Frequently Asked Questions
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the average amount of calories your body requires every day to fuel essential functions like breathing, pumping blood, producing hormones, and so forth (basically, it’s how many calories you’d burn resting for 24 hours). You can accurately estimate your BMR with your gender, weight, height, and age. Once you know your BMR, you can use it to create a meal plan that will help you lose, gain, or maintain your weight.
If you don’t know your body fat percentage, the Mifflin-St Jeor equation tends to produce the most accurate results. If you know your body fat percentage, the Katch-McArdle equation is the most accurate BMR equation. The Harris-Benedict equation isn’t as accurate as the previous two, but we provided it because it’s a well-known and popular formula.
Doing so isn’t bad for you, but it’s also not necessary for most people to get the body they want. Despite what many people say, eating below your BMR doesn’t damage your metabolism or make it harder to lose weight. Restricting your calorie intake typically causes a slight, temporary drop in metabolic rate whether you eat above or below your BMR—eating below your BMR isn’t inherently more “damaging” than eating above it. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with eating below your BMR, doing so requires restricting your calories to a degree that isn’t necessary and is often counterproductive for losing weight and keeping it off. This kind of “crash dieting” often leads to extreme hunger and cravings, lethargy, irritability, poor performance in the gym, and subsequent overeating and weight gain. If you want to lose fat quickly without running headlong into these problems, aim to maintain a moderate calorie deficit of about 20 to 25% (75 to 80% of your TDEE).
The most reliable way to increase your BMR is to increase your muscle mass. This is because muscle is more metabolically active than other types of tissue such as body fat. Thus, the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even at rest. Research shows that every pound (0.45kg) of muscle in your body burns between 6 and 7 calories per day. If you were to gain an additional 20 pounds (9 kilos) of muscle, you’d boost your BMR by about another 120-140 calories per day. Over the course of a week, that’s almost 1,000 extra calories burned without having to lift a finger.
Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the average amount of calories you burn per day. You can accurately estimate your TDEE with your weight, height, age, and activity level. Once you know your TDEE, you can use this number to determine how many calories you should eat every day to lose, gain, or maintain your weight.
No. Your TDEE is how many calories you need to maintain your weight. Thus, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your TDEE.
If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to eat fewer calories than your TDEE. Research shows a good calorie target for weight loss is 75% of your TDEE (25% below your TDEE). This is enough to lose weight at an aggressive pace (about 0.45kg to 0.9kg per week) without causing excessive hunger or cravings or disrupting your performance in the gym.
After estimating how many calories you need to maintain your weight, the next step is to turn your calorie target into macronutrient targets. A macronutrient is a nutrient your body needs in relatively large amounts to survive, with the main ones being protein, carbohydrate, and fat. In the fitness space, they’re generally referred to as “macros.” The reason you want to turn your calorie target into macronutrient targets, is that your macronutrient intake has a significant impact on your body composition. In other words, while calories alone dictate how much weight you lose or gain, your macronutrient intake largely dictates whether you lose or gain fat or muscle. By eating the right amount of protein, carbs, and fat, you can ensure that most of the weight you lose while “cutting” is from fat—not muscle. And as a corollary, you can also ensure that most of the weight you gain while lean bulking is from muscle, not fat. The exact number of calories you get from protein, carbs, and fat depends on your preferences and goals, but here’s what is typically recommended. When you want to lose weight, get . . . 40% of your calories from protein 30% of your calories from carbs 30% of your calories from fat