By: Chris Huber
This is a quick(ish) rundown on the basics of figuring out your caloric intakes. This is what is known as Flexible Dieting.
First step is estimating your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). There are more scientific ways that do this, but for our purposes the easiest way to do it is use an online calculator. Google BMR calculator and input your height/weight/age/etc and it will spit an average number out at you. This is the number of calories that you burn in a day without doing a bit of exercise.
Next, you need to keep track of your actual exercise throughout the day. You can estimate this with more online tools, phone apps, activity trackers like the FitBit bands, or use a heart rate monitor when you workout.
With these two pieces of info you can figure out your maintenance caloric intake (also called TDEE for Total Daily Energy Expenditure). (BMR + Daily Activity)
So we know our maintenance level. From here it’s based on your goals. Want to drop weight, eat 500 calories less than maintenance every day. Trying to bulk, eat 500 more calories every day. Trying to maintain, well (duh) eat at maintenance then.
Now that I explained the long way, this website (http://scoobysworkshop.com/calorie-calculator/) actually does a great job estimating your starting point, but I wanted you to understand HOW it estimates for you. The box labeled “Daily calories based on goal in step 6” is what you want to use.
As far as what you should be eating, you can eat what you want (Please have some common sense here though. Lean meats, veggies, etc are always preferred) as long as your are at your caloric goals and you want to aim for a breakdown of your calories as 25% Fat/25% Protein/50% Carbs. You can shift these depending on your goals, for example someone looking to build muscle mass might raise their protein to 30% and lower the others to compensate. In addition to these macros, make sure to get at least 35g of fiber a day as well. A regular colon is a happy colon!
I’m sure this is a tad overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. I HIGHLY suggest downloading and religiously using the phone/web app called MyFitnessPal. You can change the numbers the app gives you as goals in the settings, since it has a tendency to undershoot proper levels. This app has a huge database to quickly track your food intakes. Be honest with yourself when you use it. If you have a cupcake, then write it down and make it fit your goals. It’s ok to have “bad” food now and then. Trying to stay 100% with lean meats, veggies, and grains will drive most people mad. Enjoy your food, but be aware of portions and stay within your goals and you will do great!
One last bit to mention. We did a fair bit of estimating here and your body most likely has its differences. So if you still aren’t dropping weight, then shift your maintenance down a couple hundred calories and see how that goes from there. You will find that sweet spot with time and make progress.
Here’s a little video taking you through the steps of using the Scooby Calculator and inputting the results into My Fitness Pal.