How many calories should I eat?

Nutrition has been a hot topic with clients and friends this last week. Nutrition is complex – leading to confusion – leading to feelings of being overwhelmed. I am going to take this opportunity to educate! My posts will appear in workable chunks – but this does not equate easy!

You do the workouts and you put in the work. You think you are eating all the right foods but you are not achieving your goals. It’s probably time to dissect your nutrition plan. Maybe you are eating too much of a good thing (peanut butter?). Maybe you are restricting yourself too much and not eating enough, or too often, or not often enough.

NOTE: the following nutrition plan is specifically for rapid fat loss. This is NOT intended for athletic training or for a sustainable lifestyle change. Following fat loss, it will be critical to adjust your required caloric intake accordingly and transition into a maintenance plan.

Step 1 – Determine your calorie range

The first step to fine tuning your nutrition plan is to figure out your maintenance calorie range (a number close to what you would need to keep weight and fat at a specific set point).  This number will be approximately 13-15 calories per pound of body weight. People with slower metabolisms should use the lower number (CAUTION: DO NOT ASSUME THIS IS YOU). If you are looking to lose weight, it’s important to stay within a 20% calorie deficit from your maintenance number or you increase the possibility of putting your body into a starvation mode.  On the opposite end, if you stray above a 20% calorie excess, weight gain could occur.

Example: 170 lb female with a slow metabolism

Bodyweight x (13-15) = maintenance calories

170 lb x 13 = 2210 maintenance calories

Decrease by 20% to start fat loss

2210 x 0.8 = 1768 calories

Step 2 – Your macronutrient needs

Once you have calculated the number of calories needed for fat loss, you need to calculate macronutrient numbers. For the first four weeks of the nutrition plan calories should be allocated as follows: 50% carbohydrates (CHO), 30% protein, and 20% fat.  Based upon your metabolic type and desired fat loss, you may decide that you need a little less CHO and more protein and/or fat. The preferred way of determining effectiveness of the nutrition plan is to monitor body composition and circumference measurements.

Since protein will initially make up 30% of your total calories you will multiply the calorie level you have figured out by .30 to get the amount of protein in your diet. One gram of protein = 4 calories. You will also want to do this with your CHO which are also 4 calories a gram and fat which is 9 calories a gram. By the way alcohol is 7 calories per gram. Divide these products by 5 or 6 meals.

Note: If you calculate your calories as specified and your amount of protein is less than 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight, then you will want to change your macronutrient percentages, increasing the amount of protein. You don’t want to go below the recommended 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight while on a fat loss plan.

Example: 170 pound female starting at 1768 calories

Protein = 1768 x .30 = 530.4 Kcal/4= 132.6 g protein (27 g/meal)

CHO = 1768 x .50 = 884 kcal/4 = 221 g of CHO (44g/meal)

Fat = 1768 x .20 = 353.6 kcal/9 = 39.3 g of fat (8g/meal)

Since the protein is 133 g/day, you will need to adjust the amount of protein because it is less than 0.8 g/lb of bodyweight. The suggested amount of protein should be 136 g (0.8 x 170 = 136). Simply pull the 3 grams from the CHO.

Example: 1768 kcal protein adjustment

Protein – 31% = 136 g/5 = 27 g/meal

CHO – 49% = 217 g/5 = 43 g/meal

Fat – 20% = 39.3 g/5 = 8 g/meal

Need some help with the math, contact me and I’ll plug your information into my handy dandy calculator I made in Excel. Not sure what is a protein, CHO, or fat? Don’t guess. I will gladly help you determine what is what.

The bottomline…

I am happy to help you determine your caloric needs – but I highly recommend you do your own calculations. It is empowering. It is enlightening. And most importantly, it increases your understanding! Take some time to understand this information and let me know if I can help you along the way.

Lastly, before you take my or any nutrition advice I recommend you read, Nutrition advice: Where do you go? As I have mentioned, fitness professionals have some nutrition training, but not enough to provide individualized nutrition assessments and counseling.  I have gone above and beyond to educate myself and I want to share this knowledge with you. However, personalized advice MUST come from an RD.


6 thoughts on “How many calories should I eat?

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