How many calories do you actually need? Step by step explanation

So you’ve learned how to set your macros and you’re following a sound lifting routine. What next you ask?

Time to dial in your daily caloric intake. So drop that bowl of ice-cream and listen up!

Step 1. Figure out if you are male or female… easy enough. Onward!

Step 2. Let’s assess your activity level (be honest here guys, this is very important).

  1. Little to no exercise. (1.2)
  2. Light exercise (We will say maybe 1-3 times a week). (1.375)
  3. Moderate exercise (Here we are looking at 3-5 times a week). (1.55)
  4. Heavy exercise (You are most likely an athlete of some type, you train 6-7 days a week). (1.725)
  5. Heavier…? exercise. We’ll call it Extreme exercise (This is basically describing a professional athlete. Training twice a day, extreme weight training or maybe down the “marathoner” road where you run many miles per week). (1.9)

Ok choose one and write the number following it down. (For example, little to no exercise = 1.2)


Step 3.  What is your current fitness goal?

  1. Maintain your current weight (0)
  2. Decrease your current weight (-500)
  3. increase your current weight (500)

Take the number to the right of your answer and jot that down.

Step 4. Time for the math. Now I want to give credit where credit is due. This calculation is call the Harris-Benedict equation. It is used to estimate your BMR  or basal metabolic rate and also your daily kilocalorie requirements. I bet you guessed it, but the equation is named after its creators James Arthur Harris and Francis Gano Benedict. I would go on about the history behind it, but that won’t help you much on your fitness journey soooo

let’s get back to it!

Ladies first

BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) – 161 then take the result and multiply it by your activity number from above

Now remember, each pound is 0.4536 kgs. So just take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.4536 and plug that in. If you are also itching your head due to the height in centimeters, just remember that each foot is 30.48 cm and each inch is 2.54 cm.

Now for men

BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) + 5 then take the result and multiply it by your activity number from above

So let’s figure this out. I’ll go through the equation for myself and you follow along

Well I’m a male. I’m 192lbs. or 87.09 kilograms. I’m 5’10” or 177.8 centimeters and I’m 25 years old. I also train 5 times a week so I fall into the moderate activity level (1.55).

Here is the equation with my information

BMR = ((10 x 87.09) + (6.25 x 177.8) – (5 x 25) +5)*1.55 = 2886.3325 so 2886.

So this is saying that if I consume 2886 calories per day I will maintain my weight of 192lbs.  even if I train 5 times per week. So now step 3 comes into play. Take the number that accompanied your choice and add it to the final.

So let’s say I was looking to lose weight. I’d simply add the -500 (subtract 500 in other terms). 

2886 – 500 = 2386

So why 500?

Most people will say that you use 500 calories because if you were to decrease or increase your daily intake by 500 calories you would have a net decrease or increase of 3500 per week or what was once thought to be equivalent to one pound of weight.

This isn’t true, but it is still a good guideline.

Both weight gain and weight loss should be slow and gradual. This will maintain your muscle mass as you decrease weight and slow your fat accumulation as you gain muscle mass.

Just a side note. You’ll need to figure out your daily requirement multiple times as you gain or lose weight. Give it a couple months and then plug in your new numbers and go from there.

So now you know just how many calories you actually need!


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