There are usually two types of goals that I see people wanting to reach in their fitness journey:
1. Lose fat
2. Build Muscle
And sometimes, people want to do both; don’t we all. People may argue that it’s common sense, want to lose fat? Decrease calories and increase cardio. Want to build muscle? Increase calories and decrease cardio.
Essentially, that is correct. However, people tend to jump right into things before taking the most important thing into consideration – figuring out their maintenance calories.
This is super important because in order to lose fat, you need to eat LESS than the caloric intake you are maintaining your weight on. In order to gain muscle, you need to eat MORE than the caloric intake you are maintaining your weight on.
Here’s the thing though, your maintenance calories are constantly changing. Your body’s number one goal is to maintain homeostasis. This means it wants to maintain a constant internal environment. For example, if you start to get hot your body naturally starts to sweat. If you start to get cold, you get the goosebumps. All of these natural occurrences are to maintain that constant equilibrium.
Same thing happens with your fitness and nutrition regimen. If you start to diet, your body will adapt to that caloric level that you are consuming. It also happens with cardio as well. This is why you come to that “plateau” and you have to make adjustments either in calories, macros, or the amount of cardio or activity you are doing.
So, back to maintenance calories. This is always the starting point to reaching your fitness goals. Without knowing this, you really will be going in blindly and probably not starting off on the correct path.
People tend to first turn to an online calculator to determine their maintenance calories for them, but that can be highly inaccurate because it doesn’t know much about you. It can tell you that based on your height, weight, and activity level you should be eating X amount of calories, but if you are severely under eating or over eating, your maintenance calories will be way off from what it suggests. Then they try out what the calculator is telling them to do, it’s not working, they get discouraged and just give up.
How to Determine Your Maintenance Calories:
Whenever clients come to me and they have no idea how much they are eating, I tell them to input the food from the DAY BEFORE and see how many calories they are eating. This gives a better idea of their current caloric intake, because if they were to start trying to track on that specific day they would be analyzing calories and macros and the results would be skewed.
Inputting it from the day before ensures that is truly what they are eating without having them be aware that they are trying to count calories or macros.
If they are not losing weight and not gaining weight, then they have found their current maintenance calories. If they are either losing or gaining weight, making adjustments to the calories until they are maintaining their weight will provide you with your maintenance calories.
From there, you can accurately make adjustments towards whichever goal you are trying to reach.
It’s basically all about trial and error and monitoring how your body is responding and making adjustments from there.
To sum it all up:
Step 1: Figure out your maintenance calories
Step 2: Make adjustments to calories and/or training to go in the right direction of your goals.
Have you ever used an online calculator and found it to be accurate?