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How to Count Calories Correctly for Effortless Weight Loss

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How to Count Calories Correctly for Effortless Weight Loss

Counting calories correctly is the easiest and most enjoyable way to lose fat. Here’s how it works.

 

Like carbohydrates and insulin, calorie counting is under heavy attack these days.

According to some “experts,” losing weight and staying lean isn’t about controlling caloric intake, but controlling the types of foods you eat. Certain foods, they say, “clog” your system and create hormone imbalances that lead to weight gain. Others “clear” the system and result in weight loss.

This is like music to millions of people’s ears who have tried and failed at some weight loss regimen that involved counting calories, or who just don’t want to have to worry about planning or tracking anything they eat.

Well, vilifying calorie counting and telling people they can eat even more than ever and still lose weight sells books and pills, but is it scientifically honest and accurate? Absolutely not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you’ll soon see, while you don’t have to count calories to lose weight, correctly tracking and counting calories (and macronutrients, as we’ll discuss) is the most surefire, effortless way to go about it.

First Thing’s First: What is a Calorie?

Ironically, most people that have told me “calorie counting doesn’t” work couldn’t actually define the word. All they knew is counting them didn’t help them lose weight.

Well, to really understand why calorie counting is still the simplest way to lose weight, and how to do it correctly, you need to know a lot more than that. But let’s start with the simple:

calorie (also known as a kilocalorie or large calorie) is the amount of energy required to heat up one kilogram of water one degree Celsius.

Calories are nothing more than measurements of stored (potential) energy.

The “calorie counts” of various foods is simply letting you know how much potential energy the foods contain, and some foods are more energy dense than others. For instance, a tablespoon of olive oil has about 100 calories’ worth of energy, whereas a tablespoon of protein powder has about 30 calories’ worth of energy.

In case you’re wondering, the calories contained in food are measured with devices known as calorimeters. There are quite a few varieties of calorimeters, but they all operate on the laws of thermodynamics and involve measuring various heat-related properties of food.

The important thing for you to know is that the calorie isn’t some abstract symbol that may or may not have something to do with weight loss–it’s the objective measurement of a very real, scientifically verifiable reality (food contains energy).

What Your Body Does With Calories

After asking people that swear calorie counting doesn’t work what a calorie actually is (and hear their…interesting…definitions), I usually follow that up with another question: What do you think your body does with calories?

Most people just say they don’t know or think it “stores them as fat.” Well, ironically, “it stores them as fat” is actually kind of correct. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

You see, your body requires a certain amount of energy to stay alive. Every cell in your body needs a steady supply of fuel to do its job, and it must ultimately obtain this fuel from the food we eat.

The 24-hour measurement of how much energy your body uses to perform all basic functions related to staying alive (excluding any and all physical activity) is known as your “basal metabolic rate,” or “BMR.” 

(Basal means “forming a base; fundamental,” metabolic means related to the metabolism, which is “the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which it produces, maintains, and destroys material substances, and by which it makes energy available.”)

For instance, I’m 29 years old, 6’2, 189 pounds, and about 7% body fat. Per the Katch McArdle formula, my BMR should be about 2,100 calories per day. That’s how much energy my body should burn every day, excluding any physical activity.

I say “should be” because even if your body composition remains the same, BMR isn’t an absolute–the amount of energy your body uses while at rest can increase or decrease based on long-term dietary and exercise patterns (this is known as “metabolic adaptation,” and is a fascinating subject unto itself).

Nevertheless, a formula like the Katch McArdle will predict most people’s BMR’s with a high degree of accuracy accuracy. If you’d like to check yours, use this calculator:

LBM
BMR
TDEE

When you then calculate the approximate amount of additional energy you burn through physical activity, you arrive at your “total daily energy expenditure,” or “TDEE.” This is the grand total of energy that your body burns in a 24-hour period, and it too changes from day to day (some days you move more and some days less).

Where, then, does our body get all this energy it needs? There are two sources:

  1. The food you eat.
  2. Its energy stores, mainly in the form of fat and muscle

Earlier I said that the energy must ultimately come from food we eat. This is because the body’s energy stores (fat and muscle) are themselves created from food we eat–our bodies can’t “fill up” (and thus expand) its fat cells or create muscle proteins without being supplied the “raw materials” found in food, like carbohydrates, dietary fats, and amino acids.

Now, if your body has energy available from food you just ate, it doesn’t need to tap into its own energy (fat) stores. This “fed” state wherein the body runs fully on energy from food can last anywhere from 3 – 6+ hours after you eat, depending on the size and composition of the meal.

Something else happens when you eat food as well: fat storage. Why? Because when you eat a meal, you’re giving your body a large amount of energy (calories) in a short period of time–quite a bit more than it will burn during the time you’re eating. (You could eat several hundred calories in a few minutes while your body has only burned no more than 20 or 30.)

What do you think happens with all those extra calories that aren’t burned off? You got it: a large portion are stored as body fat for later use.

And then what happens once the abundance of food energy have been fully absorbed and burned up? What happens when the energy runs out?

Well, the body must then turn to its energy stores to continue running. That is, it must start breaking down body fat and muscle into molecules the cells can use for energy.

In this way, the body is constantly storing and burning fat every day. Every time you eat a meal, your body burns a bit of energy and stores some fat. And every time it finishes burning and storing the energy from the food you ate, it then switches to using fat as cellular fuel. Back and forth the body goes, 24 hours per day.

Even if you grossly overeat for a day, your body still has periods throughout those 24 hours where it runs out of food energy and thus must burn fat. The amount of fat stored that day will be greater than what it burned, though, and voila, net weight gain for the day.

This hints at what we have to do to reduce the amount of body fat we carry: we have to get our body to burn more fat than it stores every day, week, month, year, etc.

How do we do this? Let’s find out.

What Calories Have to Do With Weight Loss and Gain

As you’ve probably guessed by now, by regulating the amount of energy we give our bodies with food, we can induce weight loss and gain.

If we regularly feed our body more energy than it burns, we will gain weight in the form of body fat (the larger the surplus, the more fat we’ll gain and the quicker we’ll gain it). This is known as creating a “calorie surplus.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the flip side, if we regularly feed the body less energy than it burns, we will lose fat (the larger the deficit, the more weight we’ll lose and the faster we’ll lose it, but don’t think that severe calorie restriction is a good idea).  This is known is creating a “calorie deficit,” and it’s the key to weight loss.

It doesn’t matter if you count your calories or even where those calories come from (professor Mark Haub lost 27 pounds on a diet of protein shakes, Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and Little Debbie snacks. If you keep your body in a negative energy balance over time, your total fat mass will go down. Period.

What is actually happening is the amount of fat your body stores from your daily meals is less than the amount of fat it burns when it doesn’t have food energy to live on. This is all weight loss is: fat stored < fat burned, over time.

When it comes to weight loss, it’s only a numbers game. WHAT you eat doesn’t determine whether you lose weight or not…HOW MUCH does.

Weight loss does NOT require you to only eat certain types of food, avoid other types, combine types in various ways, or any other quackery. It only requires that you regularly feed your body less energy than it burns.

Carbs don’t make you fat (eating excess calories does) and yes, some people’s metabolisms are faster than others, and some do better with calorie deficits than others, but all of our bodies come with the same types of physiological machinery.

