Tamir Greenberger
May 24, 2013

If you cannot take the time to thoroughly review this article, plan out your needs, and track your daily food consumption, you will not succeed with your efforts. Great results require hard work.Calculating Calories and Macronutrients

Basic Definitions and Principles

  1. A calorie is a unit of energy. It is the approximate energy required to heat up 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius
  2. First law of thermodynamics: A change in the internal energy of a closed thermodynamic system is equal to the difference between the heat supplied to the system and the amount of work done by the system on its surroundings.
  3. Conservation of energy principle: energy can be changed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.
  4. Macronutrient: proteins (4 calories per gram), carbohydrates (4 calories per gram), and fats (9 calories per gram) are the 3 primary ones. Fiber is classified with carbohydrates, but can be argued to not be such, as it holds little to no caloric value. Ethanol alcohol is another macronutrient with a value of 7 calories per gram.

In order to determine how many calories you should be consuming, you first need to figure out your total <daily> energy expenditure (TEE).

TEE (Total Energy Expenditure): The total amount of energy (calories) your body uses in a period of time (often assessed on a 24-hour basis for simplicity).

TEE = BMR + NEAT + EAT + TEF

BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): If you were in a coma, this would be the amount of calories your body would need to maintain.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure
NEAT (Non-Exercise Associated Thermogenesis): The amount of calories used while performing normal daily activities (i.e. Walking, shopping, talking, laughing, etc). In other words, your non-planned activities that require energy.

EAT (Exercise Associated Thermogenesis): The amount of calories used during planned exercise. Many people have the misconception about how much this adds to your TEE, but the reality is, unless you’re doing a whole LOT of hardcore exercising, it isn’t too significant.

TEF (Thermic Effect of Feeding): The calorie expenditure associated with eating. Note: Increasing meal frequency has no effect on this value – despite what you may have been told in the past. This value is dependent on the macronutrient content of your food. For example: a meal consisting of 60% protein will require more energy to metabolize, than a meal consisting of 60% carbohydrates.


Estimating TEE Requirements

Figuring out TEE is a simple two-step process:

  1. Calculate your BMR
  2. Multiply it by a Lifestyle Activity Factor

If you peruse around the Internet for different “basal metabolic calculators”, including the ones on calorie tracking websites, you will find that they use one of the following three formulas: Harris-Benedict, Mifflin-St Jeor, and the Katch-McArdle.

These formulas are unfortunately known to not be accurate for the majority of the population.

The easiest way to determine your BMR is to simply take your weight and multiply by 10.

BMR = Weight (lbs) x 10

To convert BMR to a TOTAL requirement you need to multiply the result of your BMR by an 'activity variable' to give TEE.

Average activity variables are:
1.1 - 1.2 = Sedentary (Desk job, and Little Formal Exercise)
1.3 - 1.4 = Lightly Active (Light daily activity AND light exercise 1-3 days a week)
1.5 - 1.6 = Moderately Active (Moderately daily Activity & Moderate exercise 3-5 days a week)
1.7 - 1.8 = Very Active (Physically demanding lifestyle & Hard exercise 6-7 days a week)
1.9 - 2.2 = Extremely Active (Athlete in ENDURANCE training or VERY HARD physical job)

Example: If someone weighs 200 pounds, works as a teacher (relatively sedentary), and exercises 3-5 times per week, you would estimate your TEE to fall around 2800 calories per day. <200 x 10 x 1.3 = 2600> - <200 x 10 x 1.5 = 3000>. I decided to go in the middle of this range, because the person is not active, but does exercise 3-5 times per week.

How accurate is this? While this may not give you an exact number, it is designed to give you a great estimate of where your metabolism should fall. You would be surprised as to how on point this simple method is, but regardless – the idea is to use trial and error to figure out where your exact TEE is. I have provided you with your starting point.

Use TEE to Determine Goals

Now that you know what your energy requirements are, you then need to create a goal based on whether you are trying to lose or gain mass.

General Rules

  1. Adding Weight: 10-20% surplus of calories. Using previous example, 3080 – 3360 calories.
  2. Losing Weight: 20-25% deficit of calories. Using previous example, 2240 – 2100 calories.

Calorie Surplus or Deficit

The above rules tell you how to set your daily goal calorie consumption. The person in our example, looking to lose weight, would eat about 2100 calories per day for a healthy long-term fat loss plan.

Monitor results, and adjust as required.

Macronutrient Requriements

One of the most misunderstood and underrated dietary principles. You should not determine your macronutrient needs based on a standard ratio, as your body does not see things that way. Your body works by having a sufficient quantity per mass. Your weight and goals determine how much of each macronutrient is needed daily.Proteins Fats Carbs
You want to calculate your needs based on these three steps and in this exact priority:

  1. Protein
  2. Fats
  3. Carbohydrates

Protein

This is a really, really long topic that requires many articles for discussion in terms of requirements. The scientific evidence that exists today is inadequate and we are still learning what the most optimal amounts are.

However, general guidelines are still well established and work just fine. For simplicity, I will present my opinion on what you should set your requirements to be, based on what is known up until today, and also what I believe will be most helpful with dieting (remember, protein is very satiating).

Gaining Weight: .8 – 1 grams per pound total weight.

Losing Weight: 1.3 - 1.5 grams per pound total weight.

There are so many factors that go into deciding the right amount, but the simple rule is that as your body is restricted with calories, it needs more protein to maintain its lean (muscle) mass. Another note is that the more taxing your exercise program is (ie. really high-volume, heavy lifts), the more protein you may need.

The last note I can say is keep an eye out for future articles that discuss muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and how to optimize for it. When you know the latest data, these general rules are not as important anymore.

Fat

Contrary to popular belief, your body thrives on a decent fat intake. It is poor advice to tell someone to restrict fat in their diet, and can lead to many side-effects.

It is not recommended that you drop your intake below a .3g per pound total weight. A good number to aim for is .4g/lb and depending on the goals and circumstance, you can even have as much as 1g/lb.

Carbohydrates

Once you have determined your needs for proteins and fats, you can then simply take the remaining amount of calories, and apply them towards carbohydrates.

So for example, if you are on a 2,000 calorie per day routine, and you calculated that 1400 calories must come from proteins and fats, then that means you can have up to 150g of carbs that day (600 calories / 4 = 150).

You do not need to have so many carbs per day; they are not as significant as the other macros. However, if you train a lot and do a lot of intense cardio, the extra carbs can really help provide you with sustained energy.

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