I originally started working out to lose weight. I packed on an extra 20lbs after college with a desk job I hated and eating (and drinking) my feelings there. Stomach started poking out and I thought sit ups and planks would be the answer to all my problems.
Turns out, weight loss has very little to do with how much you exercise and everything to do with how much you eat. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you consume less, you’ll lose weight. By balancing the Calories In with Calories Out (CICO), you can manipulate your body composition any way you like.
Calories In is simple. Its just the food and drinks you consume throughout the day. All you have to do is count them.
Calories Out is where things can get complicated. Any number of factors could impact how many calories are burned in a day; your height, weight, what you do for work and recreation, and your current body composition.
So how do we actually figure out how much we burn in a day in order to calculate how much we can eat? (because lets be real, its all about minmaxing the food game so I can shove more in my face.)
First, you need to figure out your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is how many calories your body will use if you lay in bed all day and do nothing. There are plenty of online calculators you can plug your stats into, or you can figure it out yourself with this handy Mifflin St. Jeor Equation:
For Men: BMR = 10xweight(kg) + 6.25xheight(cm) – 5xage(years) + 5
For Women: BMR = 10xweight(kg) + 6.25xheight(cm) – 5xage(years) – 161
Now that we know how much we burn doing nothing, we can add our daily activities to that total. For a general estimation of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), you can just multiply your BMR by any of the following that describes you:
x1.2 = sedentary
x1.3 = lightly active
x1.5 = moderately active
x1.7 = very active
Personally, my TDEE is estimated around 2040cal. If your estimation seems off or you’re not getting the results you want, just adjust your intake one way or another until you figure out your balance. I don’t count calories to lose weight, but to maintain weight while adding muscle. This requires a but more specific tweaking of my macros instead of simply looking at the calories (which I’ll go over more in a later post), but overall calories are going to be the biggest factor in whether you gain or lose general weight.
Now that you have your CO figured out, all you have to worry about is the CI, what you eat and drink. Yes, everything you eat and drink counts, even if no one is watching. I have tried a lot of calories counting apps so far, and the one I keep going back to is My Fitness Pal because it also tracks all nutrients, not just calories, which helps me reach my protein goals every day.
Do whatever works for you, whether that be a notebook you keep with you or an app on your phone, but if you’re looking to change your body composition, the first place you need to start is with your diet.