How Many Calories Do I Really Need?

Calorie counting, what is your maintenance or BMR (basal metabolic rate) and how do you work it out? These are some of the most common questions I hear all the time via FitMag, social media and Men’s Fitness magazine. This might ruffle a few feathers but do you want my honest opinion or do you want me to comply with the norm? I trust it’s the former, at least I hope so or you might begin to slander my name. We shall see, at least it sets the tone for an interesting read, right?  Fat loss and calorie counting, I don't think their immensely important to one another.

The basal metabolic rate (BMR) simply put is your daily calorific requirements to exist, before you move. Above that you then have ‘’maintenance’’ which refers to the amount of calories you need to sustain your current weight when you account for your level of activity. Ok, those are the basics (extremely basic!!) covered.

For most people they type their stats into an online calculator and then they get the magic number, their ‘’maintenance’’ calories based on exercise volume, age, height, weight, gender and so on. Right away there are several issues with this. ‘’Training 5 times a week’’ vary SO much. One person could be jogging for 20 minutes, 5 times a week whilst the other could be doing strongman training. Two men could be the same age, weight, height yet have VERY different body compositions which will determine how many calories (and where they come from!) they can use efficiently. Right away I hope at least some of you can see my concern, are these calculators really of any use to us?

The other issue I really have is, are you REALLY in a deficit or not? Let me expand. Based on your maintenance calories you are then advised to reduce that number by 5-10% to achieve a ‘’deficit.’’ The issue here in my opinion is what if for the past 3 years that person has existed on 1,000 calories a day, which by the way isn’t unusual!!? Then they get their calculation back and boom, they need 1,856 calories a day to maintain. Right, the problems are about to unfold before their eyes. Having the metabolism of a Pug on thyroid suppressants their going to quickly gain weight and be exposed to a myriad of hormonal issues.

But the calculator says that’s the amount of calories they need, right? Due to the fact the body tries to find homeostasis for somebody living on such low calories that 1,000 calorie a day intake becomes their new ‘’maintenance’’ because they would otherwise diminish into thin air.

That in a nutshell is why I cringe when people focus on calories alone; it’s a mugs game to be frank.

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