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How Many Calories To Eat Each Day?

I realize this question has been asked before, but we got an email today from someone asking this question, and while we had some ideas, we wanted to hear what others think and what their experience has been.

When we started PT, our general thesis was people tend to know how to lose weight and get fit, but have a hard time following through. Three years later we see some weaknesses in a portion control only diet. But no question it is a critical component. So while this is ultimately an individual issue, what are your thoughts and experiences here?



Tue. May 13, 12:07pm

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I never go below 1500 calories because it leads to backlash in the form of bingeing and diet fatigue.

I'm very active, so I currently eat 11x my weight in calories (155 x 11 = 1700 calories) and lose a pound a week. For me it's the right balance between weight loss, appetite satisfaction, and sustainability.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 12:19 PM

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i like to mix my calories up during the week to keep my body guessing and keep it from getting bored so i range from 1200-1800(my bmr) and this way it allows me to eat what i like and have a treat at least once a week without going out of my range

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 1:15 PM

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I find need to very strictly control my calorie intake (not low - just strict) and tweak it down a notch from by BMR + activity + exercise and then go from there.
So for me IN THEORY - at 5'11" & 175 lbs - 32 yr old male = 1840.35 is BMR x 1.725 since I work out VERY hard (intense cardio + heavy weights) 10 hours a week would indicate that I would be eating 3174.60 calories a day.

but I DON"T find that to be the case - right now my diet is about 1900 calories per day to lose a little weight and I am not overly hungry so all of these calculators seem to me to be quite misleading. I think if I ate even 2500 a day I would gain weight.

I eat mainly the same thing every day, 100-200 calorie healthy "snacks" every 2 hours and a very healthy varied dinner with a total of around 200 grams of protein. This is what works for me and I have lost about 50 pounds and kept it off and I am in the best shape of my life.

Overall my tips would be:
1. No B.S. -- to lose weight you will be a little hungry - get over it
2. To keep hunger at bay eat small healthy meals at regular intervals
3. Healthy food fills you up better
4. Do the math like the above and start there. That is usually too much food in my experience so each week you do not lose anything back off your calories per day by 100 and see if your hunger is mild - when you find a calorie level that leaves you mildly hungry LOCK IN at that caloric level.
5. A lot of people get frustrated with thier rate of weight loss so they drop their calories too low and then lose it - BE PATIENT and stick to a caloric level that is just below that threshhold you have found ! ! If you lost just 1/2 pound a week next year you will be 26 pounds lighter AND have permanently changed your lifestyle

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 1:52 PM

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If I could make a reccomendation,
Before I joined PT I lost 40lbs (over 5 years ago). I did it through semi-dieting and exercise, knowing that it would get me to my end result, but not knowing just how to "calculate it".
Since I have put 10lbs back on, I have become much more obessesed with the numerical side of weight loss, as in what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat.
I don't know if it is possible to build in a calculator for such things as:
1 - Calculate your BMR
2 - Calculate how long it will take to lose the weight
3 - Target heart rate for weight loss

From everything I have read with a combination of resources I am supposed to consume 2079 cals / day, because I want to lose the weight, I need that 500 calorie defecit bringing it down to 1579.

I would have loved to have all of this available on PT, it would have saved me time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 2:31 PM

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hey 12:19

Where is that "11x my weight in calories" idea coming from - that would be much closer to than my BMR + activity count...


Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 2:57 PM

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I was wondering the same thing. According to that calculation I would be eating 2200 calories a day. I am currently eating 1000 and can't seem to lose weight.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 3:01 PM

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whoa PP that does not seem not possible, 1000 a day and no weight loss - [for what period of time - are you a 12 year old girl who is 4 feet tall -]

no offense - I guess that is what this thread is for REAL vs. theory - but I just have a hard time beleiving you eat 1000 calories a day for say 3 months and lost nothing.

(but note that she said that was based on being "very active" too...)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 3:27 PM

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well, I did it for two weeks (actually 800 cals) and lost nothing. In fact, I gained 2 pounds. I work out every day for 30 minutes and when I have time, I walk for 15-20 minutes at 4:30 am when I get up.

I have since bumped up my calories because i was starving and my skin started looking funny, like unhealthy. I also have hashimoto's which limits weight loss.

my comment was for real, not theory. but thanks for your input.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 3:35 PM

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when I say real vs theory I mean
I agree with the OP / PT that the experiences that you and I have are sometimes more valuable than the scientific calculations and theories that are out there.
I did not mean that you were not doing what you said - I just wanted more info, that is all ;)


Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 3:45 PM

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I came across the concept of a multiplier of your weight to determine calorie consumption in bodybuilding publications/websites and The Biggest Loser (which chooses a painfully tiny multiplier, but then I don't have a $250K prize to keep me on track).

