I am excited to announce to you today that in addition to writing on this blog, being a certified trainer, and holding a certificate in fitness nutrition, I am now an online health coach! I love training and helping people meet their goals, and building this small business will hopefully allow me reach more people to help.
I am also excited that it is officially SPRING, which means nothing in Alabama right now other than everything is about to turn bright yellow. It has been difficult to anticipate the season’s arrival this year because it has been so unbelievably warm all through winter. One thing that is notable, though, about the arrival of spring is it means shorts and swimsuits are right around the corner. GASP. It’s about time to start showing off our arms and legs, and I don’t know that anyone is ever really “ready” for that to happen. Besides being ready to show off some arms and legs, I am pale. Seriously, I could probably start a fire from the reflection of the sun off my white butt right now. Anyway, since that type of weather is coming up we are going to get into the half-way point of our ongoing topic, and I think we need to just go ahead and finish it (especially since I know a lot of you are waiting on my Boxycharm review). Since it is going to be a bit complicated and very long, we will just jump right in.
So far we have talked about some small steps to take to burn fat. Today we are going to talk about determining your BMR/TDEE/Macros/Caloric deficit, because these are the most familiar concepts in the “fitness” world. Doesn’t that sound exciting? We will define these below. Get a pencil, paper, calculator, or an abacus if that’s your thing, because it will require some calculations. I will start with a brief vocabulary lesson (because English and math were everyone’s two favorite subjects in school). Then we are going to identify three different ways for you to do your calculations so you can choose which one fits you the best, if you are going to do this on your own. If you are the latter, you will see why so many people put their trust in us trainers and health coaches. You will also see a tiny glimpse as to why even though we still may love you, we like to be paid for our efforts haha.
**PLEASE note that if you are a fitness aficionado or another trainer, I am not talking about TEF, NEAT, EA, LBM, etc., because these poor readers do not need to concern themselves with it. Judge me if you want.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): The total amount of energy expended to keep vital organs functioning. Typically, this refers to a period of time when the entire body is at rest and after 12 hours of fasting. Depending on who you are talking to, they may refer to RMR (resting metabolic rate) instead. They are often used interchangeably. In reality they aren’t, but for your knowledge today and for the sake of keeping this short we will use the term BMR instead of RMR. BMR/RMR/Whatever is frequently calculated by using the Harris-Benedict Equation when lean body mass and/or percent body fat is unknown.
Harris-Benedict Equation: a semi-complicated formula that requires you to utilize the metric system and order of operations to determine your approximate BMR (getting excited yet?). Hope you remember PEMDAS.
Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE): This is the total amount of energy (calories) your body utilizes in a 24 hour period, including sleep, exercise, and sitting on the couch eating potato chips. It is usually calculated by multiplying your BMR by another numerical factor based off activity level. For the sake of this article, I will use the multipliers provided by Tom Venuto in his book Starve the Fat Feed the Muscle due to its overwhelming popularity (and ease compared to what I learned in my training), a common “quick method”, and an approximate range for loss.
Macros: Macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates).
As mentioned last week, everyone has a baseline number of calories to eat if they want to maintain their weight, lose weight or gain weight. Calculating BMR and TDEE will get you near that baseline so you can determine how to adjust your intake to achieve the goal you want. Ready to calculate? Alright here we go.
Option 1: Use Harris-Benedict Equation and TDEE to determine maintenance, and a percent multiplier to determine your fat loss (deficit).
The Harris-Benedict Equation
Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)
Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)
- 1 in = 2.54 cm (note it is easier to convert to cm when you know your height in inches (1 ft = 12 in)
- 1 kg = 2.2 lbs
This number is the approximate amount you use to lay on the couch and do nothing all day. This is how much energy you use to breathe, digest food, generate new cells, etc. Basically it is anything you do minus any physical activity.
Now that you have your BMR, or THINK you have your BMR, you are ready to estimate your TDEE for your caloric maintenance. First we will talk about the multipliers. I will then give you a quick calculation and a range reference. Keep in mind that these activity factors include your exercise AND your activity level at your job. Most people will not fall above the “moderately active” category… even bodybuilders who have desk jobs may rarely climb higher than moderately active. For example, I have a desk job, but I do get up and walk around throughout the day. I work out 6 days per week, and on some days I do up to 4 workouts per day due to instructing fitness classes (YOU do not need to do this many per day to have maximum effect, and I only do it because of instruction), and I don’t even go with extremely active. If you sit at a desk for work, but get anywhere between a 30 minute and 1 hour workout each day, go with sedentary for now. When in doubt, err on the lower side so you aren’t over estimating.
- Sedentary (Little to no exercise/desk job): BMR x 1.2
- Lightly active (light activity or sports 3-5 days per week): BMR x 1.375
- Moderately active (Moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days per week): BMR x 1.55
- Very Active (Hard exercise or sports 3-7 days per week): BMR x 1.725
- Extremely active (Intense exercise or sports, physical labor career, 2+ training sessions per day) BMR x 1.9
The final step for this method, as Tom Venuto says, is to multiply the TDEE calories by a percentage to determine the caloric deficit you need to burn fat. Keep it between 15% and 30% of your maintenance level (with 15% being the low end of conservative, and 30% being the high end of aggressive).