So, if that’s the truth and it really is that simple, why do many people have trouble losing weight when they count calories or simply think it doesn’t work?

Why Counting Calories Doesn’t (Seem to) Work for Everyone

I’ve helped thousands of people build muscle and lose fat, and here are the simple reasons why some people struggle with counting calories or think it doesn’t work:

1. They hate the idea of having to plan and track what they eat.

These people usually see meal planning or tracking intake with something like My Fitness Pal a psychological burden or have a lifestyle that involves a lot of unplanned meals prepared by others, which are basically impossible to measure in terms of calories.

On the other hand, these people quickly change their minds when they see how effortless weight loss is when you use calorie counting properly (which we’ll get to in a moment)–no hunger, no cravings, and no crossing your fingers, hoping that this is the diet that finally works.

2. They hate the idea of having to restrict their eating in any way.

Some people just have a strange relationship with food and want to eat what they want when they want and don’t want to feel like a “slave” to the oppressive calorie count.

In my experience, these people are harder to change. They will try anything before finally submitting to the master of energy balance–fad diets, cleanses, weight loss pills, etc.–and often choose the stay fat and wait for the next “metabolic miracle” than count a calorie.

3. They don’t stick to the plan and regularly overeat.

This is, of course, all too common. They have a few extra bites at breakfast. A double portion of dressing at lunch. A little unplanned dessert at dinner.

All these “little” portions of extra calories add up and can easily negate the moderate calorie deficit you’re trying to maintain on a daily basis.

The solution is simple: every single thing that goes into your mouth every day is planned or tracked.

4. They cheat like a competitive eater.

I recommend having a moderate cheat meal every week when you’re dieting. It’s a nice psychological boost and, depending on where you’re at in terms of body fat percentage, it can help keep the weight loss going.

Notice I said cheat MEAL, though. And moderate. Not a cheat DAY or an all-out binge meal, because either can undo some or all of a week’s worth of fat loss (super high-fat meals with alcohol are the absolute worst).

So, when you’re cheating, you can end the day a few hundreds calories above your normal daily intake, but don’t go crazy. If you need to, you can even reduce your carbohydrate and fat intake throughout the day to “save up” calories for the larger meal and thus keep your overall intake for the day in a reasonable range.

5. They calculate their total daily energy expenditure incorrectly.

Unfortunately, this is really easy to do because the activity multipliers of scientific formulas commonly used to calculate TDEEs are just too high. This is something most bodybuilders know but most “laymen” don’t.

For instance, I lift weights 5 times per week for about an hour and do about 25 minutes of HIIT cardio 3 to 4 times per week, and according to the activity multipliers for the Katch McArdle, my TDEE should be around 3,300 calories.

That means that I should be able to eat that amount every day and stay exactly the same. But I can’t. If I eat 3,300 calories per day, I get a little fatter each week. My intake needs to be closer to 2,900 per day for me to not gain fat.

So, when you’re calculating your TDEE, I recommend you use the following multipliers (BMR x activity multiplier)

    • By 1.2 if you exercise 1-3 hours per week.
    • By 1.35 if you exercise 4-6 hours per week.
    • By 1.5 if you exercise 6+ hours per week.

Most bodybuilders don’t go above 1.4 unless they’re particularly active outside of the gym. And again, here’s a handy calculator that will do the math for you:

LBM
BMR
TDEE

6. Their metabolisms need to be “fixed.”

When many people want to lose weight, they dramatically reduce calorie intake and dramatically increase energy output (through many hours of exercise each week). And while this approach will induce weight loss for a bit, it will ultimately fail. Why?

Because your metabolism adapts to the amount of energy you feed your body. Its goal is to balance energy intake with output–to maintain homeostasis.

When you restrict your calories and feed your body less energy than it burns, your metabolism naturally begins slowing down (burning less energy). The more you restrict your calories, the faster and greater the down-regulation.

Eventually the metabolism slows down enough to match intake with output, and weight loss stalls despite the very low-calorie diet and large amount of exercise. This is usually met with further calorie reduction or more exercise, which only results in more metabolic slowdown, and thus a vicious cycle begins.

This process of dramatically and chronically slowing the metabolic rate down is often referred to as metabolic “adaptation” or even “damage,” and fortunately, as I explain in this article, it can be resolved.

6. They are impatient.

Whenever someone writes me complaining about not losing weight, I always ask for the specifics. Are they not losing any weight? For how long? Are you looking leaner? And the answers are almost always long these lines:

“Well I’ve lost about 1 pound per week but shouldn’t I be losing more?” “I haven’t lost weight in the last 4 days,” “I can’t see my abs yet,” etc.

The points is they’re usually making good progress but have unrealistic standards as to what they want to achieve (often fueled by ridiculous, misleading 2- and 3-month transformations featured on big fitness websites).

The bottom line is if you’re losing about 1 pound per 7 to 10 days, you’re doing great. Keep it up. If your weight is more or less the same after 7 to 10 days, however, you simply need to move more or eat less.

7. They focus too much on the scale.

While the scale moving down is clearly a good indicator, it’s not the final word. Especially not if you’re weightlifting for the first time, because this alone will increase your body weight through muscle growth (yes, it’s possible to build muscle and lose fat simultaneously) and additional glycogen and water storage in the muscles.

If people don’t know this, however, they can be baffled as to why their pants are fitting looser and they’re looking leaner yet their weight has remained exactly the same. All that’s happening is the additional muscle-related weight is “replacing” the weight of the fat lost.

Remember that body composition is the real key here–not just weight. We want to see your muscle mass going up and body fat percentage going down, which is more accurately assessed by the mirror and a waist measurement than a scale.

If, however, the scale, mirror, and waist measurements are all staying the same for 7 to 10 days, then it’s time to change something.

These are the most common reasons people fail or feel like they’re failing with counting calories. Avoid these pitfalls and follow the tips below, and you’ll have tremendous success with it and even find it enjoyable.

How to Count Calories Correctly for Effortless Weight Loss

We’ve covered a lot in this article, so I’m going to keep this section short and to the point. Here’s how you count calories correctly for easy and enjoyable weight loss:

1. Commit to exercising at least 3 times per week. 

Ideally you would do both resistance training and cardio (high-intensity interval cardio is my favorite for weight loss purposes) as a part of your program.

2. Determine your TDEE properly.

As discussed earlier, this is your BMR times the appropriate activity multiplier.

3. Create a meal plan that you actually enjoy.

One of the worst things about most mainstream diet methodologies is the amount of restrictions placed on what you can eat and when. And the irony is all those rules are bogus and unnecessary.

So long as your daily caloric intake is set correctly, and your macronutrient ratios are right, WHAT you eat isn’t all that important. Dieting is much more a quantitative game (numbers) than a qualitative one (what you eat).

Yes, I do recommend sticking to healthy, nutritious foods, but you can eat plenty of carbs every day, including some sugar (gasp!) if you want, and do just fine.

Check out my article on meal planning to learn exactly how to do this step correctly.

4. Stick to the plan and adjust as needed.

This is where the rubber meets the road. All the previous steps don’t matter unless you actually stick to your meal plan exactly.

You probably will have to resist some temptations.

