If you can’t answer this question it’s like driving without headlights. Here’s how to avoid the mistake they are all making!
To maintain current weight
Figuring out how many calories you require to maintain your current weight is quite simple. You take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 14-16 (depending on your level of activity).
If you are a female or you live a very sedentary lifestyle, then use 14. If you are a male (or a large female) and you live a very physically active lifestyle, then use 16. So, I weigh 168 pounds and I exercise a lot. I’ll multiply 168 by 16 and that adds up to 2688 calories.
A 155 pound female would multiply her weight by 14, and so she would eat 2170 calories a day in order to maintain her weight. Now that we know our maintenance level, we can go about setting calories for fat loss.
Setting calories for fat loss
There’s two ways to go about this. We can either create a deficit through diet alone, or we can create a deficit by burning off calories through exercise.
Firstly, we’ll go with the diet approach. So, we take our weight in pounds and multiply it by 12. So, if I want to lose weight, I multiply 168 by 12 and I get 2016. This puts me in a deficit of around 672 calories a day.
(2688-2016 = 672)
For our female, she multiplies 155 x 12 and gets 1860. This puts her in a 310 calorie deficit per day. (2170 – 1850 = 310)
(Hint- Females and smaller people have to accept a slightly slower rate of weight loss than larger people. Sorry, that’s just how it is!)
Alternatively, you can just eat at your maintenance level and burn off 300-700 calories through exercise. In my opinion, it’s best to do a bit of both. Some days you can just do your diet and other days you can eat a bit more and do your exercise.
Or, you can do a little bit of diet and a little bit of exercise every single day. It’s up to you. Exercise provides many health benefits and tends to be more enjoyable than just strictly dieting so I’d prefer you include the exercise.
Exercise also slightly increases your metabolism (metabolism includes all the things your body does to turn food into energy and keep you going).
The one form of exercise that I believe is essential is strength training. I expand on the reasons for this in my definitive guide to fat loss.
What NOT to do – extreme dieting
A quick warning. Do NOT go any lower than 25% below your maintenance level of calories for a sustained period. Doing this will mess with your bodies hormones, slow down your metabolism and massively raise your stress levels. It will also destroy your performance in the gym and lead to muscle loss. Your appetite will go crazy and in the long run you will likely end up experiencing rebound weight gain. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that.
So, in my case I would make sure not to go lower than around 2016 calories a day for more than a few days, or I can expect to experience these awful symptoms. For the female, she wouldn’t go below 1600 for a prolonged period to avoid the same symptoms.
You would probably feel fine on an extreme diet for a little while but eventually you will feel terrible and your metabolism will slow down so much that further fat loss becomes impossible until you raise your calories up and take a break from the diet.
Hint. The fatter somebody is, the more ‘’emergency’’ bodyfat stores they have. In this case, they could probably do a low calorie diet for quite a while before they experience these symptoms.
For guys, these dieting symptoms will be most noticeable when you are below 12- 15% bodyfat. For girls, it would be below 22%. Once you reach this level of leanness, losing fat needs to be done slowly and carefully. Otherwise, your body literally thinks it’s starving to death and your hormones start to go haywire.
So, now that you know roughly how many calories you should be eating, I need to tell you what those calories should consist of. The three Food Groups are Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats. Again, there’s a pretty simple formula to figure things out here.
To find out how much you require of each click the image below to download Performance Treanor’s definitive guide to how much protein, carbs and fat you need.