Now that you’ve covered eating philosophies and found one you think works for you — you did that, right? If not, go here to read part one — it’s time to move on to something that’s going to be tough for some of you.
Like, real tough. But stick with me for a few thousand words and we’ll make it to the end together. I got you. For real.
This post is about:
How Many Calories You Should be Eating…Also, Determining Your Macros, What They Are, Which Ones You Should Care About and When You Should Start Caring About Them.
There’s going to be a lot to take in here, y’all, so bear with me. We’re going to take it easy at first, and by the end, we’re going to turn things into a full-on geekfest.
Right along with the word diet, the word Calorie is one that puts a death kiss on our lips. Every day I hear people use the term in a way that makes it sound interchangeable with cancer or genocide. We avoid certain foods “because of the calories,” or praise other foods because of their lack of them. Our dietary lives revolve around the Calorie in a constant state of fear.
But they’re necessary. They’re not to be feared. Calories are our bros.
What, exactly, is a Calorie? Simply put: a Calorie is a unit of energy. At the chemistry level, a calorie (lowercase c or little calorie) is the amount of energy necessary to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1°C. When we use the same term to refer to our food, we’re actually talking about a kilocalorie (or simply, Calorie with uppercase C; also known as Large Calorie or Food Calorie). The kilocalorie is exactly what it sounds like — 1,000 small calories. This is how we measure our food and this is what determines our journies.
If we’re wanting to lose weight, gain mass or simply stay put, we need to know what our caloric requirements are. There are hundreds of apps out there that take some basic information on you — usually your gender, age, weight and height — to determine what your calorie requirement for the day is. If you’re just getting started, these will suffice.
We’re going to get super geeky with numbers and formulas and conditions, etc. but if you’re a newbie to the weight loss and wellness game, a one-size-fits-all app will do you just fine.
However, it won’t take long before it’s no longer accurate. You see, one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for long. Initially you’ll get some results because your body will be shocked and responding to a change in caloric intake, but before long you’ll want something a little more customized for you and your needs.
**Please note that any “scientific” study saying a healthy diet is x number of calories is misleading and incorrect. It’s easy to generalize but ultimately these studies indicate an average calorie requirement for equally average people. You are not average; you were likely never consulted in said studies.**
So let’s learn how to find out exactly how many calories we actually need.
If you want to determine how many calories you need to shoot for during the day, you’ll need the following figures handy: your gender, your age in years, your height in inches and your weight in pounds.
These units of measurement will help us determine what your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is. Your BMR is the number of calories your body requires to simply exist. The only action this covers is not dying. To determine your BMR, you can use tools online like this one.
Or you can put it together yourself with the below formulas.
If you’re a man:
BMR = 66 + (6.2 x [weight]) + (12.7 x [height]) – (6.76 x [age])
If you’re a woman:
BMR = 655.1 + (4 x [weight]) + (4.7 x [height]) – (4.7 x [age])
Side note: If you’re extremely obese, this number will be a bit more accurate if you use your Lean Body Mass (LBM). You can determine your LBM with the following formula:
LBM = [weight] – ([weight] x [body fat %])
Just for example’s sake, let’s say we have a 32 year old male, 6’1” tall, 215lbs. His formula would look like this:
BMR = 66 + (6.2 x 215) + (12.7 x 73) – (6.76 x 32)
BMR = 66 + 1,333 + 927.1 – 216.32
BMR = 1,399 + 710.78
BMR = 2,109.78, or 2,110 calories.
So now that we have figured out our BMR, the next thing we need to do is determine our activity level. Our activity levels will determine how many calories we’re allotted to exist with our physical activity added. It’s very important here to BE HONEST when you’re doing this. If you’re just starting out and you’re working out 2-3 times per week, it will be tempting to say you’re VERY ACTIVE especially if this lifestyle is new to you, but if you do this, your results will be incorrect and you will not achieve your ultimate goals. Here’s a pretty good way to determine your level:
- Sedentary = You do nothing or very little physical activity. Desk jockeys and TV show bingers likely fall into this category.
- Light Active = You do some stuff. You may be in the gym 1-3 days per week but aren’t a serious workaholic.
- Moderate = You frequent the gym and can be found there 3-5 days per week.
- Active = You’re a gym rat and you’re there putting in work 6-7 days per week.
- Very Active = Usually for people with active jobs like professional athletes or construction workers. Probably not you.
Now that you’ve seen the possible choices, you decide which one best fits your lifestyle and you will multiply your BMR by a certain number based on that result. See the following table:
|Activity Level||Multiply BMR By|
Our example person above is a total gym rat and identifies as Active, therefore their calorie requirements = 2,110 x 1.725 for a total of 3,640 calories. That’s a lot of calories, y’all!
So are we done? Not even close.
Now we have to determine what our goals are. Are we wanting to lose weight? Gain weight? Maintain our current weight? Our answer here will determine how we modify our calorie requirements for the final time. Generally speaking, a caloric deficit of 500 calories/day will make a person lose 1lb/week and is a good, safe method of losing quality weight. On the other hand, a caloric surplus of 300 calories/day is a good way to gain weight throughout the week.
Our example guy wants to lose weight by 1lb/ week, therefore 3,640 – 500 = 3,140 calories per day for weight loss.
Have you been playing along? Do you have your caloric requirement figure? Good! Hang on to it and don’t let it go anywhere. You’re going to need it later.
If you’re just getting started with weight loss or wellness in general, this is where I’d recommend you stop reading. It’s about to get weird with a lot more definitions and formulas than a normal human being should worry about. The information I’ve given you here is a great place for you to start and you will see results with it.
If you want to get deeper, though, follow me into the world of macros.
You’re still reading. You’ve done this to yourself…
Macronutrients (or simply macros) are nutrients that our body needs in large amounts because they are our primary sources of energy. The body’s primary sources of energy are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Let’s talk about each of these individually.
