How Many Calories to Eat in a Day

how many calories to eat in a day
The Magic Question: How Much You Should Eat

Annoying disclaimer before we get into this: five kajillion things go into how many calories you need to eat in a day.  And everyone will be slightly different. So the goal of this post is simply to get you started and moving in the right direction (:

There’s unfortunately no way of getting around having to test and see what’s true for your body.

And your calorie needs will also regularly change depending on how active you are, how many steps you’re getting each day, how you choose to workout, your food and alcohol habits, etc.

The other tricky factor is that our body will adapt to whatever inputs we give it. So if you’ve been dieting and eating less for a while, your body will adapt to that and down regulate metabolism and hormones accordingly.

 

Maintenance Calories

Maintenance Calories: how many calories you need to eat in a day without seeing any changes to your body weight or body composition. Aka how many calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your weight.

Eat less than maintenance and you’ll lose weight. Eat more than maintenance and you’ll gain weight.

While food tracking apps and macro tracking have become more popular, grand majority of people:

  • have minimal education in regards to nutrition
  • no clue how many calories they eat in a day
  • don’t know how to effectively work towards goals like fat loss or muscle gain in terms of how much to eat

 

3 Possible Ways to Estimate Maintenance

There’s tons of ways to skin the cat, but here’s 3 common approaches to figuring out maintenance needs:

 

Regardless of which you choose, it’s gonna take time and some trial and error to confirm your maintenance.

TDEE & Precision Nutrition Calculators will suggest a calorie number based on your stats and activity, but it may be higher or lower than your needs. So you’ll need to track what you eat, test it out, and also monitor the scale.

Reversely: you can track macros, keep increasing calories, and see at what point the scale goes up.

 

TDEE Calculator:

  • typically provides more accurate calorie suggestions for those with higher body fat levels
  • Enter your gender, age, weight, height, activity level, body fat percent
  • If exercising 3-5 times per week, you’ll probably want to select “moderate exercise.”
  • Do not select “sedentary” unless you do NOT workout whatsoever

 

Precision Nutrition Calculator:

  • typically provides more accurate calorie suggestions for leaner or super active individuals
  • Make sure to select “Improve Health” as your goal during the questionnaire
  • Gives pretty decent macro recommendations for how much protein, carb, and fat to eat (unlike TDEE)

 

Tracking Macros & Bodyweight

This route a little more tedious and time consuming, but you’ll find your maintenance and calorie ceiling by tracking your own data and trends.

  • Download Cronometer (a food tracking app)
  • Download HappyScale or Libra (weight trend apps)
  • Weigh, measure, and record everything you eat
  • Weigh yourself and record bodyweight 5-7 x per week
  • Increase daily calorie goals by ~100 calories every 2 weeks until scale is consistently trending up

 

Example:

  • currently averaging 1800 calories
  • Increase up to 1900 calories
  • 2 weeks later, bump to 2000 cals, and so on.
  • let’s say scale trended up at 2500 calories, then maintenance = ~2300-2400 calories

 

Things to Keep in Mind

While this stuff may sound fairly “easy” on paper, it’s really not that easy:

  • it’s time consuming to weigh and measure your food
  • figuring out how to use a food tracking app and how to track macros is a skill that takes time and practice
  • stepping on a scale and monitoring one’s weight is a place of major anxiety for a lot of people
  • the idea of intentionally eating more food or seeing the scale go “up” is a scary concept for many 
  • most people have jobs, kids, and busy lives —and may not have time to nerd out over all this
  • Don’t be afraid to hire a good coach to help!

 

Where To Go From Here

You can always check out my e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Nutrition, Muscle Gain, & Fat Loss if you want to get more details about supporting your nutrition and fitness goals (:

And we’re always posting workout and nutrition tips on our Paragon Training Methods Instagram page. Follow along for free workouts and more tips to help you look and feel your best!

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