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A Practical Approach to Calculating your Maintenance Calories.

From the last post in relation to the energy balance equation I see it fit to discuss how we can go about calculating our maintenance calories. I will attempt to discuss a short yet practical approach that should be easy to understand for most.

Firstly, I recommend that you track everything you consume in detail for 2 weeks. If you cannot count macros, it can be a useful skill to learn but I will also go over in another section. You will need a food scale and it’s recommended preparing most of the food yourself as well as using pre-packages items with the macronutrient profiles on the labelling. Even though these have variances and can fluctuate, we aren’t going to be 100% accurate unless you’re willing to live as a robot; debatable but not practical. You can also use an app such as MyFitnessPal to log the data so you can establish you daily intake of food.

Secondly in regards to bodyweight, you also need to take have a scale to weigh yourself every morning after using the washroom. Do so without any clothing on. Preferably around the same time and eating the same type of foods to minimize fluctuation in water weight. Keep track of it.

After the 2 week period, take the average of both weeks’ bodyweight figure separately.

If the difference between week 1 and week 2 averages is zero, it means your weight is the same so this is a roughly where your daily maintenance calories is at.

If you would have gained weight, then take this number and multiply it by 3500.
Then divide the new figure by 7, as this would have been your daily average surplus.
Then take the average daily caloric intake and subtract your daily average surplus.
This is your estimated maintenance

If you would have lost weight, then take this number and multiply it by 3500.
Then divide the new figure by 7, as this would have been your daily average deficit.
Then take the average daily caloric intake and add to your daily average deficit.
This is your estimated maintenance.

Example:

  Sun MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT Avg Weight Change Total Cals
Week 1 179 179 179 180 181 180 180 179.71 2500
Week 2 180 181 182 180 181 181 180 180.71 1.00 2500

In the example above, the subject gained 1 pound. This means you then multiple the weekly changes in this case 1 by 3500 and divides by 7. The daily surplus would be 500, so maintenance would be roughly 2000.

If we saw a drop, it means we would do the opposite and add it to the hypothetical deficit for our estimated daily maintenance calories.

There are many calculators out there that make it confusing. Sometimes it’s a good place to start for a ballpark figure but most times very inaccurate due to individual differences in TDEE, lifestyle factors and difficulty of estimating body fat percentages for the average person. What seems to be a good average is 14-16 cal/BW. So multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 14-16.This can give a good ballpark figure and you can start here to adjust via the practical approach mentioned above.

Important to note, the composition of these total daily calories is also important in regards to splitting it accurately for your goals going forward. This being how we split total calories between protein, fats and carbohydrate combined with sufficient fiber and micronutrients. This is also another topic that will be discussed separately in detail.

This practical approach can also be used for those who are currently in either a weight loss or weight gaining phase. There are times that it is needed to revert back to eating at maintenance for different reasons. In a caloric deficit, after extended periods, diet fatigue kicks in as well as metabolic adaptations take place. I will definitely cover this in detail but raising calories to maintenance levels for even 2 days can help retain fat free mass and help retain resting metabolic rate as we saw in a recent study. Questionable results but it adds to our pool of knowledge to be able to practically implement. We also know that diet breaks can have a positive effect and can be added allow us to eat more in a controlled state at your estimated maintenance levels for atleast a week. It can be used to eat more on harder training days during a caloric deficit and even paired with deload periods where we can reduce training an up food intake to help drop accumulated fatigue faster.
Additionally during a massing phase or caloric surplus, it can help to bring food (and training) down to maintenance at periods to help reset our ability to want to eat. During these phases of weight gain, the desire to eat drops since we are pushing past out natural body’s setpoint. Our body senses a high food intake and naturally it becomes hard to continuously eat more and more as we lose appetite. These periods are the helpful.

All we need to know is how much we are taking in and how it affected our average weight gain/loss so we can effectively adjust back to the estimated maintenance for the required period using the method above.
I hope this was helpful and I will follow up with some more articles that will expand on some of the points I touched on.
Do like and share as it helps get the information out there as well as supports us to be able to put out more content. Feel free to book a consultation with us in regards to any of our services offered and we will be happy to work with you. Thank you for reading.

-Varoon Seepersad

Study reference:
Intermittent Energy Restriction Attenuates the Loss of Fat Free Mass in Resistance Trained Individuals. A Randomized Controlled Trial. https://www.mdpi.com/2411-5142/5/1/19/htm

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