Proteins are amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. Their primary job is to build and repair muscle tissues. Once they’re in your bloodstream, proteins can do one of three things: 1) They will be used to build and repair muscle tissue through a process called Protein Synthesis. 2) They are used for immediate energy. 3) They’re stored as potential energy (or fat).
Proteins are commonly found in dairy and meat products but are also found in limited amounts in grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and some vegetables. 1 gram of protein is equal to 4 kilocalories. This is important later on so remember it.
Fats do not make you fat. Let’s get that out of the way right off the bat. Fats are actually super important for your body. Fats are the most concentrated source of energy in our bodies and carries fat-soluble vitamins throughout our system. Among other things, fats are important as they’re involved in insulating the body, making us feel fuller longer and surrounding our precious organs for protection.
Due to how concentrated they are, 1 gram of fat yields 9 kilocalories of pure energy. This figure is also important, so also remember it, too.
As I’ve said many times before, carbohydrates are not the enemy. In fact, carbs are your primary source of energy. Carbs are broken down into sugars, starches and fibers. Sugars, or simple carbohydrates, are easily broken down by the body — starches, or complex carbohydrates, require quite a bit more work to process — fiber is never absorbed, is great for intestinal health and has been shown to lower the risk of certain heart disease and even cancer.
Again, carbs are your primary source of energy but after a certain amount of physical activity they start to diminish and your body switches to using the aforementioned fats as energy. Carbs are not as robust as fats and come in, like protein, at 4 calories for every gram. This is the last number you’ll need to remember.
You now know what macros are and a little about each one — so what does that mean to you?
There are many different schools of thought regarding what percentage of our diets should belong to each of the macros. Popular splits include 40/40/20 or 50/30/20 (protein, carbs, fat). While this may be a good starting point for someone just getting started with macro tracking, there’s a better way to determine your intake and I’m going to show you how.
We’ll start out by determining how much protein we should be getting in our diets. Ideally, you should be getting 1 gram of protein per pound of your current bodyweight. In our example person above, their body weight was 215 lbs, therefore he should look to get 215 grams of protein per day (215 pounds multiplied by 1 gram).
Now, remember above where we said each gram of protein equals 4 kilocalories? We can now assume our example person should get 860 calories from protein per day (215 grams multiplied by 4 kilocalories).
Next, we’ll determine fat in a similar fashion. Generally speaking, a person should get 0.4 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight, so our example person at 215 lbs should be getting 86 grams of fat (215 pounds multiplied by 0.4 grams).
Above we said each gram of fat is equal to 9 kilocalories, so our example person should get 774 calories from fat per day (86 grams multiplied by 9 kilocalories).
Finally, carbs. These are figured a little differently. Remember above when we decided our example person should be getting 3,140 calories per day for weight loss? Now that we have our calories from protein and fat determined, we figure out our carbs by working backward.
Therefore, our carbs would be equal to our total calories for the day minus protein calories and fat calories:
Carbs = 3,140 (daily total) – 860 (protein) – 774 (fat)
Carbs = 1,506 calories/day
If we continue to work backward, we remember 1 gram of carbs = 4 kilocalories, so we divide our carb number of 1,506 by 4 and we get 377 grams.
Our final table now looks like this:
|Macro||Daily Calories From Macro||Grams of Macro Required|
|Protein||860 Calories||215 grams|
|Fats||774 Calories||86 grams|
|Carbs||1,506 Calories||377 grams|
|Total Calories = 3,140|
This is a 27/48/25 split. See how one-size-fits-all doesn’t work in this case?
THESE ARE MERELY GUIDELINES, Y’ALL
For real. Unless you’re doing a hard cut or a hard gain, don’t stress about hitting these numbers exactly. Nobody wants to be THAT GUY that does everything precisely. Like I said in my previous post, that ain’t no kind of life. If you’re above or below a little, so be it, but this is a good place to start; a good target to shoot for.
In an oddly shaped nutshell, that’s macros.
What I Want You To Take Away From This:
- Calories are not of the devil. Embrace them, just use your brain.
- Nobody expects you to keep up with all of this on paper. If you have an app, use it, but also use these figures to determine how accurate your app is and adjust accordingly.
- If you read something that conflicts with my information online, it’s not incorrect. But neither is mine.
- If you’re just getting started tracking, fuck the macros. Spend some time focusing more on your caloric intake and over time you can start concerning yourself with macros.
- Your macros are not set in stone. Yeah, you spent a lot of time figuring them out and yes if you follow them you are guaranteed to see results but you are a person with a life.
- If you go over or under in anything, make a note to address it and move on. Don’t lose sleep because you were short on your protein for the day.
This concludes part two. This was a long post, y’all, and I hope you’re still with me. Stick around because next week we’re going to talk about finding good shit to eat and making a meal plan out of it in a post I’ve tentatively titled Finding Good Shit to Eat and Making a Meal Plan Out of It.
Until next time…
This is part 2 of a 6 part series on meal prepping. A lot of clients and potential clients ask me about meal prepping and I want to give as thorough of an explanation as I can. Over the next few weeks, I will be covering how to eat, how many calories you need to eat, calculating your macro requirements, finding good recipes to use, making your grocery list and shopping it, smart ways to prep a week’s worth of food and other shit I know to be true. I will illustrate as much as I can with my real-life meal planning/prepping processes so hopefully it will make more sense. Along the way you get to enjoy my wit and my foul mouth.
I also want to go ahead and state that while I am a certified personal trainer, I am NOT a certified nutritionist. I can give you tips on eating better and point you to FDA guidelines, but unless I’m married to you I can NOT make custom meal plans for you. Not even if you pay me or send nudes but thanks for the offer.