Tag Archives: calorie deficit

How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily?

How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily?

Posted on 21. Nov, 2010 by .

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A common question I get asked a lot is, “how many calories should I eat daily?.” This is a very good question because, as I’ve said over and over again, the basic principle of weight loss is calories in, calories out. If you violate this rule, you will have a difficult time seeing weight loss. I guarantee it.

I’ve given you a resource for calculating calorie deficit before and you can instantly download this tool from this article: “How to Calculate Your Calorie Deficit”. This tool will give you a good estimate of how many calories you should consume daily but I’ve found that, sometimes, the numbers can be way too high for people outside of the average population which most of these calculations are based on. If you are within the average population, your actual number may vary by a difference of 100-200 calories a day. In reality, this is only a rough starting point. But, after reading a recent e-book from Brad Pilon, I happened upon a better way to calculate your daily calorie intake.

You will most likely remember Brad Pilon as the author of Eat Stop Eat but recently, he came out with a joint project called, Venus Index. Pilon wrote the nutrition manual for Venus Index (VI) while his partner in crime, John Barban, created the amazing workouts. While I’m not ready to fully review the Venus Index yet, I’d like to talk about what I learned from Brad on the nutrition standpoint so far.

The nutrition manual for VI is entitled, “Body Centric Eating Manual.” Brad defines body centric eating as (his own words exactly): With Body-Centric Eating, the ‘end goal’ is a specific body weight and shape. We simply eat to obtain then maintain this shape and weight. With Calorie-Centric Eating, the ‘end goal’ is to eat a mathematically pre-determined amount of calories with hopes that this number will lead to weight loss. Brad also goes on to say that your calorie needs are largely determined by your height and your activity level. We’d like to think that having more muscle or eating more protein will help increase our metabolism which they do, but the increase in metabolism is not significant enough to make a difference in our weight loss efforts. But, I digress…

jessica-biel

[Just so you know, the body shape I’m going for is what Jessica Biel sports in this picture]

Brad then gave an ideal weight range for men and women based on their height and the minimum calorie intake we should be eating during extended periods of weight loss. For instance, for me (a female) with a height of 5’4″, my ideal weight range is 108 to 139 lbs. Based on my height, my minimum calorie intake is 1,250 calories a day. This number is lower than what I previously calculated since it does not take into account my activity level because this is a body centric equation. But what this number will do though is it will help me move towards my ideal body shape no matter what my activity level is. With the Venus Index, they suggest you do not go over 50% of your height. In my case, my waist should ideally be 40% of my height which is 25.5 inches.

Keep in mind that I don’t intend to eat 1,250 calories a day. I love food so much that eating as little as this is simply not sustainable. I would go off track on my 3rd day most likely…lol. It’s a great thing I use Eat Stop Eat. Brad suggests to treat 1,250 calories as a rolling average. This means I can have a 24 hour fast eating no calories at all so I can eat a lot more than 1,250 during the days I do eat. If I have confused you already, here is how my daily calorie intake looks like:

  • Monday – Start Fast after lunch, eat only 850 calories
  • Tuesday – end fast at lunch, eat only 850 calories
  • Wednesday – full day of eating, eat 1,750 calories

Since I ate 400 calories less than what I’m supposed to 2 days in a row, I can eat an extra 800 calories on the days I do eat. What I tend to do is save these extra calories over the weekend when my husband and I go out to a nice restaurant or go to a social gathering of some sort. If I add in another 24-hour fast to my week, that is a whopping 1,600 calories extra I can eat over the weekend or on days I’d like to eat more. Now, you can see how I can maintain this “rolling average” of 1,250 calories a day even when I eat more on certain days. To make this simpler, if I multiplied 1,250 by 7 days, I have 8,750 calories to play with during the week and distribute it however I want. So, maybe the right question is “how many calories should I eat in a week?” instead of “how many calories should I eat daily?”.

What Brad has created here is a beautiful thing. Trying to lose weight or “dieting” no longer means canceling all your social functions or dinner with friends because “you can’t eat that stuff.” Really, this is as flexible as you can get. I wish I can post the actual table that Pilon used in the manual but I feel that I will be giving away too much information which he many not appreciate 🙂

But, if you are fully invested in getting results, I suggest you get the manual right now while it is still 40% off. You can get it here: Venus Index Systems. This is hands down, a great investment which will change the way you eat and the way you workout.

