Getting the right amount of calories is always a topic that is brought up in and out of the weight room. Topics like should you count them or even how many should you get pop up all the time. In other articles we give brief introductions on nutrition. Covered some general topics and clued you into what you should be keeping an eye on. In this article we’re going to get into the thick of things and begin to discuss what a calorie is, how to calculate them and how many you need.
Each day we go through numerous tasks. Some are mundane while some are very physical and demanding. In order to complete those tasks we need energy. Our energy comes from the foods we eat and the beverages we consume. These energy units are more commonly known as calories.
Calories act as gasoline if you will. If you wanted to go on a road trip you would need to fill up your car with gas. In a way they act in the same manner. When you workout your body is going on a road trip. Therefore before you head to the gym you need to supply yourself with the right amount of energy to get the job done. At the end of your lifting session your tank is going to be empty. You have expended calories and used up your nutrients. One of my favorite post-workout meals is a smoothie packed full of protein. The nutrients help to replenish the body and provide energy to build strong muscles.
Like your car, your body’s gas tank needs to be refilled. Consuming more calories in this case refills your body with what it is missing. But not just any type of calories, you need good nurturing calories. To go a little bit more in depth we also need to understand that when reading a food label the calories listed on the label are representing the amount of energy needed to digest that item. Along with being a beneficial energy source too many calories can become detrimental.
Like most things moderation is key. Calories can come in two forms. Good and bad, sometimes known as empty calories. If we have too much of either our body will store the excess and we will put on fat. And I don’t someone that wants to get fat. There are some exceptions, powerlifters are not usually as concerned with physical image as bodybuilders, and weightlifters, but that’s not to say this is the norm. Point blank period too much of anything can have side effects unwanted.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
Based on the latter we have gathered that calories are something to keep an eye on. Consuming the right amount is very essential and based on the route of our individual sport or fitness goals. They are a very important factor in determining the end result. Calculating the amount you need is typically referred to as caloric intake.
Knowing what your caloric intake is helps you to gauge whether you want to maintain your weight, build muscle, gain strength, or burn fat. Having too many calories is the cause of obesity and weight problems here in America and in many other countries. People tend to put on weight by eating without any regard.
It is very quick and convenient to stop at a fast food restaurant and order dinner than it is to go home and cook. We have all experienced that. And sometimes in some cases it can become the only option available at that moment. However more and more people tend to eat out whether it be fast food or not and they are not keeping an eye on the amount of food they are taking in. These quick and easy meals are loaded with a ton of calories.
In weightlifting and fitness related sports we need to take in the proper amount of calories to fuel us for our workouts and create the necessary change we are looking for in our bodies. A good example would be a bodybuilder preparing many months for a show. Bodybuilders will go through phases whether it be bulking, losing fat, or cutting.
Each phase has a series of variables that are in place to help the end result. During a bulking phase a bodybuilder will be looking to put on lean mass and growing their muscles. At this point in time the bodybuilder will have decided what an appropriate surplus of calories should be. Meaning they would be consuming more nutrients than those being spent. While the bodybuilder is trying to lose fat they are eating in a deficit and trying to maintain the muscle they created while losing any unwanted body fat.
Closer to a show, the final stage of preparation for the bodybuilder would be to cut. At this point in time they are looking to shred the last few inches, get rid of any excess water weight, and really hone in their figure. This period of time is about 2 weeks out from a competition and sometimes can become drastic in measures. Calories are really manipulated at this point and messed around with in a variety of ways.
Knowing that our bodies need a specific amount of calories during any phase of any fitness career can help us to take a look at what we are already consuming and aligning it with what we are doing. Your goals will determine what you need to factor. This is a personal journey so make it yours.
How To Calculate Your Calories
Now that you have a grasp on what calories are and what all the hoopla is surrounding caloric intake lets go over what we need to factor in order to decide where on the scale we need to go. No pun intended. Factoring your intake rests on a few things. There are a few methods available for concluding this number. One that I know of personally and feel is an easy approach is the Harris-Benedict principle. Which calculates your basal metabolic rate or BMR.
BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to function. Therefore the total amount of calories. We use about 60% of the energy we consume each day for basic bodily functions such as breathing, digesting, talking, moving about, et-cetera. Factors that influence our BMR are height, weight, age, and sex.
Men and women can calculate their own BMR by using a simple formula.
- Women: 65 + (4.3 x weight in lbs) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
- Men: 66 + (6.3 x weight in lbs) + ( 12.9 x height in inches) – ( 6.8 x age in years)
After you have calculated your basal metabolic rate you now need to factor in your daily activities. We can do this by using the following guides.
- Sedentary: BMR x 20%
- Lightly Active: BMR x 30%
- Moderately Active: BMR x 40%
- Very Active: BMR x 50%
- Extra Active: BMR x 60%
A moderately active person would work out on average 3 to 4 times per week. Those that are exercising intensely on a daily basis could be considered very active. And for those that are performing hard labor or vigorous athletic training you can safely assume you are extra active compared to most. If you fall into any of those latter groups you’ll need a lot more calories than you think.
The Last Bite
As you can see, getting the right amount of food and having enough energy to accomplish the tasks at hand are essential aspects of reaching your fitness goals. The confusion around how many calories you need to eat each day boils down to a simple mathematical equation and some know how on how to formulate the right approach.