Before you start moving in any direction – putting on weight or trying to lose it – you first need to determine where you are.
It all starts with maintenance (how many calories you need to maintain your current weight within a 2-4lbs).
Step 1: Figure out your BMR.
BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate, a fancy term for the amount of calories it would take to maintain your body weight if you were to enter some type of bear-like hibernation, not moving at all.
There are a few different formulas for figuring this out, but since the numbers are going to have to be adjusted based on real world results, keeping it simple as pie works best, and this calculator does just that: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/
Step 2: Factor in activity
Using the number you got from the calculator, you would now factor in your activity in order to arrive at that maintenance number: ====> activity multipliers.
BMR = 2120
I train 2-3 days per week, walking an hour 2-3x a week, but other than that I’m not very active & am either training clients or sitting at the computer (aka not much activity). I’d then check the activity multiplier chart and see which one best fit in with current situation.
2120 (BMR) x 1.375 (multiplier) = 2915 calories
Note: The activity multipliers can sometimes spit out a number that’s a bit too high (which it is for me in the above instance), so don’t be afraid to use a lower number that’s not on the page. Test for 2-3 weeks & adjust on based on results.
I feel my number is a bit too high given my activity, so I played with the numbers and below are my adjusted calculations.
2120 (BMR) x 1.28 (adjusted multiplier) = 2714 calories
Step 3: Adjust For Goals
Now that I have my theoretical baseline, I can now plot out my training day and off day calories.
In my case, I’m going for straight up fat loss at the expense of everything else – muscle or strength gains are not in my plans at all. If I gain any of those two, it will simply be icing on the cake. The goal is to maintain what strength I do have until I’m done dieting down.
With that determined, I subtracted 500ish calories from my maintenance calories to determine workout day calorie intake (2195) and a little more than 1,000 calories from to determine my off day calorie intake (1660).
As you can see, I’m venturing pretty far from my maintenance levels, adding up to a pretty big calorie deficit. Please note that the bigger the deficit, the smarter you need to be about diet breaks and refeeds (check here for a great explanation as to what those are and why they’re important).
It all comes down to this: how fast do you want it, and how much of a deficit can you handle day in and day out?
I wouldn’t recommend big deficits like this for someone who is prone to food binges – slow and steady often is the best way to go in those cases.
For someone looking to lose fat at a slower pace (or increase strength and muscle mass), they would ease up on the big calorie deficit and add more calories to both their training days and off days, adjusting based on their results.
Step 4: Fill in with macros
Note: scroll down to the bottom of this post to see my macros & calorie intake.
Protein: 1 gram/lb of body weight is a decent starting point for fat loss, but in order to ensure maintenance of muscle mass I like to go a bit higher (1.1 – 1.2 grams/lb of body weight). The further you venture from maintenance (and the longer you’re in those periods) the more protein you’re going to need to make sure you don’t end up a smaller version of your former self at the end of the dieting process. This means your intake could vary anywhere from 1.1 – 1.5 grams/lb of body weight.
I set mine at 1.15 for the sake if ease and comfort.
Fat: I love eggs, cheese, ice cream, full fat dairy, bacon and fattier cuts of meat, and on a diet I would much rather have more of these than loads of potatoes, pasta & rice, and my macros reflect this as I skewed my numbers more towards fat on both training and off days. Coupled with all the protein, it helps keep me full longer and just tastes downright delicious.
Carbs: This was a personal preference decision. Large amount of carbs make me sleepy, even fruit if I eat way too much of it at once, so I kept them relatively low on my training days and very low on my off days, allowing me to enjoy more delicious fat while still getting in just enough to make sure that my workouts are productive and adequate recovery still takes place. Since I’m refeeding once a week, this isn’t a problem for me.
In general, you want to cycle your carbohydrates, having more of them when they’re needed (workout days) and less of them when you don’t (off days). As a result, fat also generally decreases significantly on workout days and increases on off days.
Questions? Concerns? Mean comments that make me want to go cry in the corner for all eternity? Drop them below in the comment section!