This is also one of the best programs developed for women and women only which means that you are not doing some workout designed for a dude. I don’t want to say too much about the workout yet because I am still reviewing it at this moment (i.e. actually doing the workouts in the real world which is my lab…haha) but if you just get this because you are interested in the “Body Centric Eating Manual,” you would have gotten your money’s worth already. All I can say about the workouts is I’m having fun with them.

Happy “dieting”!

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Your Fat Loss Plan for the New Year

Your Fat Loss Plan for the New Year

Posted on 29. Dec, 2009 by .

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Well, Christmas is over and no doubt you’ve probably gained a few happy pounds. I’m going to be honest with you…I did let my hair down during the holidays because it is a time of relaxing, having fun with the family, and eating good food. The only workout that I did was trying out my sister’s Wii Fit balance board which was a lof of fun. My mom even commented that I must be “off the diet” (no matter how many times I tell her that I’m not on any kind of diet – just a healthy lifestyle) because I’ve been requesting a lot of her great dishes. So, yes, I enjoyed a lot of feel good foods and then some more. This is also the reason why I didn’t write a “holiday fitness plan” article because I knew that no matter how many healthy eating articles you read over the holidays, you are bound to enjoy the holiday foods anyway – which you should because it does come around only once a year.

Alas, there’s no such thing as eating under a calorie deficit during the holidays. But, since the new year is just around the corner, I thought it would be great to write about how you can get back on track.

There’s no doubt that you will be plagued with many advertisements for diet pills, weight loss supplements, and useless fitness equipments. So, you should be very critical of what you see, read or hear on t.v., newspapers/magazines, radio, and other forms of media. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you’re probably a lot of steps ahead of the crowd anyway.

So, what’s your best fitness plan for the new year? My best advice to stick to the basics – the tried and true – the only way to lose the fat and win the battle of the bulge => eat less and exercise more.

Are you disappointed that I don’t have some crazy new idea for your fitness plan? Well, I’m not so much and this is why:

The Calorie Deficit

Having a calorie deficit is probably the most important factor when you’re trying to lose weight. You can workout as much as you want and eat the healthiest foods but if you are still eating way more than you’re supposed to eat, you will not lose weight. Violate this rule and your results will come to a screeching halt.

This should be good news to you because with all the ads for weight loss nowadays, this simplifies things a lot. When in doubt, go back to basics. Having a calorie deficit is the most basic rule out there but it works! The only way to accomplish this is to eat less and move your body more often. No weight loss supplement or “special” fitness equipment can give you the results that you’re looking for. Once you realize that you have to put in the hard work and not rely on magic pills, you will see results!

I am also not saying that having a calorie deficit is the be all and and all of fat loss. There are definitely other factors that come into play when you’re trying to lose weight but, most of the time, people then to lose sight of this rule because they’re always looking for a better pill or the next great fitness equipment. *Warning: rant coming…we can blame our age, our metabolism, our family, our stressful jobs, etc. but in the end, we usually don’t get results because we eat too much or not workout hard enough. *end of rant

Having said that, you still have to have a plan. So, here are a few steps to help you get started on the new year if you’re a complete newbie or just need a reminder of the basics:

  • Calculate your calorie deficit. If you don’t know it, you can read this article and get the Calorie Deficit Calculator
  • Write down short-term and long-term goals insted of new year’s resolutions. For example, lose 24 lbs by March 31 instead of just saying “lose 30 lbs.” Be specific!
  • Make strength training a priority and get a workout program that you can do at least 3 times a week. Make sure that you will enjoy your workout but choose a challenging one that will take you out of your comfort zone.
  • If you must perform some type of cardiovascular activity, make sure that it’s interval training or bodyweight cardio. I’m not saying that the elliptical or other cardio equipments are bad or inferior but if your body is used to them, you will not get much benefit from your workout. Same goes if you’ve been doing the same old workout for a long time. It’s time to change things up!
  • Find your motivation. For me, my motivation is knowing that I won’t need a crutch when I get old and I will still look like I’m 30 years old even though I am 80 (ok, maybe not that young but you’d never know).

Here’s a double kettlebell workout that will surely challenge you:

The leanest people I know have these rules down as habits. Make this the year that you are going to be a part of the lean people statistics and never look back. I heard this one good saying while listening to an interview earlier, “If it’s important, do it everyday.” The calorie deficit is important so if you’re goal is to lose weight this year, make sure to have it at least 6 days a week until you reach your goal.

I hope you have a great and healty new year ahead of you. Let’s look forward to 2010!

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3 Ways to Break the Fat Loss Plateau

3 Ways to Break the Fat Loss Plateau

Posted on 24. Jun, 2009 by .