Most of these sources suggest a multiplier of no smaller than 9x your body weight, going higher for more activity. I currently do 2 hours of moderate cardio daily (yes, I do weights too, but that's not a significant, direct calorie burner). I could do less exercise and eat less food for the same result, but I like my food too much. The prospect of giving up 200 calories of deliciousness so that I can sit on my reduced-fat ass an extra 30 minutes a day just doesn't sound good to me - especially since those are my "fun" calories, as in a very healthy diet for 1500 calories, then throw in a couple of Reese's PB cups because I'm human.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 3:47 PM

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sounds like you got it together! PB cups are my favorite and I would go nuts if I couldn't have a treat twice a week with staying in my calories.

thanks for the info. i hadn't heard that multiplication theory before--nice easy way to figure it out. Starting at 11 and working your way down is a good idea!

I feel so stupid when it comes to figuring out how many calories i should eat and what i should do for a workout. I'm not losing so I feel like I'm doing something wrong.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 4:37 PM

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wow 3:47 thanks, that is really cool.

amen on RPBC they are the best... I actually keep a big jar of peanut butter in my desk drawer and eat 1 TBSP with a 1/2 banana at lunch as my fun calories...

(and "reduced-fat ass" - ROTFL)


Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 4:57 PM

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To go back to the original question here - I follow a calorie restriction as part of my weight loss plan, but as an overall I have made changes that will be with me for my lifetime whether I am trying to lose weight or not.
1. A diet based around fruits and vegetables.
2. Whole grains over "white" ones.
3. Mindfullness over what I am eating, especially at a restaurant. I dont run from fat, but i do consider calories and sodium when I am eating out. I also have also cut back on meat (1x/month or less) so this makes it a lot easier to avoid fast food restaurants.
4. Make activity part of everyday - for me this means my "hobbies" are running, hiking, yoga, biking and going to the gym. Some days are more intense and others are more relaxed but that is OK since I am doing something every day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 5:14 PM

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I really don't get this whole 9x or 11x your body weight thing. I've never heard of anything like it. That would mean that as a 200 pound woman I should eat 1800 calories a day. To lose weight? I've been eating around 1200 - 1400 and doing intense cardio every day for 30 minutes and I've only lost eleven pounds in three months. I can't imagine eating that much at this point!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 5:42 PM

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I think it works better for men.
I am a female and 9x is about right - but I am young and very active - I dont think it will work when I am in my 30s or if I were not as active as I am.
When I calculate my BMR with the online tools it is too high. Sounds like that is a concensus among PTers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 5:47 PM

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still 5:42 - it is better than the BMR + exercise model right?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 8:16 PM

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okay, then take a look at the other approach I mentioned...


p.s. what are youre specs that you need to lose at 120 ? ?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 8:47 PM

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8:42 I'm guessing you're a small woman -- I'm ideal at a little below 120 as well, and found that those last few pounds came off fine when I was eating 1200 3 or 4 days a week and in the 1400-1500 range the rest of the time, as long as I exercised 5-6 days/week. Age also plays into it -- I'm in my late 30's.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 8:55 PM

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try logging onto its very cool and tells you how many calories to consume given your info and given if you are trying to lose/gain/maintain weight...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 9:27 PM

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3,600 CPD ? ?

Holy guacamole, I am just reading in my Muscle and Fitness 101 Workouts book that a 180 lb weight lifting beginner "should eat 3,600 calories" a day!

Man, wouldn't I look more like a sumo wrestler than a bodybuilder ? ?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 11:10 PM

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There is no way I could ever sustain my weight if I ate 3000 plus calories a day. Yes, I eat very healthy and strive to throw in 1300 calories a day but I will never go anything above 2000. I lost 35-40 lbs going very low, sometimes too low with two to three hours of exercise. These days I continue to run,bike and swim but eat more food. I swim for an hour every other day and weight lift 7 days a week. When I am not swimming for an hour I am running 8 miles per hour for one hour. If I am not running then I bike for 40 -50 miles at a time. I am right now 6 feet tall and 165. I did a body fat test and it came to 10%. I am happy with my results and will continue to eat healthy each and every day. Hope any of this info helps someone. ONE DAY I WOKE UP AND I WAS SICK AND TIRED OF BEING SICK AND TIRED OF BEING FAT. I changed my lifestyle and the gym is where I spend most of my time. I don't watch that much TV anymore and really my goals are to become faster and get my triathlon times lower. I AM LOVING LIFE!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008, 4:35 AM

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according to that bmr calculator i would have to eat 2115 calories a day to maintain my weight - I have and could eat way more than that and still not gain a pound... but to lose weight i eat i about 800-1200 calories a day, and in 8 months have lost 50 pounds. just in the last 2 weeks i have lost 3 pounds.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008, 9:01 AM

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