We are almost at the halfway mark of our Australian winter. Many people are now starting to look ahead and realising the warmer summer months are creeping closer every day.
We have all done it, the last minute “oh Sh*t I need to get my summer shred on”. It happens, in winter we are all rugged up and covered by thick hoodies, no one will notice the few extra KG’s around the mid-section. But now with the warmer months looming, it’s time to start laying down the groundwork and planning your strategy for this year’s winter bounce-back.
Whether you’re trying to drop a few kilograms before summer or add a bit of lean muscle, there are a few things you will need to consider, and possibly one of the most important, your calories.
If losing weight is your primary goal, you will need to consume fewer calories each day than you burn each day, also known as a calorie deficit. If your goal is to increase your weight, your objective will be the exact opposite, you will want to aim for a daily calorie surplus.
HOW TO CALCULATE MY CALORIES?
There are a few methods you can use to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and then your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), such as metabolic testing, activity trackers such as Fitbit’s, Garmins & smart watches but the method I am going to discuss today is the online calorie calculator. For most people without access to an activity tracker or body composition scanner, or maybe someone that doesn’t want to pay $30 for each scan the only calculator will give you a pretty good guide. It’s a quick and simple procedure which means you can re-calculate every few weeks without taking to much time out of your day.
How does a calorie counter work? After you input data, it uses a formula called the Mifflin St. Jeor equation to calculate your BMR or sometimes referred to as your resting metabolic rate (RMR). This is the number of calories your body needs to function when it is at rest. These essential functions include things like breathing, circulating blood or basic brain functions.
Then, based on the personalised lifestyle information you entered, such as activity level, the calculator adds the number of calories you need to fuel your body for daily activity giving you your TDEE.
I have attached a link at the bottom of this article that will take you to an online calorie calculator.
How Many Calories Do I Burn Every Day?
Your TDEE is a combination of these different factors:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body needs to maintain basic functions like breathing, circulating blood and building cells. Things like age, body size and gender affect your resting metabolic rate. Your RMR accounts for 60-75% of the total number of calories you burn each day.
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) This is the amount of energy that your body uses to do daily activities like washing dishes, typing on your computer, or walking around your office. The number of calories you burn from NEAT varies greatly based on your activity level.
- Calories Burned During Exercise. The actual number of calories you burn during your workouts will depend on the intensity and duration of each session. Calories burned through exercise and non-exercise physical activity account for roughly 15-30% of your TEE.
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). Your body burns calories to chew, digest and store food. Each type of food (macronutrient) has a different TEF. Eating protein burns the most calories by a small margin. TEF accounts for about 10% of the total number of calories you burn each day.
The online calculator will take into account all of these factors when providing your final TDEE.
Reaching Your Goal Weight
When you complete the calorie calculator process, you’ll be presented with your TDEE. This is your maintenance calories. This is the number of calories you should eat each day to maintain your current weight.
If you are trying to lose weight, you will want to aim for a calorie deficit which means consuming below this maintenance goal each day. How much lower should you go?
The range I recommend for my clients is between 10% and 20%. A calorie deficit of 10% will provide a nice steady state of weight loss in a sustainable manner while allowing you to maintain a larger amount of your muscle tissue than a larger deficit. A 20% deficit, on the other hand, will generate a much greater rate of weight loss. This amount is normally reserved for my clients that have very short time frames in which they need to reach their goal weight. You are much more likely to see a larger reduction in muscle tissue following a 20% calorie deficit.
And for those wanting to increase weight, your situation is the opposite once again. You will want to aim for a 10%-20% surplus of your TDEE. A 10% surplus will see you steadily gain weight will keeping relatively lean, whereas a 20% surplus will most likely result in a larger amount of body fat being gained for most individuals as a result of gaining more weight in a shorter time period.
A calorie is just a source of energy, and to operate your body requires energy. A calorie deficit is simply an energy shortfall. When in a calorie deficit you’re restricting the inflow of energy, the fuel your body needs to function. So, your body burns stored fat (excess weight) for fuel instead. A calorie deficit occurs when you cut calories by eating less than your body needs or burn extra calories with physical activity. You can also combine diet and exercise to create a calorie deficit.
Increasing Your Daily Calorie Expenditure
To reach your negative energy balance and lose weight successfully, try to increase the amount of energy you use each day. Of course, there are some components of your TDEE that are hard to change. Increasing your resting metabolic rate, for example, is fairly difficult. And increasing the number of calories you burn when you eat food isn’t an effective way to reach your negative energy balance, either. But you can change your daily physical habits.
The most effective way to increase your TDEE is with exercise and NEAT.
Try to exercise as many times as possible each week, and try to remain as active as possible throughout the day, especially if you have an office job where you are sitting all day. If possible, get up and complete 15 body-weight squats every hour on the hour. Body-weight squats require relatively small amounts of space which means you can do them in the bathroom or around the corner if you don’t want anyone to see you. There are loads of exercises you can do, such as incline pushups on a bench or table, lunges, tricep dips, jumping jacks, torso twists or any movement that gets you up and moving.
All calorie calculators and counters are estimates. If you are trying to change your weight, whether you’re trying to lose or gain weight, you will need to have patience and take time for trial and error before you find the sweet spot. This may require changing your calorie intake every few weeks until you find the right amount of calories that will help you reach your goals.