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I want to pull my hair everytime I overhear someone say that people reach a fat loss plateau because they are gaining muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. While this is true – this little known fact has been misconstrued over and over again because people want to believe that they are not losing weight because they are gaining muscle.

First, I’m a firm advocate of taking your body fat measurements as an added assessment of your progress besides your weight. You can read more about this topic in this post –>
“3 Reasons Why the BMI is obsolete”. In short, measuring your body fat gives you a more accurate idea of whether your losing or gaining fat and losing or gaining muscle mass.

So, what can you do when you reach a fat loss plateau?

It all goes down to your calorie deficit. Despite all the hype on fat loss, new fitness equipments, diet pills, fad diets, etc., fat loss only occurs when you are spending more calories than you are consuming – a very basic principle yet it is also very powerful.

Below, you will read about 2 simple guidelines that would be perfect for people who have been doing structured workouts and who have a good idea of their daily calorie intake. If you’re not one of those people, don’t despair. Read all the way to the end and I have a few suggestions for you as well.

#1 Increase Your Physical Activity

For people who have a structured exercise routine, increasing physical activity just might be the answer to create a deeper calorie deficit. For instance, I do my kettlebell training 3 times a week and perform some type of light activity on my light days. In order to burn more calories than I am eating without changing my calorie intake, I can add 2 additional days in which I can do high intensity intervals on the treadmill or at the local park. I can do these intervals either on my days off or at the end of my kettlebell training. Either way, adding the intervals would not likely impair me for my actual workouts but, in the end, I will be burning more calories than usual.

Intervals Outdoors

Intervals Outdoors

Besides burning more calories, increasing and adding a different type of physical activity will add variety to the stress that is place on your body. By doing this, you are sort of putting your body into “shock” and giving it a nice surprise to boost your metabolism. Every now and then, your body needs a different type of activity because it is an efficient system that can adapt to stress especially if that stress is exercise.

If you decide to add your extra activity on your off days, you will also take advantage of the effect called, “Excess Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC.” Basically, after the stress caused by any form of physical activity, EPOC is the body’s response to bring your body back to where is was before the exercise – this stage is called “homeostasis” which means everything is on the “same, stable condition.” In order to do this, your body needs to use your body’s “stored energy” to restore your normal bodily functions which will increase your metabolism and, ultimately, the calories you burn.

#2 Reduce Your Food Portions

So, nothing has changed in your diet. You’ve been keeping it “clean.” How come you’re still not losing weight? I would suggest doing #1 first and see what happens. If after you’ve increased your physical activity and you reached a plateau again or your body fat measurements are still not moving then, it’s time to look at your nutrition.

At some point, even people who have developed a healthy eating lifestyle or whose nutrition does not deviate much from healthy eating (i.e. eat the right foods, know how many calories are in each meal, eat a balanced diet of protein, carbs, and fat etc.) will reach a fat loss plateau.

One reason why this happens is: they are no longer in a calorie deficit. Ok, let me explain by giving an example from my own experience. When I initially calculated by calorie deficit at 130 lbs, I was eating 1,690 (130 lbs x 13 – for simplicity purposes) calories per day. But, once I lost some weight and I’m down to 117 lbs, this calorie deficit requirement also goes down to 1,521 (117 lbs x 13) calories per day. So, if I kept eating as if I was still 130 lbs, my calorie deficit obviously gets smaller to the point that I’m eating closer to maintenance.

So, if this sounds like your situation, it might be time to calculate your calorie deficit again. You can do that by going –> here.

If you’re not the calorie counting type, you can simply reduce your food portions. For example, if you’re used to eating 1 cup of brown rice, reduce it to 1/2 a cup. If you eat a small snack at night, it might be good to take that out for a little bit. These are simple ways to cut your calories without being too obsessive compulsive with calorie counting.

#3 Start a workout and nutrition log

This is the tip for those who don’t follow structured workouts or don’t have a good idea of their calorie intake. There’s really no easy way to put this – you’ve got to find a structured workout and at least have an idea about the calorie contents in food. These logs are a way for you to track your progress or drawbacks because if you have a record of what you did, you will be able to tweak certain parts of it in order to generate change (then, do #1 and #2).

Finding structured workouts is not difficult these days. Besides Turbulence Training, there are many web sites out there that give away free workouts that are effective for fat loss. So, there’s really no excuse to scratch your head at the gym anymore because you’re wondering which exercise to do next (been there, done that, never going back).

As far as nutrition goes, Sparkpeople.com is a great place to find healthy recipes, count your calories, and keep a log of your nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to count calories all the time (I don’t like to do it either) but it is the only way to develop a keen sense of the calorie contents in foods. Once you’re familiar with this, you won’t have to do it at all if you don’t want to.