  • You should never feel starved, but you might be hungry here and there
  • You might have to turn down the dessert because you don’t have the calories for it
  • You might have to eat a bit less of a certain type of food than you’re used to
  • You might have to push yourself to do your workout even though you’re tired

You get the idea. Weight loss shouldn’t be grueling, but it does take discipline and persistence. But it’s very straightforward. Take the right actions every day, and you will reach your goal.

And in terms of adjusting either activity or food up or down, you play it by ear.

  • If you’re not any leaner after 7 to 10 days, something is wrong. Intake is too high or activity is too low.
  • If you’re getting leaner but you’re feeling lethargic and weak in the gym, you’re probably eating too little or moving too much (this can happen easily if you do too much cardio while dieting).

The important thing to know is there’s no reason to panic. It’s not that calorie counting “isn’t working,” it’s just that something is off in terms of energy intake vs. output, and it can be easily fixed.

 

What are your thoughts on how to count calories correctly? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Shamir Alvis

    Hey Mike, I find I have enough energy for every workout, but for some reason chest day (BLS routine) I always feel like I don’t have the energy. I train fasted and take BCAAs + Caffeine + GTE beforehand. I even feel like when I’m doing my 70% warm up set that it’s a bit difficult but doable.

    I just dont get it, maybe it’s psychological im not sure. I don’t think it’s a diet issue because every other day is fine.

    • Shamir Alvis

      today was backday and I was just ridiculously exhausted after the deadlifts only, no energy for rows, it took me like 30mins after the last set just to rest and put my weights away… not sure maybe I should see a doc? My maintenance cals are about 2100 and im cutting so 1750ish at the moment. I’m getting enough sleep so it’s not that

      do you think I should train during the feeding window instead? I am 15%body fat so I still need to lose this hip flab

      • Michael Matthews

        It sounds like your body doesn’t like fasted lifting. That’s just the case with some people.

    • Michael Matthews

      My guess is it’s related to your weekends. Are you keeping your diet in or eating too little or dropping carbs dramatically?

      • Shamir Alvis

        Been a week now. Shoulders day fine, leg day fine, arms day fine. today was chest again and managed the energy for flat and incline but died before i could make a single dip (I can do about 3 dips max when i have energy). I’m taking 3-5mins rest too so nothing wrong there.

        My weekend cals are the same as weekday cals and I’m going by bls diet for cutting. This weekend I even had two cheat meals in case. Strength is still progressing though (reps or weight) so I doubt it’s muscle deterioration.

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay, it might just be chest-related weakness.

          On the 3rd day after chest day, start your workout with a chest warm-up and 3 heavy sets of incline barbell press. Then move on to your normal workout. This won’t be enough to interfere with your next chest day, and can give you a little boost.

          • Shamir Alvis

            I tried that and the next weeks bench did improve. I wanted to make sure it was ‘chest-related weakness’ as I didn’t want to automatically relegate myself to being a genetically weak man, so I tried switching to berkhan’s lower intensity 5 main lifts routine, thought maybe the 5day a week bls was taking its toll. The result was again a bench stall. I guess you were right about the chest related weakness.

            Is this something you’ve experienced with other clients before? I can’t believe I’m the only one.

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha okay. It’s rare. It’s even happened to me before. No good reason that I can discern.

  • Serge

    Hi Mike. The main problem with my dieting (I’m cutting, 2000 calorie diet). My daily intake of “fats” should be 44g. However, with all healthy choices you recommend (avocado, eggs, olive oil) it is very difficult to achieve. I ended up with using egg whites instead of eggs (but I am going to try fit “real eggs” back instead of egg whites), and so on. I read all your recipes you are posting but I believe I have to save them for the time when I’ll reach my target BF % and move to maintenance/bulk dieting plan. For now, I’m going to stick with grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. For dinner I usually have a mexican meatloaf (according your recipe), but I really have to control the portion, since even 200g of it is too much to fit to my 2000 calorie diet.

    • diamondjimbo

      Serge, I had same issue at first – only been going for a few weeks, but already making good progress as predicted). The way I adjusted it is like you (mainly egg whites, or olive oil spray rather than a tablespoon of oil, etc). I also buy fat free items which are good and filling. Fat free cottage cheese, yougurt, light cheese etc have gotten me more or less to my daily fat limit of … 35grams! I have to watch the almonds portions is the main issue. But once you adjust, it becomes easier. Good luck mate

      • Michael Matthews

        Yup, this is how you do it.

        • Anthony

          When you are using oils, do you count 100% of the amount of that you put into it, or do you assume some amount comes off in the pan/burns off?

          • Michael Matthews

            I count 100% to be “safe.”

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, it’s just a matter of creating a proper meal plan and sticking to low-fat foods. When you’re cutting you just can’t afford to load up on stuff like avocado or oil or even eggs.

  • Stephanie @ Whole Health Dork

    I agree. I love that you tell it like it is. This is how I slowly and steadily lost weight a couple of years ago.
    Unfortunately, I got injured, was unable to work out, and had a ton of anxiety about it, and ended up losing more weight than I wanted to because I was partially too restrictive and the anxiety dulled my appetite (as I’m sure not working out also did). I was too skinny and vowed to gain weight. As I was able to get back to working out, I increased my calories by about 200-300 a day (mostly protein), plus working out stimulated my appetite.
    I’m afraid I may have messed up my metabolism a bit, though. Even though I gained a fair amount of muscle, I feel as though I also gained fat. My appetite over the winter was monstrous and I felt like I was always fighting it. Someone pointed out that I may have decreased my calories too much in response to the weight gain and I promptly increased them a bit.
    Most of the intense hunger went away, but I still have to watch it. I’m trying to lean out right now and I know I should add heavy weights back in (I do mostly bodyweight and light weights due to a tennis elbow injury that has yet to heal). I’m going to try to work these back in and balance it as I increase my running miles. Thanks for the kick in the butt to make me do it!

  • Henrique Perrella

    Mike, speaking of HIIT, i was wondering something that i was going to ask you and that suits this article well – does doing 3-4 times a week HIIT changes your basal metabolic rate at the long term?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question and I’m not sure actually. Probably not, but I can’t say for certain.

  • Myfitnesspal also helps counting those cals!

    • Abhijit

      duh..no shit sherlock

      • Elt31987

        Take your negative crap elsewhere.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup! Many people don’t know that you can set custom macro goals on their website as well.

    • Dizzy

      I use Myfitnesspal too. The smart phone widget is great. It has a scanning option so instead of having to look up what you eat or trying to enter all the nutritional info on something you can’t find, you can just scan the package. Pretty cool!

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah it’s easy

  • Aankhen

    The points is they’re usually making good progress but have unrealistic
    standards as to what they want to achieve (often fueled by ridiculous,
    misleading 2- and 3-month transformations featured on big fitness
    websites).

    These definitely set my expectations too high. I understand now that these are far from the norm. What I still wonder about, though, is how they are achieved. Everyone I speak to about it says it’s all steroids. Is that true?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah drugs, prior training experience (muscle memory), and Photoshop.

      • Aankhen

        Haha. Okay. I have to say, even though the natural way (I turned down everything but protein powders and stuff like ZMA, so no Animal Cuts, no diuretics, etc.) is slow going, it makes me feel unbelievably good to see my body change.

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome man keep up the good work!