Option 2: Quick method
Here is the quick method of calculating your levels. The most popular multiplier for fat loss is 11 (calories) per pound of body weight. For maintenance it is 14 calories per pound of body weight, and for gain it is 18 calories. I am only giving you the low end of the ranges for each. This is an o.k. starting point for you if the method above makes you hide in the corner and suck your thumb, or you don’t want to pay for a trainer to guide you in your journey.
- Fat loss =11 x weight in lbs
- Maintenance = 14 x weight in lbs
Option 3: I don’t really care/lazy method
This is the least accurate way of determining anything. This method only uses an arbitrary range for fat loss. The really bad part is you literally have to pick a random number out of this range as a crap shoot, and you will likely be wrong for what you need. If you are defaulting to this you likely haven’t made a solid decision to lose fat and to be very blunt with you, you likely will not achieve your goal. That’s just a dose of tough love.
Women: 1,200 – 1,800
Men: 2,100 – 2,500
These ranges include the caloric deficit. Ladies, DO NOT go below 1,200 calories! This will put you in starvation mode and you will hang on to every single calorie and macro you consume.
This is the place most people stop. It’s perfectly fine for a more in-depth starting point, and I would suggest starting here before moving on. The reason I suggest it, is because most people are still learning to cut processed foods, fast foods, excess sugar consumption, etc. from their daily lives. Note, I do not believe in diets. I am trying to teach you how to be cognizant of what you are doing so you can make a lifestyle change for good decisions and a good relationship with food.
Here’s a post-workout morning selfie that may describe how you feel right now (and yes, if you look cute after your workout you didn’t do it right). If this reflects you, I apologize for the massacre to your brain that is about to happen next.
After a certain amount of time, though, some will argue that it becomes beneficial for some people to calculate their macros. This takes an even deeper look into math to determine how many calories from each of the three macronutrients you should be getting each day, and puts it into a percentage of total calories that tallies up to 100%.
P: 4 cal/gram
C: 4 cal/gram
F: 9 cal/gram
Most people start out with a percentage split similar to 50% Carbs (C), 30% Protein (P) and 20% Fat (F). Carbs are typically what are tweaked the most with this approach, with carb intolerant types falling somewhere around a 45-35-20 percentage split. From here you have to multiply the percentage by your fat loss calories to determine your calories from each of the individual macros. Then, you have to divide by the cal/gram to get the number of grams to eat for each.
As an example, lets assume a person has a 1600 calorie per day fat loss goal. Their macro split is 45-35-20.
Carbs: 0.45 x 1600 = 720 calories from carbs. 720 cal/4g = 180 grams of carbs
Protein: 0.35 x 1600 = 560 cal from protein. 560/4 = 140 grams of carbs
Fat: 0.20 x 1600 = 320 cal from fat. 320/9 = 35.6 grams of fat
With this, you have to really crunch what you are eating each day and make sure you are eating a good distribution throughout all your meals to hit your caloric target each day. Theoretically, if you eat your macros correctly, the caloric target should take care of itself.
Now that I have probably completely lost you, here is where ALL of these methods have a problem. Even if you are looking at nutrition labels of food and logging everything down (or using myfitnesspal, etc), the information listed on the labels has a delta (margin of error) of +/- 25%. Don’t cry. Don’t give up. There’s hope. Keep in mind you are just starting out with this and tweaking will be necessary along the way. Remember, the methods I am giving you are completely up to you to follow. They are basic (hahaha right?) in the world of fitness, and don’t even scratch the surface of what we are taught as trainers.
If I have any nuggets of information for you, though, that is more important than anything listed above it is your portion sizes and what you eat. Many people have a general idea of what a portion is by looking at that extremely accurate nutrition label, and just eyeball it. You can’t do that. If you aren’t using some form of measurement system you are going to be eating far more than you really should be. Also, many people believe eating a ton of fruits and vegetables with lower amounts of fat, carbs (i.e. potatoes, rice, etc), or protein is the way to go. WRONG. Your body has to have each of them in order to function optimally, prevent deficiencies, and give you the results you want. While eating a diet high in vegetables and or fruit will help your overall health, it isn’t necessarily optimal for fat loss.
WHEW! We made it through all the horrific information that needed to be relayed to you. If you want to jump into that and tweak as time and your body tells you, be my guest. Here is a FREE menu planner I did for you, and a FREE grocery list! Make your plan and do it y’all.
If you are serious about your journey, would like to bypass all that stuff and have fun at the same time, please contact me so we can talk about your goals in more detail. In fact, I am about to help host an online group that will provide custom fitness routine(s), help with meal plans, prepping, and provide support and accountability to help you reach your goals. There’s still time to join for this one (it starts week of March 27th). I will also host others throughout the year, so follow me on Facebook and Instagram for those updates!
Thank you for sticking with me to the end. You are a rockstar xoxo
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