Your body naturally burns energy (calories) on its own. This number is called your resting metabolic rate, and plays a big role in the total amount of energy your body burns every day. The total daily energy burned is also your weight maintenance threshold. Knowing the amount of energy your body burns in a day is a fundamental step in structuring a sound eating plan.
Example: Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is 1,216 calories per day. You participate in intense work outs 6 days a week, so your activity multiple is 1.725 for a total of 2,098 total daily energy expended.
If you were to consume approximately 2,100 calories per day, your body would be in caloric balance. This is your weight maintenance threshold, the total number of calories you would need to eat in order to maintain your current weight.
You’ve decided to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day, for a total of goal of 1,600 calories per day.
What You Need to Know About Macros
The energy in food comes from a variety of sources including protein, carbohydrates and fat. Together protein, carbohydrates and fat are called macronutrients (or macros for short), the basic components of healthy diets. Simply put, macronutrients are fuel for your body.
Each macro contains a certain amount of energy, or calories. But not all calories are created equally.
- 1 gram of protein contains approximately 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbs contains approximately 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat contains approximately 9 calories
The million dollar question: How much protein, carbs and fat should you consume every day?
The answer that everyone hates: It depends. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine estimates that energy (calorie) consumption for adults should fall within the following ranges:
Fat 20% - 35% of your total daily calorie intake Protein 10% - 35% of your total daily calorie intake Carbs 45% - 65% of your total daily calorie intake
Using the same 1,600 calorie example above, the macro breakdown would look like this:
Fat 320 – 560 calories per day (35 – 62 grams per day) Protein 160 – 560 calories per day (40 – 140 grams per day) Carbs 720 – 1,040 calories per day (180 – 260 grams per day)
Your customized eating plan could look like this:
Fat 320 calories per day (35 grams per day) Protein 560 calories per day (140 grams per day) Carbs 720 calories per day (180 grams per day) Total 1,600 calories
A person working on a low-carb eating plan would probably gasp at this breakdown. A person training to build muscle would likely have the same reaction. A person with heart health issues might raise an eyebrow too. This brings us back to the ‘it depends’ answer above. The perfect macronutrient breakdown for you is whatever fits your goals and your needs. It all depends on you.
Design an Eating Plan That’s Best for You
Now that you know how much energy your body burns, you’ve set your desired caloric deficit, and know how much protein, carbs and fat you need to consume every day, it’s time to design an eating plan just for you.
Example: 1,600 total calories 3 meals @ 300 – 400 calories each 3–4 snacks @ 100 – 150 calories each 8, 8 oz. glasses of water (at least)
|Sample Eating Plan|
|6:00||8 oz. water|
|8:00||8 oz. water|
|9:30||Snack 1||100 calories|
|10:00||8 oz. water|
|12:00||Lunch with 8 oz. water||400 calories|
|2:00||8 oz. water|
|2:30||Snack 2||150 calories|
|4:00||8 oz. water|
|6:00||8 oz. water|
|8:00||Snack 3 with 8 oz. water||150 calories|
Eating every 2½ to 3 hours refers to your eating cadence. It plays an important role in helping keep your blood sugar levels from spiking too high or dropping too low.
Water is scheduled every 2 hours as an illustration for people who may find it more difficult to drink at least 64 oz. of water every day.
Eating 3 nutrient rich meals in addition to 3 – 4 snacks should keep you satisfied throughout the day. If you feel your current caloric deficit goal isn’t enough to keep you energized, consider counteracting calories with conditioning. Adding a work out to increase your daily calorie burn allows you to add the same amount of calories to your daily eating goal. If you burn an additional 200 calories per day, add 200 calories to the total number of calories you eat in a day.
Counting calories should never be a scary, daunting or burdensome task. The nutrition label on your food and drinks tells you the amount of energy (number of calories) a single serving of that food contains. It also gives a breakdown of the macronutrients, the main sources of energy – fat, protein, carbs.
Here are a few tips to help keep you on track:
Keep a Journal
Whether you use an app, a notepad or a sticky note, you’ll have documentation of your daily progress. Learn from any mistakes, and celebrate your success.
Give Yourself Permission to Adjust to Your New Lifestyle
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so lay out realistic expectations on reaching your goal. You may even need to make minor tweaks to your daily routine until you get the perfect combination that works for you.
Control Your Portions
According to the Center for Disease Control, “Research shows that people unintentionally consume more calories when faced with larger portions. This can mean excessive calorie intake, especially when eating high-calorie foods.” Grab the measuring cup to help get a visual on the actual serving size.
Calories represent the amount of energy in food. If you consume more calories than your body burns, you gain weight. Tracking the number calories you consume in a day is one way to help keep your weight in check. Watching your carb intake and establishing an eating cadence are other ways to help shed those unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
References: Kelly, M. P. (n.d.). Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure It-And Raise It, Too. Retrieved January 25, 2020, from https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/2882/resting-metabolic-rate-best-ways-to-measure-it-and/  Finding a Balance. (2018, September 18). Retrieved January 3, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/calories/  Youdim, A., David Geffen School of Medicine UCLA. (2019, August). Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats – Disorders of Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/disorders-of-nutrition/overview-of-nutrition/carbohydrates,-proteins,-and-fats?query=Overview of Nutrition  Copyright © 2020 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved. (2019, October 25). Retrieved January 3, 2020, from http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/DRI-Tables.aspx  Cutting Calories. (2019, March 4). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/cutting_calories.html