  • Kelcey Z

    I love this article Mike. Thanks! Was wondering if you did or could possible write up a short article or possible podcast on the muscle weight vs fat weight ‘debate?’ Many people always say “a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat” which i mean — a pound is a pound, just like a dollar is a dollar not matter if its quarters or dimes. Maybe you can explain how the density is different and how muscle contains a lot of water or maybe the composition of it? Just an idea? or if you could send an article my way that you possibly wrote on it already! Thanks 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Lol a pound is a pound but a pound of fat takes up more SPACE than a pound of muscle. The latter is just denser.

  • Alan Ege

    Hey Mike. I have been lifting weights for the past month and have seen good visible gains in my arms and shoulders. I am pretty consistent with my meals but my weight has stayed the same. I have checked my body fat and it dropped from 31% to just above 26% in a few weeks. My waist has pretty much stayed the same so I am not sure what I need to change. I think that I may be eating too many almonds and that can be part of the problem since they are so calorie dense. Should I be worried if my weight hasn’t changed or am I fine since I am growing more muscle and my body fat is dropping…

    • Michael Matthews

      Great on your gains! 5% down in a few weeks is awesome. I would just keep doing what you’re doing man! Weight can be stagnant for the first bit as your muscles grow and fill with water and glycogen (it offsets the fat loss on the scale).

      • Alan Ege

        Will do… Thank you.

        • Michael Matthews

          LMK how it goes

  • marshall5686

    Hi Mike – Have you seen any research regarding how the accuracy of HR monitors at measuring calories burned during weight training? Thoughts?

    • Michael Matthews

      No I haven’t but that’s a good question. I never really trust them, haha.

  • Brian Giffin

    Mike I was listening to one of your pod casts recently where you were talking about your cutting plan. You said that you dropped your calorie intake a little lower on your off days. Is there a certain percent calorie reduction for off days?
    If so does this also pertain to a bulking plan?

    I also wanted to ask you about possible over training while cutting. I’m currently cutting for my up coming vacation. As you describe in Bigger,Leaner, Stronger I’m lifting the same 4-6 reps. I’ll admit it has gotten a little tougher but I’m still able to maintain my same routine as when I was bulking. Is there a danger of over training simply based on calorie or carb reduction?

    Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I talk about this in my next book. It’s more relevant to when you’re sub-10%.

      Yup the workouts get a little harder but your strength should stay up. You won’t overtrain.

    • Poppy

      Thank you for posting this. Why one earth didn’t I think of cutting my calories on my off days instead of having the same set calorie goal, this will really help.

      • Michael Matthews

        Haha it’s actually not THAT important. I talk about in my next book, which is coming. It’s most useful for when you’re sub-10% and want to get REALLY lean.

  • Poppy

    Yes I have found you absolutely need to count calories carefully. I weigh myself on some very accurate scales and it became apparent very quickly that a slight tweak of calories (within 100-200) can be the different between losing and gaining weight (and not the difference between losing and maintaining as you might think). This is particularly true as I have gotten into my 40s.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, very true.

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  • Guppymoon

    Does all this info. also refer to women. I just want to lose weight right now trying to figure out my calories, protein, carbs, fat.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, this applies to women as well.

  • Tom

    Hi Mike,

    Hormones! Everyone is looking for a way to cheat the basic laws of thermodynamics (i.e., calories). Insulin is the unnamed switch in your article. Understanding the subtleties of how insulin works is useful and I think you’ve already written (brilliantly) about it. Steroids and thyroid drugs also play roles in cheating the basic thermodynamics–and getting pretty screwed up potentially.

    Another point, those calorie tables are based on studies using bomb calorimeters. The body doesn’t process food exactly like literally setting it on fire and measuring the heat it gives off. As a result, proteins aren’t exactly 4 Kcal/gm–more like 3.2. People eating iso-caloric diets that are 90% fat, 90% protein, and 90% carbohydrates don’t “operate” identically. The fat eaters actually maintain, the protein eaters lose, and the carb eaters gain. (Carbs deserve some of their bad reputation.)

    Love your articles.

    Tom

    • Michael Matthews

      Well sure, if you’re on steroids the game changes altogether. Insulin isn’t that important unless you’re talking about shooting insulin while on steroids, heh.

      Yes I’m aware of that regarding the cals but practically speaking, that just doesn’t matter.

      Not sure who would ever get 90% of their daily cals from one macro.

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  • Dizzy

    I just ordered two of your books, TLS and Shredded Chef. I work out 4-5 days a week and can’t wait to get your books so I can set up an actual routine and meal plan. Myfitnesspal is great for counting calories. I keep my calories at about 1200. I’m very short & I sit behind a desk all day so I’ve gained a lot of unwanted weight over the years and it shows. Since I work out I don’t sweat it if I go over the 1200 calories per day. That way I don’t get discouraged! 🙂

    Great website! You’re so down to earth and nonjudgmental.

    BTW – what do you think of pyramiding when you weight lift?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I really appreciate it.

      1200 might be right. Depends on your weight and activity level. Check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      Pyramiding sucks but reverse pyramiding is good for advanced lifters. I talk about it in my next book, which is launching soon.

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  • frametheory

    I was getting my TDEE from BMI. The Katch-Mcardle was about 200 calories less. Good thing i read this article. Thanks. Going to readjust now. My TDEE with activity level is 2,000 calories. 24% BF. So Im gunning for 1800 to see how it goes now.

    • Michael Matthews

      Okay cool that sounds right. LMK.

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  • Galen

    Mike, when tracking macros do you always count veggies in your carb count? Are there certain veggies you don’t include? Up until now, I haven’t included them – is this a mistake?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes always count them. This is a common mistake people make. That can be 50g carbs per day you’re not accounting for.

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  • Mike as usual,you hit the nail on the head. great to have a website and author who walks his talk and is so transparent. Great stuff. Keep up the great work you do man!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Artie!!

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  • Niall Trainor

    Mike I would just like to say thank you for your knowledge on dieting and training. I have been weight training for over 4 years now but never done cardio my fat percentage is %10.6 and I’ve always ate a lot of junk. I am taking up your diet and have been bulking for a week now because my metabolism is so high should I eat more calories and how would be the best way to work out what my body burn a day? Thank you

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  • Natalie

    Hi Mike!

    I’ve been reading a lot of your articles & would LOVE to hear your feedback on my situation.

    Last year, I low carbed for three months – very strictly – lost 10 kilos under those three months. However, I wasn’t getting enough vegetables and I had totally banned fruit. I become very fatigued, somewhat miserable, had cramps every morning & so on.

    After binge eating & going back to old eating habits, all the weight came back on. I just tried low carbing again with exercise for two months, only little changes are noticeable (to me, anyway). I have put on muscle I believe because the scale isn’t moving but my clothes are fitting better.
    Lately, I’ve been wondering if maybe I’ve been restricting my intake for too long? That maybe my body has adapted to eating only under 1500 calories per day? When I low carbed, I was eating high calorie food (fat and protein, zero carbs) so my intake was always all over the place, but sometimes ranging 1600-1800. I never focused on calories then, just carbs.

    After doing several BMR calculations (roughly 1500) & TDEE calculations, I should be eating -20% from 2100 ish, so averaging out 1800-1900 calls per day. This just seems so much to me, and I fill up easy on water. I’m terrified of gaining weight. Perhaps I’m just not noticing my weight loss efforts and should keep more track through measurements etc.

