Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Calculating How many calories you should eat in a day

I recently got a comment from a reader asking about how I calculated my calories for the challenge.  I love this question because there is so much controversy over how many calories you should eat to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week, and if you should eat back the calories that burned off during your exercise or not.  If you follow weight watchers, they allow you to eat back the points that you burn off when you exercise, and in addition, you get weekly calories to spend as well. However, I have heard that the calorie equivalent they allow you is somewhere around 1,200 a day without activity and weekly points.  This is what got me into trouble in the first place.  I was restricting my calories too much, not wanting to eat back my exercise calories because I wanted to lose weight faster, and not using my weekly points which led t me feeling very hungry and deprived because let's look at  break down for 1,200 calories.  That is about 300 calories per meal, leaving room for two 150 calorie snacks, or three 100 calorie snacks or two 100 calorie snacks and a 100 calorie dessert.  Have you ever tried to eat only three hundred calories for each meal! It's practically impossible!  Besides that you have no energy to workout because 1,200 calories is accepted as the minimum your body needs to just perform its basal functions.   So if you want to have energy throughout the day, or if you want to workout at all I do not recommended a 1,200 calorie a day diet.  Now for those of you who have figured out how to live like that then kudos, but for me it spelled disaster because it led to binging every weekend and almost giving up, and it led to a six month long plateau.

Most calorie counting programs like My Fitness Pal (the one I use) and spark people offer a way for you to calculate how many caloires to consume each day.  This is calculated simply based off of the mathematics that 3,500 is one pound. So you can adjust your settings if you want to lose one pound a week you will get about 1,450 calories a day and if you want to lose two pounds a week you will get 1,200 calories a day.  This does not take into account any exercise.  You can manually add in your exercise every day either by selecting from their extensive list of cardio and weight lifting workouts or if you use a heart rate monitor you can manually enter in the exercise, length of time, and calories burned.   Then it is your choice whether or not to eat those calories back.  MFP will automatically add them into your calorie allotment for the day. 

As I have mentioned before I have always gotten myself into trouble just following this pattern, I never want to eat back my exercise calories.  And as I have also mentioned, one of my main goals is to really figure out how to eat without going up and down so much.  Find a steady, liveable pattern that works for me.  So here is how I calculated my calories.

Basically I followed the guide in the Turbo Fire manual since that is the primary exercise that I am doing right now.  I like this formula because it takes into account your weight (something I liked about weight watchers was that the heavier you are, the more you get to eat.  It brings down your calories gradually as you get used to eating less), and your activity.  So I feel like you get the best of both worlds, and then you just stick to that number and don't have to worry about adding in any exercise calories because you already have covered that.  And when you are not doing as intense of a workout, or you are on a rest day, you are still under the amount of calories you would have to eat just to maintain.  It also changes your activity calories throughout the challenge based on how hard the workouts are, as the workouts get harder and harder as you progress.  What I recommend is using however many calories you think you would burn on an average workout.
Anyway, here is the formula (it's easy I promise)

Step 1 Calculate your maintenance calories outside your workouts
Sedentary Lifestyle (desk job)
(current weight in pounds)x 12= maintenance calories

Moderate active lifestyle (server in a restaurant)
(current weight in pounds) x 13=maintenance calories

Highly active lifestyle (construction worker)
 (current weight in pounds)x14=maintenance calories

Step 2: Calculate your Total Maintenance Calories
including your workouts, On weeks 1-5 of the TF program you burn about 450
(maintenance calories) + 450= total maintenance calories

Step 3:Calculate your calorie target 
this is the number of calories you'd like to cut out of your current diet in order to lose weight.  A deficit of 500 calories a day averages to a loss of about one pound per week.
Total maintenance calories-500=calorie target

So here is what it looks like for me:

Once I am done with the first week and I estimate that I will be somewhere around 140 I will recalculate.  I could also look at the advanced schedule where it says that you burn 600 calories per workout and in the super advanced schedule you burn 700 calories.  I'm a little suspicious of that number though because I've done the advanced workouts and I burn about 550 calories when I do them.  Anyway.  That is my calorie target for now.  I am currently doing the advanced schedule so I do not eat all of my calories I burn but a good amount of them.  Also I am loving eating more food!  I feel like having the extra calories really is helping me stay on track because I can work treats into my day without sacrificing food.  Since I started eating this way I haven't crashed once in the afternoon and when I was on a 1400 or less calories a day diet I was crashing every afternoon so badly that I had to sleep on the couch while the kids watched a movie. 

Chloe is now sitting at the table instead of the high chair, she loves it!

I love my new calorie plan because it allows me enough calories in the day to eat these!  Yummy pancakes with whipped cream and maple syrup, all calories are accounted for. 

In other news, yesterday was a pretty hard day but I managed to get a quick walk in with my dog as part of my weekly challenge and I managed to stay within my calorie range.  I think I was just really stressed yesterday and as usual, when I am stressed I want to eat.  So I was hungrier than normal yesterday and really wanted to snack.  I allowed myself one graham cracker and then switched to baby carrots.  I think I did really well in the face of stress and although I ate a little more than I wanted to, I am happy that I made the healthy choice.  However, I also drank way too much diet pepsi to help deal with the stress so I am feeling a little bloated today from all the extra sodium.  I have also been dying to weigh myself and wondering if I should allow myself to weigh myself at the end of the month or in the middle of the challenge and then I remember that not weighing myself is a rule and part of this challenge and nothing good will come from me weighing myself too early.  I knew that the temptation would be strong, and it will only get stronger as time goes on.  That is why the scale is in the basement!

1 comment:

  1. I never thought about crashing as a result of too little calories. I've been struggling with crashing myself. Just yesterday I felt like I could fall asleep driving home from work. I had planned to bake cookies for my office after work and I was wondering how I would do that. I went home and ate a bagel thin with cream cheese and chilled out till my energy level came back up. I guess I need to buckle down and do the math!