenance in order to continue to lose weight because you won’t be losing weight forever with the same amount of caloric deficit.
That is just a simple logic but important fact to point out.
Where is my exercise going to fit in?
This is a good question and we have an even better answer…you won’t believe it.
That’s totally up to you.
There are 3 ways that you can create for yourself to be in a deficit:
- Exercise (burning calories)
- Diet (caloric deficit)
- Diet + exercise (combination of both)
Let’s get back to our example above where a person maintenance level is around 3000 calories a day.
How can this person create a deficit for himself/herself?
Easy…he or she could potentially eat 2400 calories a day, or eat 3000 calories a day and burn 600 extra with some form of exercise, or eat 2600 calories and burn just 200 extra, or anything like that.
In all 3 scenarios that person will end up being in a caloric deficit and end up losing weight.
Now we will discuss the opposite scenario…
How many calories a day should I eat to gain muscle?
We mentioned and talked earlier about caloric surplus and that if you’ve ever gained a single pound of weight in your life, it’s because of this occasion.
Now if you want to gain muscle at some rate you will need to eat additional calories via your diet to make that possible.
This means that you constantly need to be above your maintenance level to create a surplus which your body will if your diet is good we assume, transform into muscle tissue.
How much caloric surplus do I need?
There is no need for doubling up your caloric intake if you want to gain muscle.
For men population, we recommend around 200-250 extra calories above your maintenance level.
And for women, we recommend around 100-150 extra calories above your maintenance level.
And we can’t emphasize this enough but…
Surplus amounts that we recommend are just averages…
The average man should aim to gain between1-2 lbs of muscle per month while a woman should aim to gain 0.5-1 lb per month.
Remember when we say that those are only the AVERAGES…
There are many factors that can play a crucial role in gaining muscle faster or slower including age, experience, genetics etc…
There are few reasons why does this matter…
- If your caloric surplus is too small it can result in preventing or minimizing muscle growth, and
- Too large caloric surplus can lead to additional body fat to be gained
Here’s an example with the same amount of calories that we mentioned earlier…
If a person had a maintenance level of 3000 calories. If they are male, they should eat 3200-3250 calories a day to gain muscle. If they are female, they should eat 3100-3150 calories a day to gain muscle.
Simple as that…
One more thing that we emphasize!
Now when you know what is your recommended daily caloric intake and how much calories you need to lose weight or gain muscle we need to tell you that those numbers are just an ESTIMATE.
If you hit your ideal caloric intake and you are going it the right direction with your diet that is perfect but in some cases or many cases that won’t be like that…
Sorry to disappoint you at the very end but stick with us just a little bit as we will reveal a way for you to solve this problem and we will call it:
- You need to weigh yourself every day (in the morning before eating or drinking anything and after being in the bathroom) and take your average weight at the end of the week
- Keep a good track of your weekly averages for about a month
- Is your weight moving in right direction?
Yes! That means that you’re going in the right direction. Keep eating that amount of calories every day but don’t forget to keep track of your progress as it won’t be the same from week to week.
No! Then adjust your caloric intake accordingly to what your goal is (we recommend around 100-200 calories decrease or increase depending on what you want, lose or gain weight), wait another month and then see what happens and if you need to change it again or remain the same.
You could use various online calorie calculators and quickly figure out what is your surplus, deficit, maintenance but if you keep track of your progress as we mentioned above we guarantee you that you will start to go in the desired direction.
To lose weight or gain muscle you should take these 3 steps:
- Estimate your maintenance level
- Create your own surplus/deficit which will depend on what your goal is
- Keep a good look at your progress, track all the important stuff that we mentioned (especially the average weight) and adjust it accordingly if needed and when needed
If those 3 steps provide you with results that you wanted, just keep doing what you’re already doing.
Now that you’ve learned your daily calories for your purpose the next thing you will need to learn is how many of those daily calories should be PROTEIN, FAT, and CARBS.
To learn that just follow us HERE.