    I am 20 years old, female, 174 (5’8) & weigh 70 KG (155 pounds).

    Thanks!

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  • Lexy

    Hi Michael,

    I just finished Thinner Leaner Stronger and loved it. I am no stranger to weights, but I’ve always done more circuit work and slightly lighter weights (although Ive always used barbells and dumbells to do squats, dead lifts, etc) I have done your workouts as you suggested and feel the difference. Anyway, I am a 35 year old woman, lean with good muscle tone. I have a few layers of fat id like to get off once and for all from having kids, but not sure of my calculations. I am 5’4″ and weigh 116. I have 15.4% body fat, per the caliper you recommended. I would like to cut calories and lean out a little, but obviously I’m on the smaller side to begin with. Based on your calculations, I need to be at 1,230 calories each day, with140 g protein, 116 g carbs and 23 g fat.

    This just doesn’t seem like enough to me. And I’m finding it hard to eat the right amount of protein and carbs and keep the fat low and the calories low. Is this the correct formula I should stick with? I want to lose a little fat and firm up. I don’t need to lose weight. Thanks for any info! Ps – I’ve used a lot of the online calculators like IIFYM and they have me at slightly higher calories but a ton of carbs and less protein, which doesn’t seem right either.

    Love your book and your website! (Also have your cookbook!)

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  • Meg

    Hey Mike,
    I just got done reading your book, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger, in a matter of hours by the way because it was so good and informative. Well, I’m still a little confused about one thing. I want to drop a lot of weight and lose about 20% bf and I am lifting 5x a week and doing some HIIT cardio about 4x a week as well. My question is, do I eat the calories I expend during my cardio or no? Getting my body into starvation mode and wrecking my metabolism is what got me to this place so I don’t want to make that mistake again but I also want optimal weight loss so I’m not sure what to do. Any help would be much appreciated!! Have a good one! 🙂

    -Meg

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  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

    • Ryan

      Mike,

      First, sorry for such a long post.

      I just recently found your website on a google search and am glad i did. I have always tried to eat healthy and workout but after a couple years of p90x type workouts, bodyweight workouts, doing my own thing and plateaus I have decided to get more serious. I plan on buying BLS soon and my goal is to put on more muscle and gain strength. I’m starting to count my calories to get a better idea of my daily intake with the Myfitness pal website(although doesn’t quite match with the below) as recommended and want to get your opinion if I calculated right:

      I’m 28 years old 5’11 180 lbs. Have an office job sitting at desk for 8 hours but I do workout 5 days a week. My BMR is 1873 guessing my BF% is about 15% (I’d like to follow up with a picture to get your opinion). Using your 1.35 my TDEE is 2529 and 2782 on a 10% surplus. Does this seem right?

      From this my macros should be:
      180g protein (720 calories) – 26% of daily intake
      62g fat (556 calories) – 20% of daily intake
      377g carbs (1506 calories) – 54% of daily intake

      Appreciate your feedback and thank you for the help.
      Ryan

      • Thanks Ryan!

        Yeah those macros look like a good place to start. I like it.

        LMK how it goes!

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  • pupava

    thanks to people like you spreading information which isn’t right so many people can get confused when trying to lose weight. The theory that it doesn’t matter from what kind of food calories comes from is completely wrong, it doesn’t even take into account the insulin response you get from eating different macronutrients, maybe you shoud do some research before writing… try reading Tim Ferriss’s book 4 hour body, where he mentiones an experiment during which there were test groups eating the same amount of calories, the only difference was that one group was eating 90% carbs, another one proteins, and the last one 90% fat, and surprise surprise – the group eating carbs actualy gained weight, while other groups lost weight, and that’s just one example..

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  • Annette Spero

    I was overweight and tried so many things. Different things work for different people and I was lucky enough to find one that worked for me. I lost 19 pounds in one month without much exercise and it’s been a life changer. I’m a little embarrased to post my before and after photos here but if anyone actually cares to hear what I’ve been doing then I’d be happy to help in any way. Just shoot me an email at oceanflowers82@gmail.com and I’ll show you my before and after photos, and tell you about how things are going for me with the stuff I’ve tried. I wish someone would have helped me out when I was struggling to find a solution so if I can help you then it would make my day

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  • klara

    Hi Mike, I read a lot that you shouldn’t do too much cardio when trying to loose fat. I am a competitive cyclist and do about 10hrs of riding a week plus twice a week half an hour of heavy weights with a PT. I Can I still loose fat? I feel like I stopped seeing any difference in my body composition about 4 months ago. I I’m 174cm and 65kg, 25% body fat and 25 years old. Thanks

  • Z K

    Hi Mike!

    Came across your website a few days ago and am really impressed with all the great information you have! I am a teenage, female tennis player and to make a long story short, I got injured and put on some weight in that period of time, both fat and muscle! I am 5′ 9″ and weigh 155 though I have a good amount of muscle mass. I am not too concerned about the scale! 😉 I have been doing a program called strong lifts on and off for about a year, but would really like to clean up my diet to lose some excess fat! 🙂 I have a few questions:

    1. Do you have any apps that you would recommend to count calories with?

    2. I will be implementing the workouts you suggested, in addition to my tennis practices. I play 5-7 times a week for around 2-3 hours a day. Each hour, I burn around 300-500 calories. Using your calculations on your article, “Definitive Guide to Effective Meal Planning”, I should be eating around 1828 calories. However this does not take into account the calories I burn tennis. Should I increase the number of calories I eat, depending on how much tennis I play, or keep it at the number I reached?

    Thank you for all this information you posted online! I will be sure to purchase your books soon! 🙂

    • Thanks so much!

      I’m sorry to hear about the injury and cool on what you’re doing.

      1. My Fitness Pal gets it done but you need to set custom macros on the site.

      2. Let’s increase based on the tennis. It’s going to be a bit trial and error, of course, but if you just eat a bit more on those days and maintain the 20-25% deficit, you should be fine.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Z K

        The injury was good in a way, cause I was dropping a ton of weight, both muscle and fat from overtraining. Plus, it got me interested in weightlifting! 🙂

        1. Been using myfitnesspal for a while, so I am familiar with the program and have adjusted the macros.

        2. Will slightly increase my food intake when I play, and see how my body reacts!

        Thank you again for all your help! 🙂

        • Haha silver linings! I like it.

          1. Cool.

          2. Sounds good. You can find some estimates online of how many calories you’ll burn but it will probably take some trial and error.

          • Z K

            I want to thank you for all your help! Keeping with the calories and the macros I have dropped a little over 6 lbs in a few weeks! I am getting leaner while still eating a little bit of crap (i.e. a cookie here and there. 🙂 ). I have a fitness tracker that gives me a good estimate of what I burn playing tennis, and I eat some more carbs and/or protein to balance my intake. Thank you for all your help! 🙂 I am going to continue to follow this until I drop a few more lbs. Then my goal is to bulk up! 🙂

          • Thanks! That’s great! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

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  • Charyl Schouman

    Awesome info and references!!! I am post baby, breast feeding and sedentary. I feel like I have a lot of fat and little muscle. When I start to workout I think will gain muscle and lose fat. Will caloric intake need to change? Do I reevaluate when I take new stats? Hopefully my question makes sense. Thank you!

