Updated: Jan 4, 2019
This is a very common question we all ask ourselves when we first start our journey. How much food should I be eating or how many calories should I be consuming? This would lead to asking, what is my macro intake?
This post is meant to be a guide to finding your individual amount of caloric and macro intake depending on both yourself and your goal.
My goal is to make this as simple as possible. The more I am getting to know the principles of nutrition the more I have learned to love simplicity.
The amount of food you should be eating will depend solely on YOU and your GOALS.
We are all different individuals! Our body type is unique, therefore it will react differently from your sister, friend, significant other or coach, etc. So you cannot eat the same amount as anyone else.
Let’s start from the beginning with some basic nutritional scientific principles, so we are all on the same page.
The first piece of information we should be familiar with, is that everything comes down to calories in v. calories out.
What this simply means is that if your goal is to lose fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit (eat less than your maintenance level) and if you want to gain weight you want to be in a caloric surplus (eat more than your maintenance level). This is essentially the goal to be able to manipulate our body composition.
So, how do we take this and apply it to our diet?
Well, before we keep moving forward to the good stuff, we need to know this second piece of valuable information. There is 3500 calories per pound of fat. Remember this, we will need it later on.
HOW TO CALCULATE THE RIGHT NUMBER OF CALORIES FOR MY BODY?
Now, that we know this crucial information, we can focus on finding out what our maintenance caloric intake is, because this is truly where the puzzle begins.
There are two ways of finding this specific number.
You will need to figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate and Total Daily Energy Expenditure .
What is BMR: Basal Metabolic Rate- a rate at which your body uses energy when you are resting (what keeps you alive).
Please note we never want to eat below our BMR. This contributes to metabolic damage and we don’t want this! To find your BMR you will need your age, height, current weight, and body fat percentage.
What is TDEE: Total Daily Energy Expenditure - This includes all daily activities and represents your total daily caloric expenditure (any daily activity). This is your maintenance calories to maintain your weight and muscle.
Why are these two things important? These two things are very important because this will help us determine how much we need to eat if we are aiming to lose fat, maintain weight, or gain muscle.
To find out these two factors, we can use a formula calculator like the Harris Benedict Formula .
Once you have figured this out, your caloric deficit or caloric surplus should be based upon your TDEE and not your BMR. You can continue to use the Harris Benedict Formula to get the number of calories you will need for your individual intake and then find out your macro intake.
You can use this simpler way.
Your TDEE (maintenance calories) is still going to be needed. Instead, of using a formula calculator, you can follow what Lyle McDonald (the author of the Flexible Dieting book) does to figure out maintenance calories.
You take 14-16 calories per pound (lb) of your body weight to figure out your total calories you need for maintenance (TDEE).
So, if you are a female, I would use the lower number (14), and if you are a male, I would use the higher number (16) or if you just want to be in the middle then go for (15).
For instance, let’s take a male, and call him Max.
Max weighs 210 lbs., so we will take his weight of 210 lbs and multiply by 16.
210 X 16 = 3,360 maintenance calories
This will be the calories his body needs to keep his weight and muscle mass.
Once we figure this out, then this is where your goal comes into play.
Let’s say Max’s goal is to lose fat, which is the goal most of us have when we are first starting our fitness journey.
For Max to lose fat, he will take his 3,360 calories (maintenance calories) and go into a caloric deficit.
This is where I am going to see if you were paying attention at the beginning of this post. Remember when I said we need to know this second piece of valuable information, there is 3500 calories per pound of fat?
Well, the moment has come and we are going to need this piece of information to move forward.
We have 7 days in a week. If we do some math: 3500 / 7= 500 calories
This means that for Max to lose fat, he will need to subtract 500 calories from his daily maintenance calories (3360 – 500= 2860 calories), which in turn will make him lose 1lb of fat a week.
However, I do want to point out that, realistically, Max might not lose exactly 1lb each week, so don’t freak out if you don’t hit the 1 lb perfectly on the scale and you are only losing .5 lbs. This can be because of many factors like water weight, sodium, and hormonal changes just to name a few.
So, here we have it guys, this is how to figure out your overall calories.
Next step is…
HOW TO CALCULATE THE RIGHT NUMBER OF MACROS FOR MY BODY?
We are still focusing on Max’s goal of losing fat, so we need the following pieces of the puzzle. To figure out our Macros, we first need to learn what is the calories per gram of a
CARBS: 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
FAT: 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
PROTEIN: 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
ALCOHOL: 1 gram of alcohol = 9 calories
Secondly, we need to know these calculations:
Fat: .2 - .5 gram per lb
Protein: .825 – 1.0 gram per lb
Carb: Rest of calories
These numbers and calculations are based on scientific literature to show what is best for body composition and health.
Now that we know all the calculations, we will take Max’s caloric deficit calories and begin calculating away.
To determine his macro intake, we will take:
210 X .3 grams of fat = 63g (65)
210 X 1 grams of protein= 210g
Carbs will use rest of calories
So, to figure out the remaining of Carbs we will do the following:
63g (rounding it off) 65g of X 9= 567 calories
210g X 4= 840 calories
We have figured out that Max has a total of 1,407 calories between his fats and protein. We also know that his overall caloric deficit intake is 2,860 calories.Last step is to take 2,860 calories minus 1,407 calories (Fat + Protein) = 1,453 calories of carbs. Now, we can take 1,453 / 4= 360 grams of carb intake.
Max’s final Macro intake, to lose fat will be 360g Carbs/ 210 g Protein/ 65g Fat
Great! Now, that Max knows his individual caloric and macro intake. He can begin to plan his meals, whether he chooses to meal prep for a day or a week in advance or simply would like to fit a nice yummy Banana Protein Muffin recipe into his day of eating to achieve his food intake goals.
He will do the following:
Banana Protein Muffin Nutritional Info:
SERVINGS: 1 serving
Once he knows the above he can easily track his remaining macros by subtracting his muffin macro from his overall macros.
Carbs: 360g-34g = 326g left
Fats: 65g-8g = 57g left
Protein: 210g-12g = 198g left
This will help Max stay organized and consistent with his routine. It’ll push him closer to his ultimate and personal goal of losing fat!
There we have it guys! This is how to figure out how much to eat based on your own individual goals and overall body type.
I hope you found this helpful! Please feel free to message me here or send me an email if you have any more questions. I’ll be happy to answer them!
Don't forget to stretch, drink lots of water and don't you dare to dim your light today.
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