Topic 4 – How Many Calories Should I Eat Each Day?
As I said last week, there are a multitude of ways to determine how many calories your body needs during a regular day’s activities. Some methods are very simple. Some methods are very complex. In this week’s Blog, we are going to present the most accurate method that does not require you to have any special equipment or go to a clinic to provide measurements on your lean body mass. To be quite frank – it is highly unlikely, unless you are a professional athlete and your weight is your source of income – that you will count calories at every meal. It is more likely that you will get a ballpark understanding of what your daily calorie needs are and then have a ballpark understanding of how many calories you are consuming at each meal and throughout each day. This is a much more manageable long term solution than counting calories at each meal – in the real world, it is virtually impossible to do this at every meal and still live a normal life.
If you follow this “ballpark” method – and are not getting results after two or three weeks – you should delve into your calorific needs in more detail and also take a closer and more comprehensive look at the calories you are consuming at each meal. In all likelihood, if you are not getting results, you are either:
1) Underestimating the amount of calories you are consuming throughout the day; or
2) Overestimating your basal metabolic rate, activity level and how many maintenance calories your body needs to function.
This is the most common area where mistakes are made – you are just not aware of how many calories you are actually eating or you are overestimating your basal metabolic rate. If you fail to get results after a week or two (measure your results by how you fit in your pants, not by the scale – more on this in a later blog) it is extremely likely due to one of the above two reasons.
Calculating Your Basal Metabolic Rate and Maintenance Calorie Needs
Firstly, you want to calculate your daily calorie requirements for your particular gender, height, weight and age. This is your basal metabolic rate: the amount of calories you need to consume on a daily basis for your gender, height, weight and age.
Secondly, depending on whether you want to lose fat (for mesomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorph / endomorphs) or gain muscle (for ectomorphs, mesomorphs and ectomorphs / mesomorphs) you will then put yourself into a slight calorie deficit (to lose fat) or surplus (to gain muscle). Remember, you want to make the daily calorie deficit slight – 500 to 1,000 calories per day is the deficit you should be shooting for (unless you are a pure ectomorph and want to put on muscle – in this case, eat yourself silly with protein and complex carbohydrates and don’t go more than three hours without a meal, ever).
For those who want to lose weight and are on a 500 to 1,000 daily calorie deficit, you want to be losing 1 to 2 pounds per week maximum. Any more weight loss than this and you are likely creating a starvation response, losing muscle mass and decreasing your metabolic rate as a result. You must avoid such a situation at all costs as this means your weight loss is unsustainable and you are actually hurting your long-term weight loss goals. Remember the number one rule when losing weight is to preserve your muscle mass at all costs – even at the cost of not losing as much weight. If you don’t understand why this is so important, go back and read the previous blogs, which deal with this subject in great detail.