    • Thanks! Yes breast feeding burns 600 to 800 calories per day so you’ll want to take that into account. Otherwise you don’t have to do anything special: moderate deficit, high-protein, plenty of nutritious foods, etc.

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  • Marian Boricean

    Hi Mike, sorry if you answered this before, but I can’t find it. I see you recommend two ways to determine the amount of macro nutrients:
    1) based on the body weight (1 g protein/ lb of body weight, 0.7 g of carbs / lb body weight etc), and also there is the method of
    2) dividing the needed calories per percentage per macros (40% from proteins, 40% carbs, 20% fats). Which one of the two methods do you recommend to use?

    • Hey hey!

      For the sake of thoroughness you can roll with this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      • Marian Boricean

        Thanks Mike for replying so quickly. So I see it’s a combination of both. I understand that even though eating properly according to your goals is a numbers game, I also know that’s not 100% accurate for everybody. But that doesn’t mean I will not try to make it as accurate as possible :). So here it is my last question regarding the subject: Does the theory apply if the person is obese? or the numbers change slightly? I want to factor this in as well in my app.

  • disqus_HuYP9oq6BC

    Hi Mike,

    What do you think of the affects of smoking with regards to weight loss and weight gain? Does smoking affect your metabolism? thanks.

  • Austin

    Hey Mike I am 150 at 5’10 and assuming I get an hour of exercise a day via lifting or walking my TDEE is between 2200-2300. Now my question is I work as a night stocker at HYVee and so I offload palets of goods and carry them around to their shelfs and put them on, some boxes are heavy and some are light. I spent 7-8 hours walking/picking stuff up so I was wondering how should i safely calculate my TDEE for those days?

    • Cool on what you’re doing. I would try 1.6 and see how my body responds and then adjust accordingly.

  • Gary

    Hi, Mike. I was wondering if I need to exclude the peel when weighing fruit like banana? Or just weigh the whole fruit? Thanks:)

    • Nah no need to weigh the peel. Only weigh the part you’re gonna eat. 🙂

      • Gary

        Do you mean I need to weigh the whole fruit first, then weigh the leftover (banana peel or apple kernel) which then I subtract from the first number? That’s a little inconvenient 🙁

        • No you can just peel it and then weight the part you’re going to eat.

    • Either way is fine. Just make sure you look up the nutritional info for the way you weighed it.

      A site I like to use is Calorieking.com. Check it out and you’ll see it gives the nutritional info for bananas both with and without skin.

  • Joe

    Hey how ya doin Mike? I was just wondering, are the nutrition facts on labels correct for the most part? I bought your book last week and have started to keep track of my calories and macros in order to lose weight and I’ve been pretty proud of myself for being under my TDEE. Or so I think, I’ve been tracking a lot of information from the labels and some others (such as chicken breast) from calorieking.com. Using the formulas in your book, i came up with around 1875 calories per day to lose weight. I’ve been just under that pretty much the whole time but I just wanna be sure that I’m recording everything correctly.

    • Hey hey! The nutritional facts on labels are usually fine.

      The cals seem in the ballpark. You can check them against thsi:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      Calorieking.com is great for the foods without labels.

      What are you trying to do right now: cut, bulk or maintain?

      • Joe

        First of all, thank you for such a quick response and all the great advice. And at the moment I’m trying to cut a little more before I get into the real strength training that I eventually wanna do. For the most part I’m pretty lean but I feel like I still have a tiny bit more flab around my lower abdomen. I’m also curious when you would recommend I start to bulk and strength train. I know you said around 10% BF, but I was curious if my stomach should basically be flat before I really start to go for abs and whatnot.

        • YW!

          You can get as lean as you like. 10-12% BF is lean enough to start bulking, but if you want to get leaner that is totally fine.

          How 10% looks is different person to person. Maybe this will help:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/

          • Joe

            The caliper says I’m around 13% or so, but as you can see it looks like it’s a little higher. I need to lose a little more in my chest and in my abdomen. I’m just hoping that I don’t start to appear really skinny and weak once all the fat I want gone is gone. However I have been making sure to eat plenty of protein everyday.

          • 13% is about right.

            Get to 10-12% and then focus on building muscle.

            To make sure your diet is on point, check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

    • Hey Joe! TDEE takes into account all exercise activity, not just cardio, so be sure to factor weights in there as well. I’m getting 1765 as your cutting cals:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/

      Nutrition labels are pretty close, but can have some variation. Stay consistent with the references you use, and you’ll get consistent results when making calorie adjustments.

  • Roni Julian

    Hi Mike, I’m 5’11 and weight 175. My BMR is 1820. I work at a restaurant 5-6 hours a day, moving stuff, cleaning, cooking, etc. standing all the time. How do I calculate this in terms of calories?? I’m trying to see how many calories I burn so I can consume less than what I burn. thankssss 🙂

    • You just need to use the correct multiplier.

      How many days are you training as well?

      • Roni Julian

        at least 3 days a week. Maybe I should also add the fact that I might sit for only 2-3 hours during the day at most, the rest of the day I spend moving around and doing active stuff.. thank you for replying so quickly, your articles are the best i’ve found in months of researching. thank you very much

        • Hmm. Okay let’s do the 1.35 multiplier.

          We can adjust it based off results.

          What do you think? No problem for the replies and articles!

  • anne

    hey mike! I’m a female, 5’2, 135lbs. i’ve been weightlifting for a while but only recently (last few months) have I really committed to it and tried to gain much more muscle. I’ve seen improvement (!) but have fat around my muscle i’d like to lose. i work at trader joes and am usually lifting heavy boxes, unloading pallets and walking around / on my feet all day. i only sit down for a few hours in the evening. i also weight lift 3xs a week, i’m picking back up running 2xs a week for 20 min. i’m wondering which multiplier i would use. i ended up with a 1400 calorie max to lose fat, but it feels challenging to get enough protein in for the day without going over 1400 calories, so i wanted to be sure i was chose the correct multiplier. would love your advice / input! just ordered your book and can’t wait for it!

    • Thanks for all the info.

      I’d recommend the 1.35 multiplier.

      To get the protein while staying low cal, there’s chicken, turkey, white fish, shrimp, etc.

      LMK how you like the book once you read it!

  • Mike I bought a cutting meal plan from you and I loved the actual layout, but it was just over by 100-200 calories. I’m sure that’s not the end of the world but I saw better results just putting it down from 1880 to 1700 calories. Now I think I’ve found that “sweet spot” for cutting as I’m still building muscle and losing fat. I think online calculators really over-estimate your calories requirements, more specifically your protein requirements. Keep up the good work! – http://www.fitnesscodes.co.uk

  • Roberto Eduardo Rojas

    Hi Mike, One quick question. Should I weight my food raw or cooked? The food usually weights less after cooking it. Specially chicken and meat.

    • Either way is fine. You just need to make sure you count the calories accordingly (8oz of raw chicken and 8oz of cooked chicken have different cals). Calorieking.com is good.

  • Seinfeld

    Good job! This article really needs to get spread.

  • Mario

    When counting calories, is it better to weigh the food after it is cooked or before it is cooked? I am sure there is a big difference between weight when it is raw and when it isn’t cooked, loss of water(meats) or absorption of water (boiling foods). What’s the correct way?

