This is one of the most common questions I get, and the answer on this one is this: it depends.
Calories are a far better way to measure your nutrition over portion sizes for many reasons. The main reason is that with calories you are dealing with specific numbers and exact data. This makes it easier to determine what needs to change if your nutrition plan isn’t working for you, or getting you to where you want to go. With portion sizes you are just guessing. You are not using exact data and have no idea whether you are overeating or undereating. There is no way of knowing if anything needs to change when you’re on a plateau, or if you aren’t reaching your goals.
What doesn’t get measured won’t get managed.
If you were wanting to make changes to your spending habits and wanted to save money each month, the best thing to do would be to track and measure your expenses and income, and create a budget. The key word here is to measure and track. This involves specific information that you can use to improve your spending habits. If you were just to guess what you spent each month, and loosely tracked this, you probably wouldn’t experience as much success would you?
I hope you are seeing the metaphor here, and why calories are a much better way to track your nutrition.
Each person has their own individual needs, and is going to require a different amount of calories to reach their goals, depending on those needs.
Bodyweight, height, past diet experience, medical history and/or current health conditions, activity level, and individual goals are all factors that determine the calories someone will need to reach their goals.
In short, there is not a simple answer or a magic number, so to speak.
For most people we work with at our Calgary bootcamp, they are looking to lose body fat and inches, and/or improve their overall health and fitness and don’t really care about decreasing their weight. For people who fall into one of these two categories, there is a general “ball park” of daily calories you need to reach these goals.
I could give you complicated equations to figure this out, or I can give you a real simple way that gives you this “ ballpark” number, something that would get you almost the same number.
Here it is:
Fat loss: For women looking to lose body fat and inches a good number to start with is bodyweight x 10.
So if you weigh 150lbs, than you need 1500 calories each day to lose body fat. This doesn’t change or move up or down with activity levels. 1500 calories would be consumed each day of the week, regardless of when you do your activity.
For men, the number would be bodyweight x 12. So if you are a 200lb male, than you would aim for 2400 calories a day for fat loss, regardless of when you do activity.
Maintenance: For women, if your goal was to just maintain your current weight, and improve your fitness and strength like many at our Calgary Bootcamp do, then take your bodyweight x 13 for your starting calories.
For men with these same goals you would take your bodyweight x 15.
Your starting amounts for macronutrients would be carbohydrates at 50 % , protein at 30%, and fat at 20 %
Keep in mind that these are “ ball park” numbers, and may not be 100 % accurate. What they will do is give you a number to get started with. The most important thing to do from here is track and monitor your progress and how you feel.
You never want to go any lower than these numbers, especially for fat loss. Consuming too few calories will slow down your metabolism over time, lead to muscle loss, and have an impact on your thyroid function. Body weight x 10 or 12 depending if you are male or female is the lowest you should ever drop your calories, no matter what your goals are.
When you are following the calorie recommendations from above, some things to monitor are:
– How are your energy levels? Are they high or low? If they are really low, you may need to increase calories and carbohydrates.
– Do you have cravings for foods like sugar or carbohydrates?
– How do you feel during your workouts? Are you able to push yourself and train at an intense level?
– Do you feel mentally alert? Or do you feel cloudy or light headed? This is usually a sign of too few calories.
– Do you feel full and satisfied after each meal? And throughout the day?
– Are you noticing increases in your strength and fitness every 4-6 weeks?
– And if your goals are fat loss, are you clothes fitting better or different? Or you losing sizes? Along with these changes, is the scale going down 1-2lbs/week max?
Notice that weight loss on the scale is the last thing that should be monitored, when assessing whether your nutrition plan and calories are working for you. If all else looks good and is check, then look at scale changes last. Your health, energy levels, and how you feel mentally and physically take priority over anything else.
Always here to inspire and motivate you, David Macdonald and the Vitality Fitness Team.