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How Many Calories Do YOU Need?

Calories can make your head explode. Not literal, Big Trouble In Little China head explode… but maybe “Ain’t nobody got time for that” explode. Net calories, deficits, calorie burn, calorie macros, calorie timing, surplus… I’m breaking a sweat just typing it all out.

So let’s forget all the calorie noise for just a minute and keep it simple: Calories are simply a measurement of energy your body uses in relation to the food you eat.  It’s what energizes your eating, breathing, working out and generally everything it takes to keep you alive and operational.

That calorie energy is where people get into “fat” problems because your body is AWESOME at storage. Consume too many calories–and it doesn’t matter what you eat- fat, protein or carbs- eat too many and your body throws those excess calories into storage- AKA, Fat (or if you’re feeling sciency… adipose tissue) to use when it thinks times are  tough. And as we know, your body can be turned into a pretty big energy storage container. On the opposite end, if you don’t use all the calories your body needs, it begins tapping those fat storage containers (fat cells and in other cases, muscle and muscle glycogen) to get what it needs. Go too far on either spectrum and you’re looking at trouble. Too many you’ll get fat, too few for too long and you’ll slow your metabolism down to the point you feel like you’re standing still. Or worse, flirt with anorexia and death.

So How Many Calories Should I Eat?

Ideally, you’d like to get to the point you don’t have to track calories, right? That kind of obsession free, calorie-valhalla usually happens you’re eating whole foods and your body is regulating itself because you’ve trained it to eat right and crave the right things.

Reaching that level of calorie Zen takes some training if you’ve lived a life of crap eating, so counting calories (cringe) is the system where a little nutritional adding and subtracting helps us understand and generally get our eating aligned with our goals. Eventually, if you’re diligent in eating the right things, you won’t have to count- you’ll just “get it”.

All that out of the way, you need to know how many calories are right for you. There’s a few calculations but this one is easy and very “ballpark” and very laid back. And that’s what we want, right?

Begin by choosing what you do most of the day:

Sedentary (IE- desk job, professional TV watcher, gamer, Statue of Liberty street performer): Current weight x 12.

Somewhat Active (IE- on your feet at your job, watching the kids, a regular skipper, working out to Hip Hop Abs every day): Current weight x 13

Hyperactive (IE- you’re building houses, loading boxes, doing 100 pushups on the hour for fun… or you’re doing P90X/Insanity/Asylum): Current weight x 14

What you get there will be your maintenance calories- the calorie range that will keep you at your current weight without gaining any more. Want to lose some weight? Reduce that number by 500. Want to add some mass? Add about 300 calories.

You’ll find this will match up pretty closely with Harris/Benedict type calorie equations but remember– this is ballpark which means these are NOT hard and fast numbers but rather a good place to start making some progress.

calories-insertWhen Should I Change My Calories?

When what you’re doing stops working. Seriously- this approach gets you to look at calories but honestly, don’t lose sleep or obsess over it. Don’t jump into the zig-zagging and other gimmicks. We’re out to avoid the explodign head thing, remember?

Just keep it simple, eat the right things and see how things progress over the course of a couple weeks. After all, these are “ballpark”. They’re not absolute and can/will change over time– maybe even sooner than later. You’re not a calculator after all- you have outside influences which can effect your visual results so take it steady and have patience but be willing to adjust. we’re finding what’s right FOR YOU.

Not dropping weight? Subtract a couple hundred calories for a week or two.

Still not working? Well, we’re not going for starvation so let’s bump those calories up a bit beyond your previous start point.

In the mean time, keep track of what you’re eating- that can play a part too. Too much fat can throw you off and get your numbers all jacked up (fat has 9 calories to protein/carbs 4). Too many sugars can be spiking your insulin, reducing fat loss impact. The list goes on.

The trick is to simply eat good, whole food in equal amounts that reach your calorie goals. Eat a piece of chicken, eat some quinoa, have a salad. Rinse and repeat the same basic structure (aka- protein and equal/slightly less carbs with a bit of healthy fat). Pretty easy AND provides balance without going to far in any direction.

Calories aren’t a mystery and shouldn’t be over thought. The trick is eating the right calories FOR YOU- and with a few tweaks here and there while using your nutrition guide as a blueprint, you’ll get to where you need to be.

Questions? Feel free to email me here or at dan@howdoigetfit.com. I make it a point to respond because not getting feedback is overrated. What’s not overrated? Fitness support. If you’re looking for it and want to become part of a larger, kick-butt community, you can make me your (free) Beachbody Coach right here. 

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