Diet and Nutrition

Conquering the Concept of Calories

Ready to Run

My second post will cover calories, which is the foundation of a fundamental guide to losing not only weight but fat as well. I like to call it the “Weight Loss Pyramid.”  This pyramid prioritizes the factors that contribute to weight and fat loss. I believe in maintaining a nice balance of everything, but, if you must start somewhere, start from the bottom. (…now we’re here. Drizzy collab coming soon!) Future posts will cover the rest of the pyramid.

Weight Loss Pyramid

Weight Loss Pyramid: Calories
It all starts with calories

At the base of the pyramid is calories. Meaning, you need to track the calories you’re taking in versus the calories you’re burning. Any advice that states calories don’t matter should be taken with more than just a grain of salt – grab the whole shaker because that’s insane.

Salt Shaker

People who believe calories don’t matter 'bout to be salty

Some strategies that ignore calories may work to some extent. But guess what: It’s because those plans indirectly lower the number of calories consumed, or they increase the number of calories burned. This principle is inescapable, and it should be at the foundation of every weight and fat-loss plan.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

We can’t talk about calories and weight loss without talking about total daily energy expenditure (TDEE.) TDEE is basically how many calories you burn in one day. This includes calories burned from all of your actions, including exercise, walking, fidgeting and even flicking up your thumb as you scroll through Instagram.

There are hundreds of online calculators that claim to estimate your TDEE. While these are convenient tools, the most accurate method of finding your TDEE is to calculate it yourself. Stay with me – it gets a bit technical but is vital to understanding how to reach your fitness goals.

Person browsing phone in hands

The faster you swipe left or right on tinder the more calories you burn! What are you waiting for!

TDEE: The Basics

To calculate your personal TDEE, you need to track two things: your weight and calories consumed. Your weight is directly correlated to your TDEE and the average number of calories you are consuming. A key fact to help with this calculation: One pound of fat is around 3,500 calories.

For example, a male with a TDEE of 2,500 consumes an average of 2,500 calories in a week. What happens? Nothing. He is consuming the exact number of calories he burns, so his weight stays the same. This is what we call “maintenance,” or the number of calories needed to remain at your current weight.

Now, what if he ate 500 fewer calories a day for the week? This would add up to -3,500 calories total after seven days, which, as we know, equals a pound of fat. So, he’s lost a pound.

Back to calculating your personal TDEE. Hopefully, the math above didn’t scare you away. As with any data set, the more data you have for TDEE, the better. But we’re starting from the bottom (…now we’re here. Champagne Papi, holla at me!), so let’s look at the next two weeks.

Calculator

Feel like you’re back in school yet?

TDEE: The Math

Step 1:  Weigh yourself at the same time every day. It doesn’t matter which time you choose, just so that you stick with it. A consistent time will help to avoid discrepancies and inconsistent numbers. Record the weight on paper, on your phone or in the spreadsheet I provide at the end of this post.

Step 2: Count the number of calories you intake every day, and record that number right next to your daily weight. I know that many people don’t enjoy or understand counting calories, so I will write a post on that topic in the future. For now, I’ll recommend the MyFitnessPal app. It makes counting calories a breeze. Check it out!

Step 3: After seven days, take your average weight of the week (So, add up your daily weights for the week and divide by seven.) and subtract it from your weight on day one. This equals your change in weight.

Multiply that number by 3,500 (Remember, 3,500 calories is one pound.) to get the change of weight in terms of calories.

Add that number to your average calories per day (That’s the sum of your daily calories divided by seven.) to find your total calories burned per week, and divide by seven to find your daily calorie expenditure, aka your TDEE.

TDEE Broken Down

Avg Cals

Total Week Cals

Change in Weight

Total Cals Burned this week

Daily Burned Cals

TDEE

2000

14000

-1.00 lb

17500

2500

2500

Step 4: Repeat the steps above for a second week to account for any fluctuation in the first. Average your TDEE for week one with your TDEE from week two for a more accurate number. Continue indefinitely!

Step 5: Feel good that you are more informed than the average person, and that you now have the tools to excel on your weight-loss journey.

Free TDEE Calculator Spreadsheet!

Step 3 was a lot, I know. That’s why I’m providing the spreadsheet that I use to keep track of my TDEE. I found it on reddit a few years ago (Thank you, /u/3-suns!), and it’s made the process much easier. To download the spreadsheet, click the link in the footer.

Take Action

Now that you have the tools and knowledge to succeed, start tracking! Let me know if this post was helpful, if you used the spreadsheet or if you have any other tools and tips to track your TDEE in a comment or email. Next week, I’ll go into the second layer of the pyramid: Macros.

Click here to get your free TDEE Calculator!