Monday, July 29, 2013

How to Determine Calories using MyFitnessPal




 So a common question that I get all the time is how to calculate the amount of calories I need to be eating each day in order to lose weight.  I also get the question how to determine how many calories to eat when you then add in exercise and the calories burned during the workout.  Do you add those calories back into your day?

When I started my health and fitness journey I did not use any type of calorie calculator or tracker.  I simply read the book, Eat Clean Recharged, By Tosca Reno and followed the principles of clean eating.  I did not track calories instead I followed her rules for proper portion sizes and the specific pairing of foods together.  I can honestly say that following that method brought me the greatest amount of success.  I am in no way a numbers girl.  I truly think that God left that part out of my brain.  The minute you tell me to sub total, add or calculate anything I immediately shut down and if I have to do it then most likely (90%) of the time my calculations are wrong!!!  So I think this is why I embraced Tosca's rules so easily.  It was a no brainer way for me to lose weight.  Although, for some people counting calories is a must.  Maybe this is you!  Maybe you are a numbers person and you need to see it with the data in order to believe that you are making progress.  If this is you then I am going to do my best to explain to you my understand of myfitnesspal and the use of determining your calories and exercise for weight loss.

So in the research that I have done a lot of people including myself use myfitnesspal to keep track of their calories in the sense that they track what they eat.  I do not use myfitnesspal to tell me accurately how many calories I should aim to eat each day.

I found a way to set up MFP so I could see my daily deficit each day, and I could maximize my calorie burn on heavy workout days, and not have to eat like a bird on my non workout days.

This is mostly appropriate for people who's maintenance calories before exercise are less than 2200. At 2200 or above, you can safely create a 1000 calorie deficit without exercise - so if you set up MFP to lose 2 pounds a week it would set your calories to 1200. You would then eat all your exercise calories and keep your 1000 calorie deficit, making noticeable progress quite achievable.

When you have less to lose, your options are to decrease your deficit by eating more, or eat less and run the danger of a weight loss plateau because your body isn't getting the nutrients it needs for basic functioning. Well we can all agree that eating less (under your BMR) is not a good way to go. We could try setting to .5 lb a week weight loss, but there's not a lot of wiggle room with 250 calories, and a few off calculations with exercise and food and you could find yourself gaining, not losing.

With this method, you can reach whatever deficit you want day by day, and you will know that you are safely keeping your deficit under 1000 (2 lbs a week loss). Rather than force feed yourself on high calorie burn workout days,, you can use those great workouts to maximize your weight loss - which, let's face it, is probably one of the main reasons why we workout to begin with.

So if you want to figure it out here is what to do.

Step 1: Figure out your BMR Basel Metabolic Rate - this is your body's calorie requirements for basic functioning. You would burn this if you just stayed in bed all day. There is a BMR calculator on this site under TOOLS. This is going to be your minimum number. You will be aiming to eat at least this much every day, if you workout you get to eat those exercise calories back!!

Step 2: Figure out your Maintenance calories before exercise. You can use MFP's calculations based on your activity level. Use this tool based on your activity level to determine this number.  This is the number you're going to set your MFP calorie goal to. You're not going to eat this number, but it will be a marker for how much of a deficit you are creating.
If you want to get all technical here is some great information on calorie calculating, macros and nutrients.

Step 3: Figure out how many exercise calories it will take to reach a 1000 calorie deficit (the maximum). Do this by adding 1000 to your BMR, and then subtract your maintenance calories (the number you found in step 2). This number will let you know how many calories you can burn through exercise without eating them back. If you burn more than this number, you will HAVE to eat the surplus calories at least to keep your safe 1000 calorie deficit.

I'll use myself as an example for the calculations:

Step 1: BMR = 2234
Step 2: BMR x 1.3 (2234 x1.3) = 2904
Step 3: (BMR + 1000) - maintenance/ 2234 + 1000 - 2904 = 331.

So I set my MFP calorie goal to 2904.
I aim to eat at least 2234 to 2400 calories per day, regardless of exercise, but definitely no less than 2234.
If I burn more than 556 through exercise on a given day, I should eat at least the surplus calories. So if I burn 800 calories through exercise, I would want to eat at least 244 calories above my goal of 2234 - so at least 2400.

Now for the fun part. When you look at your numbers in your tracker, the green number under the word REMAINING will show your total deficit for the day. The smaller that number, the closer you are to maintaining your weight. If that number is near 500 and you kept it like that for a week you would lose 1 pound. If that number is near 1000, you would lose 2 pounds. I usually aim to keep that number between 500 - 1000. I personally LOVE being able to see my deficit for the day. It really makes me feel in control of my weight loss. I have a small deficit on my days off from working out, and I have a larger deficit on my long run days (big calorie burns).

One more thing - don't forget to readjust your numbers as you lose weight!! :)


So now the question is this.  Did I completely confuse you or do you feel confident in figuring out your nutritional intake?

If you want more guidance on clean eating and getting in your calories by consuming the most nutritionally dense foods that are going to enhance your progress and give you energy then consider joining my next challenge group.  In my challenge groups I teach you all the principles of clean eating, keep you accountable by checking in each day, require you to post your progress, give you meal plans, recipes and tips to stay on track.

I will teach you all the principles of clean eating along with some of these awesome calorie calculating tools as well.  It's amazing how MUCH food you can actually eat when you consume whole foods instead of processed pre packaged foods.  The results come in your waistline, energy level and satiety!!!

Ask me about my April Challenge Groups!

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