What Should My Calorie Intake Be? 

Keeping off lost weight and maintaining your physique is quite challenging! Plus, you need to support your training with the right amount of calories/nutrition, too. However, nothing is too difficult if you discover the secrets behind how to do so. You have to ensure you understand your daily intake of calories, and how that fares against how many you burn. By the time you've finished reading this blog, you'll know all about this and how to execute it with your nutrition, so you can stay lean and fit all year round!

 

lean and fit

Staying Lean and Fit

We all have our own unique total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Our TDEE refers to how many calories we burn daily.

And once we know what that is, it's the key to understanding how to stay in shape!

And someone who is training regularly and has a relatively active job, like a postman, would have a much higher TDEE than someone with a desk job that doesn't exercise.

So if we eat the same amount of calories as our TDEE, we'll MAINTAIN weight. And that's more or less how to ensure we:


1. Maintain our lost weight
2. Ensure we have enough energy for our training
3. Ensure we don't gain excess body fat   
 
And in fitness circles, eating at your "maintenance calories" is eating your TDEE.
 
Once you've worked out your TDEE, you must ensure your protein intake is the first macronutrient you look at.

How Much Protein To Eat Daily To Maintain Muscle

High Protein Meal
Shoot for roughly 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, and up to 2.2 grams, to maintain your muscle mass.

You might only need 1.6 grams, but experiment to see what works. Obviously, if up to 2 grams is too high for you, then drop it down to 1.6 grams.

 
If you can't eat it all, then reduce it. If you feel it's not enough, increase it.
Your protein intake here is to ensure muscle maintenance and satiety; the feeling of being full.

Let's say your maintenance calories are 2500, and you weigh 85 kilograms. 

To consume 1.6 grams of protein, you'd be consuming 136 grams of protein per day (85 kilograms x 1.6 grams). 
Given one gram of protein is 4 calories, this equates to 544 calories

So that leaves you with 2500 calories - 544 calories (1956 calories) for your fat and carbohydrate intake.

And if we decided we wanted to lose weight, well we'd aim for a 10-20% calorie deficit, derived from our TDEE.

Calculating your TDEE

 

TDEE
Here, you can use an online calculator, or you might care to learn the detail of exactly what TDEE is, and how to do it by hand as seen below:

Step 1 = Work out your Basal Metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories your body needs to stay alive for organ functioning. You'll work out your BMR by multiplying your body weight by 20.

For example, you weigh110 kg. 
 
110 kg x 20 = BMR of 2200 calories.

Step 2 = Work out the Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF). This is the number of calories you burn daily from the food you eat, given the energy generated by the body to digest it. So simply multiply your BMR by 0.1 to get the TEF.

Your BMR = 2200 calories.

2200 calories x 0.1 = 220 TEF

2200 BMR + 220 TEF = 2420 calories so far.
 
Step 3 = Work out the Exercise Energy Expenditure (EEE), which is how many calories you burn during exercise. This is basically impossible to get completely correct, but generally, an hour of light exercise is around 250 calories burned, and an hour of intense exercise (training legs, for example) is about 500 calories burned per hour. 

Let's say you are doing resistance training 5 times per week. We'd add on 500 calories.

2200 BMR + 220 TEF + 500 EEE = 2920 calories.
 
Step 4 = Work out your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). This is the number of calories you burn daily away from exercising. It's things like maintaining posture sitting at your desk, chewing gum, and walking to the bathroom. 

Desk job employee = 250 calories from NEAT

A parking inspector, delivery driver, building site worker, etc = 500 calories from NEAT

Let's say you have a desk job. Our numbers now look like this:

2200 BMR + 220 TEF + 500 EEE + 250 NEAT = 3170 calories.
 

Your TDEE is 3170 calories.

So there's a fair bit behind the curtain of TDEE.
You can use the calculator below to calculate your BMR.


 

Keep Track of Calories Burnt/ Fat Lost or Gained

If you notice you are gaining weight, then your amount of calories is too high. Try reducing it by 300 calories and seeing how you go from there.

Conversely, if you're losing too much weight (which obviously isn't your goal here) and you don't have enough energy in the gym, then increase your calories by 300. 
It's a trial and error thing: whilst TDEE isn't always perfect, it's a great yardstick for us to start with.

So, if you want to stay lean and fit, maintain your muscle, and not gain excess fat whilst enjoying enough energy in the gym -- eat at your maintenance calories, and you'll be where you want to be!  

References

Ostendorf DM, Caldwell AE, Creasy SA, Pan Z, Lyden K, Bergouignan A, MacLean PS, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, Melanson EL, Catenacci VA. Physical Activity Energy Expenditure and Total Daily Energy Expenditure in Successful Weight Loss Maintainers. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Mar;27(3):496-504. doi: 10.1002/oby.22373. PMID: 30801984; PMCID: PMC6392078.

Stokes T, Hector AJ, Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients. 2018;10(2):180. Published 2018 Feb 7. doi:10.3390/nu10020180

Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1136. Published 2019 May 22. doi:10.3390/nu11051136

Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1558S-1561S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558S. PMID: 18469287.

Osilla EV, Safadi AO, Sharma S. Calories. [Updated 2021 Sep 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.
 
Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1558S-1561S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558S. PMID: 18469287.

Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1136. Published 2019 May 22. doi:10.3390/nu11051136