The very first step in any weight loss, or muscle gain program is to determine the number of calories that you need. Get this wrong, and you won’t get results. It is the foundation for everything else. Once you determine your calories, then you can figure your macro nutrients and your workout program, including weight training and cardio if you choose to do it. So, how do you calculate your calories?
There are lots of different complex formulas you can use, there are calorie calculators online, macronutrient calculators as well. But I have found the easiest, most simple way to go about it is the following:
To lose fat you need to take in less calories than you use. You need to be in a caloric deficit. So to figure that out, take your weight and multiply it by 10-12. So if you weight 150lbs, then you would want to take in between 1500 calories and 1800 calories per day. It’s that simple. Then track your calories, write them down in a notebook or use an app on your phone.
One exception to this method is that if you are smaller, say 130lbs, then ideally the lowest you would go as far as calories would be 1400 calories. If you are 130lbs and you want to lose weight, then my guess is you are ‘skinny fat’ and you actually need to get active and start lifting weights. It isn’t that you are fat per say, your weight is normal, but you need to get some muscle. Start working out with weights and your bo dy composition will change.
Another exception to this is those that are pregnant or nursing. I wrote an article about how to lose weight after the baby. You can find that here.
To gain muscle you need to be in a caloric surplus, meaning you need to take in more calories than you use. That doesn’t mean you go overboard and eat anything and everything. To figure it out, take your bodyweight and multiple it by 14-18. So at 150lbs, you would take in between 2100-2700 calories. That’s it. Then be sure to track your calories.
You may need to tweak these guidelines. They aren’t exact but they are a very good starting point for most people. They don’t take into account metabolism, so if you have a fast metabolism, you will of course need more calories, a slow metabolism, and you’ll need less.
These are very general guidelines that should work for most people that put in the commitment necessary to see results. Where most people fall short is in the commitment. They start the program and fall off after a few weeks.