How to Calculate Your Calories for Weight Loss
If you’re starting a fat loss journey and have decided to start tracking calories, you’ve probably used a fitness app or online calculator to calculate your calorie needs for weight loss. And let me guess it gave you the shockingly low number of 1,200-1,300 calories? I’m not sure how this range keeps popping up in the fitness space, this calorie range is appropriate for a toddler, not an adult. This number likely isn’t even covering your basal metabolic needs like breathing and blood circulation, so why would it be enough to cover your day to day activities?
So what’s the alternative to figuring out your calorie needs for weight loss? Track all of your food for a week so that you get a good estimate for your maintenance calories . I know, I know, this might sound tedious. But if you want great results, you want to get great data. Don’t modify your eating behavior for the purpose of this self-study because then you won’t get accurate information. What I frequently tell my clients is, I don’t want you on your best behavior during week 1 of tracking. If you intentionally eat less than you normally do, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The data won’t be representative of your eating behavior.
For week 1 of my 12 week BBSD program, I tracked everything I ate to get an idea of how much I was actually eating. I cook most of my meals so that made tracking a lot easier. We did have a couple of social events, so for those meals I found a restaurant that had similar items and plugged that in.
After a week, I averaged about 3,000 calories of food per day. 3,000 vs. one calculator’s 1,740 recommendation is a massive difference. If I started eating 1,740 calories, of course I’d lose weight. I’d also be pretty hungry and out of hunger would probably end up binging and then put all of that weight back on. This is why so many people rebound. They go extreme with their new program and can’t or don’t want to sustain that kind of lifestyle.
Your week one of weight loss is to do absolutely nothing different other than to track all of your food. Get a quality food scale, learn how to use it, and track the food you’re about to eat. If you’re going out to eat and can’t find the nutritional information on the calorie tracking app, find a similar restaurant that has the information and use their menu items.
Once you have all of the data, calculate the average, and this will be your baseline for your current maintenance needs. This would also be a good time to step on a scale and take your body measurements (biceps, chest, was it, hips, thighs and calves). In order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit either through your food intake, exercise or a combination of the two.
In order to create a calorie deficit that’s sustainable, you need to make sure that your maintenance calories are in a good place. If you’re starting your weight loss journey at 1,800 calories and have over 10 lbs to lose, your dieting calories may be too low for it to be sustainable. If your maintenance calories are too low, consider reverse dieting and building up your calories before cutting. Once you’re ready to cut, I recommend cutting slowly at 5-10% and monitoring what happens to your body.
If this all sounds complicated, then I highly encourage you to work with a coach that can guide you through the intricacies of calorie and macronutrient recommendations. If you’re interested in working with me, please email me at email@example.com.
Please note that I am not a registered dietician or physician. Before making any changes to your nutrition or fitness program, please consult your physician.