How many times have you Googled “How many calories do I need to lose weight?”
I’m telling you if you have, you’re not alone, it’s a popular question, and what we are going to do here is help you find your answer!
There are numerous calorie calculators out there, and all give varying degrees of answers, and to be honest, I don’t recommend them.
You see, calorie calculators can give you a ballpark at best, but they don’t take into considering YOU as an individual, and there are maaaaaaaaany things that will play a role in how many calories you need to lose weight. Now some will give you an idea, but I’ve seen the margin of error off as much as 900 calories (on average, I see about a 400 calorie difference between where they are suggested vs. where you need to be).
I’m not a fan of this because it’s like Googling “how much money does (insert title or position) make?” Again the range is all over the place, and this can lead you down the wrong path and to a bad experience.
Now with all that said, yes, I have used them in the past but let me tell you the try and true method for finding out how many calories you need to be eating.
Yes, yes, I know I know. Tracking sucks; you may not want to track. Well, if you want YOUR body’s answer, then you’ll need to track. If you go to a dr or an RD (registered dietician) or any kind of nutritionist, you will have to track.
Think of it this way; it’s hard to know what we as coaches or nutrition experts need to do if we don’t know where we are at or what’s going on.
The great thing is that you don’t have to do it forever; I’ve found that 4-6 weeks of tracking can dial you in tight on where you need to be, but don’t be surprised to find your number in as little as 2-3 weeks.
How to Track
I’d recommend using an app such as MyFitnessPal or Cronometer because of the simple reason you can take a picture of the bar code on the food, and it will fill out most of the information for you.
What you are going to do is:
-Weigh or measure yourself on Day 1
-Track EVERYTHING you eat and drink for 7 days
-On day 7, weigh/measure yourself again
-Write down the changes, if any.
-Continue tracking for the next 7 days & weigh/measure yourself again on day 14
-Write down any changes in weight or body fat
-Lastly, here is the most important part… average the calories that you ate for the past 2 weeks.
You will notice 1 of 3 things:
- You stayed the exact same, which means you have found your caloric maintenance number (the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight)
- You lost weight
- You gained weight
Once you find your number, here is what I want you to do, depending on your goals.
Your Goal is Weight Loss
If you are trying to lose weight, the goal is still to eat as much as possible; I mean, you do NOT want to cut out all food; that would just suck, lol. But you have TWO options.
- Increase the number or length of workouts (this can be adding an extra day or just going longer)
- Decrease the amount of food you eat by about 10-15%. Any more than that tends to get much harder, and your risk of falling off the wagon really increases.
Once you decide to increase workouts or eat less, repeat the tracking process for two weeks and reassess from there.
Your Goal is to Gain Weight
This one is pretty simple; just eat more! Yeah yeah, people may hate you, lol, but in all seriousness gaining QUALITY weight is just as important as losing QUALITY weight. I’d recommend a 20% increase in the forms of GOOD calories, not crap.
Once you do that, track your food again for 14 days, repeating the process from above, and make your adjustments from there.
Your Goal is to Maintain Weight
This is the easiest one of all; you’re done, you’re there!
If you want to pick something to do, you can switch up the foods you eat. Getting rid of more processed foods, if you do that, and subbing in for more natural foods such as lean meats, veggies, good carbs, etc.
If you want to get extra nerdy, then you can try changing up your macro ratios (protein carbs and fats) to find what feels best to you. I’ll save this one for another blog post.
Some Questions You May Have
- Why track for 14 days before making changes instead of 7? 9 times out of 10, when you start tracking, you’re going to make subconscious diet changes, and these little changes will influence water weight which is what a lot of people tend to see in their first week of tracking or any new diet. That initial water weight drop can screw with your real number or expectations, so when you go for 14 days, you’ll see most of that initial waste and water drop gone and get a more accurate number to start.
- Is it better to eat less or workout more? I’m biased, but working out more is typically best because one, I love to eat; two, the more nutrients I give my body, the better. I stress nutrients, not just food.
- How long should I track? The longer, the better because what you are looking for are trends and averages, and the more days you have tracked, the more dialed in you can get your actual number.
- Can I just start with a calorie calculator? Most def you can! But you’re still going to need to track to make sure you’re hitting your numbers and what adjustments you’re going to need to make.
Here at RTC
One of the ways we get people in ridiculous shape is we are big believers in tracking numbers. We help you track your calories, and we track measurements (body fat is what we stress the most), and from there, we can make the tweaks and dials to your diet.
Whenever we have a person who wants to get ready for a photoshoot, competition, or just wants to look absolutely amazing for bathing suit season, WE always have them track. Every single time they get exactly where they want to go.
Remember, what gets tracked gets measured, and what gets measured gets improved.
If you’re having a hard time doing this on your own and want a bit more guidance, then click the Get Started button at the top, and let’s chat.
In Health and Awesomeness,
Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.
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