Do calories even matter?

Are all calories created equal?

What does calories in vs calories out even mean?

I’m sure you’ve heard one or more of these statements before. The truth is, calories really do matter.

It is extremely important for you to understand how to calculate a ballpark estimate of how many calories you eat and burn on average. Without this awareness, you will probably have a hard time changing body composition.

TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)

TDEE is an estimate of how many calories you burn each day. First, you must determine your basal metabolic rate (how much energy you burn if you were laying still in a coma) and then multiply that number by an activity multiplier. There are plenty of free TDEE calculators on the internet. Below are the 3 factors that determine how many calories you burn each day.

Basal Metabolic Rate
Physical Activity
Thermic Effect of Food

The most accurate way to determine daily caloric needs is via indirect calorimetry. Unfortunately, the availability of this machine is limited. However, all you really need are estimates! You must listen to you own body and adjust based off your biofeedback.

So how do you determine the number of calories you should eat in order to reach your goals?

1. Log your food on MyFitnessPal for 7-14 days. Weigh yourself the morning of day 1 and on the last day. Did
you lose weight, stay the same, or gain? Although this technique in not 100% accurate, it is a good
indicator to help determine if you are eating in a calorie deficit, surplus, or at maintenance calories.
2. After 7-14 days, how many calories did you eat each day on average?
3. After 7-14 days, what were your macros each day on average?
4. Based on your average nutrition intake and your TDEE, you can now start to work your calories / macros in
whichever direction that allows you to achieve your goals.

If your goal is to lose weight, you must eat in a calorie deficit. Assuming you don’t have any hormonal imbalances or immunodeficiencies, eating in a calorie deficit is what will allow you to lose body fat. For most people, calories equaling your current body weight multiplied by 10-14 should put you in a calorie deficit.

If your goal is to gain muscle, you must eat in a calorie surplus. Eating in a calorie surplus, along with a number of other factors including strength training, will allow you to gain muscle. For most people, calories equaling your current body weight multiplied by 16-18+ should put you in a calorie surplus.

If your goal is to maintain weight, you must eat at maintenance calories. For most people, calories equaling your current body weight multiplied by 13-17 should maintain your current body weight.

If your goal is performance, you should be eating at least maintenance calories in order to fuel performance and prioritize recovery.

Weight loss : bodyweight x 10-14

Maintain weight: bodyweight x 13-17

Weight gain: bodyweight x 16-18+

*the suggested range is due to the activity variability of each individual, so if you’re unsure, start in the middle and adjust for your own individual needs.

Now this is important. Several factors can affect the amount of water your body maintains on a given day. In fact, your bodyweight can fluctuate 2-5lbs per day just based on when/what you eat, how much salt you had in your diet the day prior, when you last used the restroom, or how hard you worked out yesterday. If you see fluctuations day to day, don’t worry!! Focus on the overall trends.