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how many calories should you eat per day?

Posted on February 1, 2020   |    By Lalo Rumayor

"How many calories should I eat per day?"

This is a really common question that is asked to me on a daily basis, but the answer to this question is: it depends, and a lot! Someone who is looking to lose weight will be required to consume less calories than someone who is looking to build muscle. This “amount of calories” will depend on your personal goals and even knowing your goals, the best that can be done is to get a rough estimate of the amount needed. This will be done by calculating our TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) which will be explained below. Before I get into the main purpose of this article, I will briefly explain to you a couple of nutrition terms so you can have a better understanding of what I will be talking about today. Don’t worry, no fancy science terms will be used. So let’s start!

Calories: Unit of energy. In nutrition, calories refer to the energy or fuel we receive from the foods or drinks we consume on a daily basis, or the energy we burn during physical activities.

Caloric Surplus: This means that the amount of calories consumed in one day will be higher than the amount of calories that our body burnt in that day, also known as TDEE. Caloric surplus is helpful when someone wants to increase muscle mass, which leads to the overall weight increase.

Caloric Deficit: This means that the amount of calories consumed is lower than the amount of calories that your body burns, again also known as your TDEE. Caloric Deficit is helpful when someone wants to burn fat, which leads to weight decrease.

Macronutrients: Nutrients that our body needs in large quantities. There are three major types of macronutrients: Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats. All of these nutrients provide the body with energy (calories).

Micronutrients: Nutrients that the body needs in smaller amounts. There are three major types of micronutrients: Vitamins, Minerals, and Water. These nutrients do not provide the body with energy (calories) but have other functions just as important as the macronutrients.

TDEE: This is known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure, which you may be able to guess by the name, is just the total amount of energy (calories) our body burns during a certain day.

BMR: This is known as Basal Metabolic Rate, which in short words, represents the number of calories your body burns at rest. This number is the minimum amount of calories your body needs in order to sustain life.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you would like to skip the “science behind it” and you already have a basic understanding of how the TDEE works, at the bottom of this article there is a TDEE calculator that I personally built using my basic programming skills haha! Go ahead and use it.

Perfect! Now that we know these terms, it will help us to identify our main goal, which is finding out how many calories you need! Once again, the calculations we will be making are just rough estimates, but they are pretty close to the actual value.

We will calculate our TDEE, this number will give us how many calories our body uses per day. Think about TDEE being the number of calories that your body needs to maintain its weight. Let’s say your TDEE is 2500 calories, if you eat 2500 calories daily, that means that you won’t gain or lose weight, you will maintain your current weight. If you eat more than 2500 calories, known as a caloric surplus, eventually you will gain weight. On the other hand, if you eat less than 2500, known as a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. Now, there are a lot of formulas out there to calculate your TDEE and most of them will give an accurate answer but in my opinion, the Harris-Benedict Equation is the most accurate. It uses your BMR, age, weight, height, and activity level.

We will start by calculating your BMR:

Men BMR = 66 + (13.7 X weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in yrs)

Women BMR = 655 + (9.6 X weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in yrs)

Let’s use myself as an example, I am 22 years old, I currently weigh 185 pounds and I am 5’6” tall. Keep in mind the calculations are done in the metric system and not imperial so that means we are going to have to do some conversions. 185 pounds is roughly 84 kilograms and 5 feet and 6 inches is roughly 170 centimeters. If you are unsure about your conversions, you can just google it.

Men BMR = 66 + (13.7 X 84) + (5 x 170) – (6.8 x 22)

Men BMR = 1917.2

So as a minimum, in order to sustain my life and live a healthy life, I would need to consume roughly 1920 calories daily. Please understand that you never want to eat below your BMR, even if your goal is to lose weight, 1920 calories is already low for a man like me. There is no necessity at all to eat below your BMR, you cause more harm than good by doing that.

Lastly, we will calculate our TDEE! The moment we have been waiting for, the “secret” number that will help us decide how many calories we should consume. It is really simple once you have calculated your BMR, all you have to do is multiply your BMR by one of these factors:

Sedentary (little to no exercise + work a desk job) = 1.2

Lightly Active (light exercise 1-3 days / week) = 1.375

Moderately Active (moderate exercise 3-5 days / week) = 1.55

Very Active (heavy exercise 6-7 days / week) = 1.725

Extremely Active (very heavy exercise, hard labor job, training 2x / day) = 1.9

Now, let’s go back to my own example where my BMR was 1920 calories. My current fitness program is to workout 5 times a week so I am going to use the Moderately Active factor which is 1.55

TDEE = BMR x Factor

TDEE = 1920 x 1.55

TDEE = 2976

So this means that in order to maintain my current weight I need to consume about 2980 calories. Please remember and keep in mind that the calculations are just estimates, your actual TDEE varies because we do different activities on our daily basis, some days we sleep longer than others, or do more or less exercise, etc. You are going to have to do trial and error and find what works for you, but this is an excellent starting guideline to follow when you try to figure out how many calories you should eat.

Also, remember that your TDEE is how many calories you need per day to maintain your current weight. Going back to the beginning, if you are someone who is trying to lose weight, you would like to eat below your TDEE, which means to be in a caloric deficit. A good guideline to follow is to reduce your TDEE by 15%. In this case, 15% of 2976 is 446 so all we have to do is subtract 446 from 2976 which gives us a total of 2530 calories. This is the amount of calories I would need to consume if I wanted to lose around 1.5 pounds a week. Someone who is trying to build muscle mass would like to be on a caloric surplus, which means to eat more calories than your TDEE. A good guideline to follow to maximize muscle gain and minimize fat gain is to increase your TDEE by 10%, in this case, 10% of 2976 is roughly 300 calories, so all we do is add 300 to 2976 which ends up being 3276 calories.

That’s it! This is how we answer the question: “How many calories should I eat per day?”. In the next article, we will talk about how to change those calories into macronutrients which is just as important as figuring out how many calories to eat. In the meantime, if you found this information useful, We would appreciate if you could share this article with someone who you think would benefit from this information. Thank you!

-Coach Lalo Rumayor.

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