How to Calculate Your Calorie Requirements for Each Day: Is There a Magic Number?

Weight loss plan

If weight loss talk was The Brady Bunch, calories would be Marsha: “Calories, calories, calories.” In other words — as Jan unforgettably pointed out of her always-in-the-spotlight sister — they dominate most diet discussions. 

This probably leaves you wondering what the Jan is of this scenario. Well, it’s something called macronutrients, AKA “macros,” and many nutritional counselors and dieticians are recommending them for optimal weight loss. Here’s a closer look at everything you need to know about these rising stars on the nutrition scene, along with how they support consistent, sustainable weight loss.

Calories for Weight Loss

It seems like a fairly straightforward setup. In order to lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you take in. Specifically, weight loss wisdom suggests that a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories will result in weight loss of one to two pounds per week. In reality, however, it’s not so simple and there is no magic number.

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The truth is that many other elements factor into the weight loss equation, including everything from age and gender to exercise level and type of calorie. This is why the average calorie calculator for weight loss includes more than just your starting weight and goal, but also other inputs, including height, age, gender, daily activity level and build.

These all add up to your unique basal metabolic rate (BMR) which was described by endocrinologist Anna Z. Feldman, M.D. in Self in this way: “The basal metabolic rate is the minimum number of calories your body burns at rest. This number of calories is required for involuntary functions such as breathing, regulating body temperature, digesting food, and [keeping] your circulation going. Think of this as the bare minimum number of calories you would need to keep your body alive if you were to stay in bed all day.”

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Why Macros Matter

Certainly, caloric intake is important, but it’s only part of the big picture, as anyone who’s ever struggled with a plateau mid-diet well knows. What’s more important than limiting calories? Maximizing nutrients. Enter macros.

Calories can be broken down into three primary macronutrients, each of which performs a vital function within the human body.  These include:

1) Protein (1 gram of protein = 4 calories)

2) Carbs (1 gram of carbs = 4 calories)

3) Fat (1 gram of fat = 9 calories)

In this context, it becomes very clear that all calories are not created equal — especially if your goal is not just to lose weight, but also to build a lean, toned, and healthy physique. Eating the right combination of macros can also help you design a strategic weight loss plan targeted to your individual goals.

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Reading food labels involves more than calorie counts.

As Carrie McMahon, author of the ebook “Why You Should Count Macronutrients, Not Calories,” told PopSugar, eating a diet with macronutrients at its forefront — as opposed to calories — will not only “give you more energy, better workouts, and better results,” but also makes “cravings go away, because you’re not deficient in anything.”

Specifically, McMahon recommends the following daily proportions, depending on your goal. If you’re looking to boost your metabolism and/or build muscle, a caloric intake that’s 30 percent protein, 35 percent carbohydrates, and 25 percent fat is optimal. Is fat loss at the top of your list? Then 45 percent protein, 35 percent carbohydrates, and 20 percent fat may be the more successful combination.

Think counting macros sounds too complicated? As with most things in life, it may take some getting used to, but practice makes perfect. There are even some tools to help.  The My Macros+ diet tracking app puts the information you need to make educated diet choices right at your fingertips. But don’t underestimate the importance of exercise alongside nutrition when it comes to achieving comprehensive health and wellness. Download our ebook, “4 Weeks to a Better Body” to jumpstart your weight loss journey today and take a moment to sign up for a trial pass.



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