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Learn How to Calculate Your Calories Accurately

Author: Rudy Mawer Contributing Author

Understanding your calorie needs is a fundamental first step to dropping fat, adding muscle or improving your physique.

Without understanding your daily calorie needs, you simply can’t maximize results. While you could, of course, drop fat by eating less, or, gain weight by eating more, this won’t allow you to optimize every aspect and achieve both: losing fat while adding muscle at the same time!

If you want to transform like Kris, you must leave no stone unturned; for a rapid transformation every detail counts.

Luckily, there are some fairly accurate calorie calculations you can use to get a reasonably accurate measurement. Once you’ve established this baseline, you must then consider daily changes and tweaks based around your goal, which we will discuss below.

Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Calculate Calories

Determine Maintenance Calorie Intake / Energy Expenditure Per Day

12 – 14 calories per pound for normal and healthy individuals with a sedentary lifestyle doing little to no exercise.
14 – 16 calories per pound for those that exercise moderately 3 – 5 times a week with relatively active lifestyles.
16 – 18 calories per pound for those involved in vigorous exercise and physically demanding jobs.
18.5 – 22 calories per pound for those involved in heavy training (for example 15 or more hours per week).
22 or more calories per pound for those involved in extreme training (for example 20 or more hours a week).

For example, if you pick 15 and multiply it by 200LB your maintenance calorie intake 3000.

Adjust based on your goals

  • Weight gain: Add 300 calories or 10-15% to the above calculation.
  • Weight loss: Subtract 600 calories or 25% from the above calculation

It’s important to remember that this formula is purely based on bodyweight and not lean muscle tissue. While it will be accurate for those who are a healthy bodyweight or fairly lean, it will be less accurate if your body fat is over 20 or 25%. If you do have a higher body fat percent, you may wish to deduct 10 or 20LBs from your weight before making the calculations.

Advanced Calorie Calculations

  • Determine the amount of calories you burn to live, if you were completely inactive. You’re going to need a calculator and paper / pen…

MEN: BMR = [4.53 x weight in pounds] + [15.88 x height in inches] – [4.92 x age in years] + 5

WOMEN: BMR = [4.53 x weight in pounds] + [15.88 x height in inches] – [4.92 x age in years] – 16

Here’s how to work it out manually.

Step 1: Calculate 4.53 x weight in pounds =    ………….

Step 2: Calculate 15.88 x height in inches =    ………….

Step 3: Add the 2 numbers you’ve calculate so far together =  …………

Step 4: Calculate 4.92 x age in years =   …………

Step 5: Take the number obtained in step 4 away from the number obtained in

step 3 =  ………

Step 6: Add + 5 for males or take way - 161 for females from this new number obtained in step 5.

Now you have this number, continue onto the next step.

  • Factor in calories burned through activity (Multiply the above answer by one of these factors). Most people will fall between 1.3 and 1.8:

    1.2 – Sedentary (If you have a desk job and don’t do very much exercise)
    1.3 – 1.4 – Lightly Active (If you have light daily activity and do light exercise 1-3 days a week)
    1.5 – 1.6 – Moderately Active (If you have reasonable daily activity and do moderate exercise 3-5 days a week)
    1.7 – 1.8 – Very Active (If you have a physically demanding lifestyle and do hard exercise 6-7 days a week)
    1.9 – 2.2 – Extremely Active (If you are an athlete in endurance training or have an extremely physical job with long hours and train 3+ hours per day)

    Adjust based on your goals

    • Weight gain: Add 300-500 calories or 10-15% to the above calculation.
    • Weight loss: Subtract 500 calories or 20% from the above calculation

     While this second option may seem confusing at first, it will provide you with a much more accurate and tailored calorie guide over the long term.

     Making Adjustments

    One of the most important parts of tracking calories, or even simply tracking your diet and macros, is to make constant changes based on feedback.

    Most people miss out on this vitally important point: they start a new diet plan and then just keep it the same, hoping results will magically appear. Of course, it’s very unlikely you will get everything right first time, especially if you are not a trained dietician or very experienced in calculating food intake and calorie needs.

    Therefore, you should treat these measurements as baseline measures, which you will then tailor and adjust as needed. To do this, I recommend applying a 10% rule, which basically means you will make 10% increments up or down every 2 to 4 weeks.

    By making 10% changes you will not over- or under-shoot, it will also allow you to fine-tune your own needs for future diets. All of these adjustments should obviously be made depending on progress. If you’re trying to lose weight and it’s very slow, then drop calories by 10%. In contrast, if you are trying to gain weight and it’s very slow, you may wish to increase calories by 10%.

    Along with these adjustments, the only other consideration is changes to your training regime. If, all of a sudden, you were to switch from a high volume bodybuilding-style workout, such as Kris’ Hardcore trainer, to a lower volume strength routine you must further tailor your calorie needs up or down.

    Remember, although calories are vitally important, they do not cover all aspects of your diet; therefore you should also focus on the other aspects, such as food quality, food timing and macronutrient consumption.


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