How Much Should I Eat?
Written by: Coach Slater
First of all, know that this is complex question which can’t be accurately estimated via an article, so this piece is just giving you a ballpark so you can have an intelligent conversation with a Coach.
Ok with that said, a place you can start is by determining how many calories you already burn in a day. If you eat the exact number of calories you need each day, you will maintain your current weight. If you eat less than what you need, you will lose weight. And if you eat more calories than you need, you will gain weight / muscle. It’s not as simple as calories in = calories out, but this is a good starting point.
How Many Calories Do I Burn in a Day?
We’ll need to look at your physical activity, both in the gym and out, as well as how much energy your body needs just to fuel your your organs, tissues, and cells. There are many online calculators for figuring this out, and they’re all within a reasonable percentage of each other, so you really can’t go too wrong if you google “BMR (basal metabolic rate) calculator”. But, try this one as it takes an average of many different models for a more accurate number: Here
You can also estimate it yourself using one of these formulas:
Women: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161
Men: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
*note: 1 inch = 2.54 cm and 1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs.
Figuring Your Activity Factor
Next, you’ll want to fine-tune how much energy you actually expend working out and just walking around in a normal day. Do you stand or walk a lot? Are you super fidgety? All of these factors are important to consider when you estimate how active you are. Based on your self assessment, use the chart below to find the right activity factor for you:
Slightly Active – 1.375 – Exercise or Light Sports 1 to 3 Days a Week, Light Jogging or Walking 3 to 4 Days a Week. Choose this if your workouts are kinda light for now so that you don’t break out into a sweat.
Lightly Active – 1.425 – Exercise or Moderate Sports 2 to 3 Days a Week, Light Jogging or Walking 5 to 7 Days a Week. Choose this if you are working out a few days or more each week and breaking a light sweat.
Moderately Active – 1.55 – Physical Work, Exercise, or Sports 4 to 5 Days a Week, Construction Laborer. Choose this if you are working out multiple days a week and breaking into a full sweat.
Very Active – 1.75 – Heavy Physical Work, Exercise, or Sports 6 to 7 Days a Week, Hard Laborer. Choose this if you are working out a little more frequently than above and breaking into a full sweat, but also work a physically demanding job.
After picking a category, you’d calculate the total amount of calories you need each day by multiplying your BMR and your activity factor to get your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This is the amount you would need to eat every day to maintain your current weight. Again, if you maintain this physical activity level inside- and outside-the-gym, and if you eat less than this TDEE number, then you should lose weight. Eat more, you should gain weight / muscle.
Let’s see two examples:
Joe is 225lb, 35-year-old male who works a desk job and is looking to lose about 25 pounds this year so he can get back to his college weight. He’s slightly active, giving him an activity factor of 1.375 and a TDEE of 3,403 calories per day to maintain his current weight (2,475 calories x 1.375 activity factor = 3,403)
Jenny is a 26-year-old female graduate student, who’s moderately active and works out hard in classes 4 days/week and wants to lose about 15 pounds for her upcoming wedding in 4 months. She has an activity factor of 1.55 and has a TDEE of 2,480 calories per day to maintain her current weight (1,600 calories x 1.4 activity factor = 2,480)
There’s a starting point for you to figure out how much to eat and how much you’re burning. I’ll follow-up with another article about portion sizes so you can figure out how to meet these numbers. Again, this is just informational and you’ll need to personally fine-tune these formulas to make them most effective for you. We just want you to start thinking about how much energy you’re really expending. If you’d like more assistance, contact us about personalized Nutrition Coaching.
Kansas State University, Physical Activity and Controlling Weight
Wikipedia, Harris-Benedict Equation