How to Compute Your Maintenance Calories
Your calorie intake is a direct reflection of your eating habits. If you consume calories which are below maintenance level, you’ll lose weight. Consuming anything above maintenance will result in weight gain. Pretty simple right? Calories in, calories out. Obviously, there are going to be some individuals who are an exception to this rule due to certain medical conditions but more often than not, you’re not one of them.
Now, the goal of this article is for you to be able to find your maintenance calories. When your caloric intake doesn’t cause you to gain or lose weight, you’ve hit the sweet spot. Maintenance level is unique to everyone because of these factors:
- Metabolic Rate
- Activity Level
- Thermic Effect of Food
- NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
Now you can see why no two people will have the same maintenance level even though they may be the same age, weight, gender, and height. Other things come into play.
Here are 4 different ways for you to calculate your maintenance calories:
Method 1: For Strength and Power Athletes (High to Very High Activity Levels)
FIT ME Calculator
(Based on Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition Fourth Edition by Heather Hedrick Fink, Alan E. Mikesky)
Fill in your weight (in kilograms) in one of the yellow boxes. Use a lower activity factor (1.6) if you have a lower activity level but you’re still training for strength and power. Move higher to suit your needs.
Method 2: Sedentary to Low Activity Levels
BW (body weight) in lbs. x 14 – 17 = Estimated Caloric Maintenance Level
For a 150-lb. individual, their maintenance would range from 2100 (150 x 14) – 2550 (150 x 17) calories.
Those who think they have a slower metabolism should use numbers on the lower end of the spectrum and those who think they have a faster metabolism should use the higher end. This method is a little on the low side if you’re very active, IMO.
Method 3: For Medium to High Levels of Activity
The Mifflin-St Jeor Formula
For those who suck at math, like me, there are many calculators online that use this formula It takes into account your age, weight, height, gender and you weekly activity level to calculate for maintenance. Just google “The Mifflin-St Jeor Formula” formula online and input your data.
Method 4: For Medium to High Levels of Activity
For the gym rats or anyone who has a weekly exercise routine, you may want to try using a TDEE Calculator. TDEE stand for Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Those who weight train or engage in any regular physical activity may find this calculator more accurate because it bases maintenance calories on the frequency and intensity of your activities throughout the week on top of your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Your basal metabolic rate is the calories your body burn at rest and is what’s needed for you to survive.
1) Calculate maintenance using any of the methods provided above.
2) Hit that number consistently for 2 weeks.
3) Weigh yourself at the start and end of each week, same time.
4) If weight went up, reduce calories by 100-200. If weight went down, increase calories by 100-200. Repeat steps 2-4 again.
5) If weight remains stable, congratulations! You now have a good idea of what your maintenance calories are. Now you can adjust it for gain (increase) or loss (decrease).
Please share if you found this guide helpful!