Fat loss is not easy but it can be simple. There is a learning curve in this journey but if you educate yourself and follow the right advice, you will be ahead of the game and you will save yourself a lot of headache and frustrations in the long run. I always say that the “hard way” is usually not the easiest way but its probably the shortest, most effective way to getting results.

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How to Calculate Your Calorie Deficit

Posted on 06. Apr, 2009 by .

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When I had my measurements taken last week, I also had to re-adjust my calorie intake because it changes with my body composition. Because of this, I also had to re-calculate my calorie deficit. If you’ve been trying to lose weight for awhile, you’re probably familiar with this concept. But, a lot of people are either doing it wrong (eating too much or too little calories) or just don’t know how to calculate their calorie deficit at all.

The concept behind the calorie deficit is simple. You figure out how much you need in order to maintain your current weight (this is your maintenance level) then, you reduce the amount of calories that you eat in order to lose weight. In his book, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle,” Tom Venuto says that you should have, at most, a calorie deficit of 30% under maintenance level. This would mean that if your maintenance level is 2,000 calories then, you can eat 1,600 calories to lose weight but not less than that because it slows down your metabolic rate if you reduce your calorie intake even further. Take note, that Tom also mentioned 7 reasons to not undereat when you’re dieting and this is only one of them.

Ok, if I haven’t confused you already, let me give you an example of how to calculate your calorie deficit. Keep in mind that a lot of factors affect your maintenance calorie levels but, to simplify the discussion, I will just focus on the formulas.

The first, simple formula is by using multipliers of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE also known as maintenance level):

  • For Fat loss: multiply by 12 to 13 calories per lb. of bodyweight
  • Maintenance (TDEE) = 15-16 calories per lb. of bodyweight
  • Weight gain = 18 to 20+ calories per lb. of bodyweight

So, if I wanted to lose weight, I would multiply my weight by 12. Let’s say my weight is 117 lbs. My TDEE would be 1,755 calories (117 lbs x 15) so I’d want to eat 1,404 calories (117 lbs x 12) in order to have a calorie deficit. Take note that this formula is suitable only for people who are “average” which means that they are not grossly overweight or thin. Also, it doesn’t take into account the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which can vary greatly among the general population depending on your body composition, height, age, etc.

This leads me to the next discussion: the Harris-Benedict formula. This takes into account the BMR which means that it will apply to the general population and a lot of people can calculate their calorie deficits this way.

Before I proceed, you can download the calculator that I use here:
Calorie Deficit Calculator

Back to the calculation…

Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 X wt in kg) + (5 X ht in cm) – (6.8 X age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 X wt in kg) + (1.8 X ht in cm) – (4.7 X age in years)

So, if I have the following statistics:

  • Weight: 117 lbs = 53.18 kg
  • Height: 5’4″ = 162.56 cm
  • Age: 27 yrs old

My calculation would look like this:

BMR = 655 + (9.6 X 53.18 kg) + (1.8 X 162.56 cm) – (4.7 X 27) = ~ 1,331 calories

Because my BMR is my calorie expenditure if I didn’t perform any exercise, I have to multiply it to an activity factor depending on how active my lifestyle is or how much exercise I perform in a week.

Based on the following activity factors:

  • Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (no exercise)
  • Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise 2-3 times a week)
  • Mod. active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise 3-5 days a week)
  • Very active = BMR X 1.725 (rigorous exercise/sports 6-7 days a week)
  • Extr. Active = BMR X 1.9 (rigorous daily exercise/sports & physical job)

So, if I just go to the gym 3 times a week with strength training and intervals, I would multiply my BMR by 1.55 which will give me about 2,063 calories (1,331 calories x 1.55). Now, I just have to figure out what is 30% of 2,063 which is about 619 calories. I would then subtract 619 from 2,063 in order to give me my calorie deficit of 1,444 calories. If I don’t want to lose that much weight, I would reduce the 30% to 20% and so on.

Again, this formula will not apply to people who have extremely low body fat or extremely high body fat (overly obese) but it will be fine for the general population. For the purpose of this post, this should help a lot of people figure out their calorie requirements in order to know their calorie deficit. There is another more specific formula that takes into account the lean body mass when calculating caloric needs but that one deserves a post all by itself.

Here is the file again. I created this for myself and I’m making it available to you in order to make the process a lot easier. Enjoy!

Calorie Deficit Calculator

To dowload the file, right click and save as.

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