    • Either way is fine. You just need to make sure you count the cals correctly. 8oz of raw chicken isn’t the same cals as 8oz of cooked chicken. A good site to use is Calorieking.com.

  • Jonathan Martinez

    I wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

    I have counting my calorie intake for the last three weeks, and working out 5 days/week. I just weighted myself and it is exactly the same weight as the starting point (173lb). However, I think (I am not sure) I look thinner (mirror) but my low belly fat is almost the same. It went from 36cm to 35.5cm.

    Any suggestions Mike? Or you think I’m on the right path.

    Ohh and btw, I’m using myfitnesspal app to count calories/protein/fat, etc…

  • bob

    hi mike, im a 12 year old kid 4.5 97 Ibs. my reletives say im a bit to young to actually workout beacuase it could affect your height. is that true? and if so can i at least diet, and i just want to know if this plan is good for a kid.

    • That’s more a myth than anything else but if I were you I would focus more on sports and maybe some bodyweight stuff and eating plenty of high-quality foods. Save the heavy weightlifting for when you get a bit older.

  • Joe

    Hey Mike, I have a question about my macros and calories. I’ve been writing down everything I eat in a day for a little over a month now and it’s gone pretty good so far but I was curious why some days my carbs will be right about at where I want them to be (1g for each pound, which gives me around 138g per day) but at the same time my calories are still way low.

    For instance, I tracked everything I ate today and i also pre planned the rest of the day. After adding everything together for the day, I’m at 122g carbs, 22g fat, and 156g of protein with only about 1300 calories for the day. A decent amount of what I eat has a label that I pull information from, however whatever doesn’t I’m careful to find a damn good estimate. For the chicken I eat I use calorieking and also take nutrition facts you had in your book.

    If need be I can share exactly what it is an average day is like for me, I’m just kind of confused on how my macros can be pretty much where they should be (besides maybe needing a little more fat) and yet my calories are still too low. Basically I just don’t want to screw with my metabolism by eating too little.

    • Joe

      This is from the app I use, the numbers are all either ones I’ve added myself or scanned from the actual label themselves. Without any snacks for the day yet, I have 800 calories left for the day and no idea how to use them healthily without adding too many carbs.

    • Hey man!

      What’s your TDEE?

      • Joe

        I just checked my TDEE again the other day actually, I believe it was like 1700-1750.

        • Cool well in that case your cals are where they need to be for cutting.

          You could drop carbs to 100g and increase fats by 10 grams if you’d like but you don’t have much room if you’re not burning a ton of energy.

  • Sara

    Hi Mike! I have been doing strength and HIIT conditioning for the last 5 years but my diet over the last year has been all over the board. I have gained 15 lbs and its been so hard to get it off. I’m currently 5’5 and 151 lbs but I know my body is happier maintaining around 130. Should I be focusing on HIIT cardio type training to get the fat off and then incorporate more weightlifting activity when I am closer to my goal weight? I’m also following a 1350 cal./day diet to aid in the weight loss.

  • Tax Man

    Hey Mike. I have a question when it comes to figuring out your TDEE with the calculator on the website. I am a new convert to adding HIIT cardio to my workout routine thanks to you. My question is, when calculating your TDEE, do you add up all the cardio sessions you do in a week into a hours along with the lifting sessions?

    For example: I lift 3 times a week and do HIIT now 3 times a week. If i add all those up its 3 hours a week of lifting and 1.5 hours of cardio. So would that fall in the 4-6 hours of exercise or only count the lifting cause thats what some people suggest?

    • Hey dude.

      When calculating your TDEE, all hours of exercises (weightlifting, cardio, sports, etc) are counted.

      Hope that clears it up.

  • icyjune

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for all the information!
    Can you advise what mutiplier should I be using? I work out 3x a week of about 30mins – 40mins. Desk bound job. On top of all my exercises, I walked about 15mins a day for 5-6 days. My average steps is about 8000 per day.

    Thanks!

  • Joe

    Hey again Mike, quick question about calories and macros in whole wheat pasta. So I know that the nutrition facts on the box are for the dry pasta (2oz serving dry) what I’m wondering is what I should go by when recording my pasta meals. Obviously the 2 oz dry pasta isn’t going to be the same thing as 2 oz cooked, in volume or nutrition. How do I convert these amounts? I’m looking to get a decent amount of carbs into my diet while I’m bulking so I wanna make sure I’m not going too crazy but still getting enough. Thanks for your answer man.

    • Your best bet would be to weigh the cooked pasta and then look up the cals and macros on a calorie counting site. I like Calorieking.com.

      What do you think?

      • Joe

        Sounds good. Another quick question, I’m 133lbs at the moment and just started my bulking routine on Monday. I’ve been drinking 1 cup of rice milk, 1 scoop of whey, and 1 banana before my workout and 2 cups rice milk, 2 scoops of whey and 1 banana afterwards. A giant chunk of my protein is coming from my pre and post workout shakes so I was wondering if I should get less calories from my shakes. Today for instance my lunch only has 4 1/2 oz chicken and my dinner is some pasta. It would’ve been chicken too, however I’m trying to keep my protein close to 133g. What’s your advice?

  • BrnHpkns

    Hey Mike, bought the book and I love it. I was wondering if this looks right? Sorry if this is a dumb question.

    I’m 5,10″ 172lbs and 15-16% body fat.

    From the book it looks like my macros should be.

    P – 206
    C – 172
    F- 34

    This is using the quick method from the book. How do I keep my fat under 34? What foods are best to get that much protien and little fat, it seems like eggs are out…

    Thanks excited to start this journey!

  • jake

    Based on calories in/out, why do people tend to float at a weight and just don’t keep getting fatter and fatter. Some people aren’t monitoring what they eat and their body fat/weight consistently stays at one point. Is there a fat set point that the body bc accustomed to? there are people who eat horribly but they never go past 250 for example.

  • Dustin

    Hi Mike,

    I’m currently cutting. What activity multiplier should I use for the TDEE tool, since it’s above 6. I’m just trying to be as accurate as possible.

    Weight: 228
    BF: 22.5%
    (4) 22.5MIN HIIT sessions
    (5) 75 min resistance sessions
    7.75 hours total

    FYI: Gone from 230 @ 30%BF to 228 @ 22.5%BF in about 2 months!

    • Dustin

      Also, is the TDEE tool broken above? I’ve tried several browsers and and my phone and it’s not spitting out data anymore.

    • Hmm you could get frisky and try 1.5 and see how your body responds. And great job!

  • Mike

    Hey Mike,

    I’m just getting started. Have you found an easy way to calculate calories while also calculating your macros to make sure you’re in the proper calorie deficit/surplus range?

    Thanks!

  • Kam Barnes

    Hey Mike,

    I weigh all of food to the nearest gram and so I have been using the following sites as a reference for my nutrition information for my apples, grapes, bananas, etc & I was just checking to see if you find the information on these sites to be correct or if you have another site that you believe to be better.

    Thanks!

    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1809/2

    http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/apple-fruit.html

    • Glad you’re weighing and tracking your food properly. 🙂

      Those sites seem fine. Personally, I use Calorieking.com or Caloriecount.com.

      Welcome!

