By now you probably know that you should have a rough general awareness of how many calories you take in each. Regardless of whether you count your calories down to measuring each individual crumb or just use portion size guidelines, knowing the amount of pie you’re cramming in your pie hole is a good thing. But do you know how to find out if you’re eating too many or too few calories? There is a way, but it involves math. However, I suck at math, so I’m gonna show you some calculators today.
Your BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate, is a number you need to be extremely familiar with. This number defines your base metabolism, or the amount of energy you use to exist each day. And I do mean just to exist. This number is the amount of calories burned if you literally laid in bed all day – did not get up to pee, drink, eat, anything. This number is based on your age, height, weight, and gender.
It is important to know this number because you must never eat below it Simba. Ever. Not even if there’s a fire. This is the number of calories you need to survive, son, so keep thriving and eat them!
I use the Bodybuilding.com calculator for this specific calculation, but it’s a very specific formula that any calculator found on Google should be able to accurately use for you.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE is the total amount of energy you use in a day. The number of calories found here is an average based on your self reported daily activity. So, this number is an estimate, as we all know self reporting can be unreliable and plans for exercise can change. Knowledge of this number is a useful tool, but it you need to remember it will never be 100% accurate.
Still, knowing this number can help you decide roughly where your calories should be. Again Bodybuilding.com’s calculator is a good resource.
You know how many calories you should never go below, and you know around how many you are burning daily. From here we play a game of trial and error based on your goals.
Fat Loss: Eat 80-90% of your TDEE number. After 4 weeks, check in. If you are noticing the scale weight and body fat test numbers going down, keep doing what you’re doing. If they stay the same or go up, eat fewer calories.
Maintain: Eat the same number of calories as your TDEE. After 4 weeks, check in. Your weight naturally fluctuates +/- 5 lbs fairly often based on when you weigh, water intake, time of the month (for women), etc. so don’t be too alarmed if you see this fluctuation. If you have lost more fat or your scale weight has gone down more than that, eat more. If you have gained more fat or your scale weight has gone up more than that, eat less.
Muscle Gain (Bulk): Eat 105-110% of your TDEE calories. After 4 weeks, check in. You will likely see a small body fat increase, but if you see a moderate to high increase, eat less. If you are not gaining scale weight, eat more.