Before I started studying nutrition and working in the fitness industry ... trying to figure out my diet always felt overwhelming.
Especially when it came to how many calories I should be eating for my goals.
I learned that even trying look up the answer to this question was a recipe for disaster ... because there's so much conflicting information.
"Eat 1,200 calories to lose weight"
"Eat 3,000 calories to gain muscle"
"Eat 2,000 calories to maintain"
...just to name a few popular answers you'll find in a Google search.
It wasn't until I started to understand nutrition on a deeper level that I realized how much goes into figuring out the amount of calories you should be eating ... and there's no one-size fits all answer.
This subject can get a little complicated, but after you read this article ... you'll see that it can also be pretty simple.
But first ... it's important to understand what a calorie is.
For someone like myself who struggled for a long time with my relationship with food ... learning what a calorie actually was helped me quite a bit.
To be honest, I thought calories were the "bad" part of food. That's not true at all.
A calorie is actually a measurement of energy. It's the amount of energy a certain food provides you with.
Foods with a higher amount of calories provide your body with more energy ... and foods with a lower amounts of calories provide your body with less energy.
This helped me see that higher calorie foods are not necessarily bad or unhealthy ... they just provide you with more energy.
Sometimes you might need higher calorie foods for your specific fitness goal ... and sometimes you might not.
Now ... there's a few factors that play a role in how many calories you should be eating in a day.
The first step is finding how many calories you burn at rest ... which is called your Basal Metabolic Rate or your BMR.
This is simply the amount of energy you burn up if you were to not move all day.
This doesn't factor in your exercise, job ... or any daily movement you might be doing.
There's a few ways you can go about calculating your BMR, but most of them are a little too complicated.
Keep reading ... and we'll give you a very easy way to accurately find your BMR.
Once you know you're BMR ... you then need to find what's called your Activity Factor.
Your activity factor is a set number that's based on how much you move during your day.
Here's a little Activity Factor cheat sheet for you:
Sedentary, very little or no physical activity = 1.2
Light activity/exercise, 1-3 days per week = 1.375
Moderate activity/exercise with moderate intensity, 3-5 days per week = 1.550
Heavy activity/exercise with high intensity, 6-7 days per week = 1.725
Very heavy activity/exercise, working out with high intensity 2x per day, or working a hard physical labor job = 1.900
You don't need to worry about what the actual numbers mean ... but you do need to be honest with yourself when it comes to what activity level you fall under.
Once you know what that number is ... you simply multiply it by your BMR.
This gives you the total amount of calories you burn on average during your day.
If you want to get fancy ... you can call this your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.
You can also consider this your "maintenance calories".
Meaning if you consistently eat that amount of calories per day ... you'll stay where you're at currently when it comes to your weight, body fat, muscle mass, etc.
From here ... you need to factor in your fitness goal.
A fat loss goal would require you to eat a little bit less than your total daily energy number...
...and a muscle building goal would require you to eat a little more than your total daily energy number.
Making these specific adjustments should always be done with the help of an expert ... because how many calories you take away or add to your day also depends on many factors.
That's where we come in, and if you recall ... these steps started with finding your BMR.
Now you can use a fancy, complicated math equation to find your BMR ... or you can stop into your local S2 location for a FREE Inbody Scan!
You'll not only get a very accurate BMR calculation with your scan ... but you'll also get your weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass, and more!
We can then use those calculations to help you put together a plan that fits your personal needs and goals ... also 100% FREE of charge.
And even if don't want to use this method, or count calories at all ... we can still very easily put together the perfect plan for you!
Just stop by your nearest S2 location ... and we'll make sure you have exactly what you need to see the best results possible.
*This article was written by Andrew Lynn, who has a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. He is also a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.