  • Kam Barnes

    Hey Mike,

    I recently purchased a container of egg nog whey protein from legion, which is awesome by the way. But being OCD like I am, I weighed my scoop out and noticed it to be 38g but in the serving size it says “1 rounded scoop (28 g)”. I know this may be a bit OCD but I’m just wondering if I’m missing something here bc my scoop of powder weigh ~10 g more than the serving size. Should I go based off of 1 scoop or should I go based off the weight?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Thanks!

      I’m glad you like it and you bring up a great point that I myself noticed and have already talked to the manufacturer about.

      Basically the density of the protein allows it to be VERY tightly packed and their team intended for a loose, level scoop for a serving. If you do that, you should get to around 30 g.

      That said, we ARE switching to a smaller scooper for future runs just to prevent over-scooping as much as possible.

  • Omar

    Hey Mike,

    I am just looking for a healthy way to loss weight, gain some muscle so I can successfully pass my Police testing. That being said I’m that guy you mentioned that has tried EVERYTHING. however, I’m still staying the same weight. (6’1 300 lbs). I just wanted to be clear, after reading your blog, I am supposed to be counting calories according to my TDEE? (I have also began a routine on going to the gym before work every week day, which consists of weight training and 20-30 minutes cardio afterwards)

    All in all, what am I missing? Any other tips?

    Thanks for your time in reading this and your blog brother.

    – Omar

  • Alex M

    Hey Mike, another question here about the activity multiplier. If we’re following your workout routine (let’s say 5 days of lifting and 20 mins of HIIT 3-4 times a week) you say to use the activity multiplier of 4-6 hours. However, for the weight lifting workouts, the amount of time actually spent lifting/working out is probably about 30 seconds per rep. If a workout on average has 4 sets of 3 reps, that would be 30secs*3reps*4sets = 6 mins, with the rest of the time in the gym spent resting (3-4mins*3reps*4sets = ~36-48 mins). So are we really working out for 45-60 mins when we’re lifting? Should the activity multiplier used actually be 1-3 hours? Do you do anything to make use of all of that rest time? Thanks for any advice.

    • Nah. You can stick to the 4-6 hour multiplier.

      I see what you’re saying, but the time spent in the gym is what’s counted when using the multiplier.

      And no, the rest time used for that exactly–rest! You need it to lift heavy for 9-12 sets.

      My pleasure!

  • ariel

    Do you have to RD when you increase your time in the gym? in my 80% cal defecit, i got to the gym 3 hours a week but i wanna go 4 or 5. now, my cals are 1550 but if i were to go 4or5 hours a week then my cals are 1746. SO do I have to rd to get to 1746 or i can just start right away? thanks!

    • Nah that’s fine. You can just go straight to 1746 cals.

      Welcome!

  • Mark

    Hey Mike,
    Do you adjust your calories and macros as you lose weight? Say you start at 190, lose 5 lbs over 5 weeks and are now 180. Would recalculate your required calories and macros based off your new weight and body fat percentage? Or do you just continue on the original calculation based off your starting weight of 190? Thanks.

    • Mark

      Just realized I can’t count. 185 lbs not 180 but you get the idea

      • Lol no worries! You keep the cals and macros the same as long as you’re getting results. Once you stop losing 1-2 pounds a week, you drop cals.

  • ariel

    Is losing 3 pounds per week too much? I dont feel starved and am following an 80 percent cal def properly. You mentioned that 1 pound a week is the standard but im just double checking. Also when i do not lift weights for a week, and keep my 80 percent cal def and have 1 largr cheat meal, i do not lose any weight. Is that normal? Waiting to here from you! Thanks.

    • Yeah, that’s a bit too fast. You risk losing muscle.

      It’s normal to lose that much or more the first few weeks but after that it should even out to 1-2 pounds a week.

      It makes sense that you don’t lose weight on the weeks you don’t lift because your TDEE is lowered from the reduction in activity.

      Hope this helps! My pleasure!

      • ariel

        Alright thanks for the info! Already lost 30 pounds and building the so called “newbie-gains”. Im gonna start bulking as soon as i hit 10 percent bf…(im 17.5% now) but first rd to my tdee and then bulk 200 calories extra. I am really happy i found your site! You are truly a life changer! One more question though, if i do the exact same ab circuit (the one u recommend…cable crunch,captains leg raises but switch the air bycle to hanging leg raises cuz it hurtd my back) 9 times a week, will it target all my essential ab sections? Or do i still have to incorporate other workouts that u suggest as well. Thanks.

        • Welcome! Great job!

          Sounds good. Good call on the RD when you’re done cutting.

          Happy to help. 🙂

          Yep, that’s totally fine on the ab exercise switch. You can stick with those.

          My pleasure! Talk soon.

  • Cameron Richard

    Thanks for the great articles Mike and sorry to add to the questions but it’s very kind of you to take time to answer them! I have been eating 1200 calories since September and have lost 12 pounds, very slow but I’m trying to be patient. I’m a 23 year old female, 5’8″ and currently weight 133ish… I’ve lost that only by diet and going for walks every day. Long story short, I was a college athlete and wanted to lose some extra weight and bulky muscle so that’s why I’ve only been walking, but now I haven’t lost any weight for a month and I know I need to start exercising again I’m just scared to gain muscle bc I’m naturally muscular and it’s really frustrating not to fit into jeans and stuff… Sorry for the long message and if you’ve covered this already but suggestions would be amazing. Thank you:)

    • Welcome! Glad you like them. 🙂

      Hmm. To help with the weight loss, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      LMK what you think. It looks like it may be time to reverse diet…

      No worries! My pleasure! Talk soon.

      • Cameron Richard

        Thanks I appreciate that:) I think I will try to be super careful with my tracking my calories (holidays probably got me off a bit) and try to introduce some more exercise…but I just get confused on what kind of exercises I should do so as not to get bulky but still be toned… so I think I can probably try and figure out a good routing and make those changes before trying reverse dieting if you think that would be wise? Thank you again!

  • Victor Lundgren

    Hello Mike! What would your tips be for me if you look pictures below…?
    Should i do more cardio… or lift heavier? I my goal is to get ripped and i have no idea of what to do. I eat clean food everyday homemade…. Some tips would be awesome. Ty in advance!

    • Hey Victor! You look good man!

      Do you have more muscle you’d like to put on do you simply want to get leaner? If you do want more muscle, now would be a good point to bulk.

      What do you think?

      • Victor Lundgren

        Hi Mike!

        I would love to get off with belly fat and put some strengh when i gym and look muscular… nit just get big…i hope i could explain myself. Also another question i feel myself hungry often… should i grab apple or something? Im 176 cm tall and 68,9kg if you wanted to know… ty in advance love your page : )

        • I hear you man. If you have more muscle you plan on putting on, there’s no need to get leaner right now, and to bulk properly, you will have to put on some fat. Let’s do a proper bulk. You can plan on getting super lean afterwards when you cut.

          Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

          Thoughts?

          My pleasure. 🙂

  • Michelle Gentile-Kuntz

    I figured out my calories with 6 workouts a week with beach body programs. I only added it as 1-3 hours because most are around 30 minutes a day. Once I got my tdee I took 80%so I can lose weight. I wear a polar to count calories. Can I consume those calories I burn or is that already calculated in your formula. Your number is different from my fitness pal. Thank you!

    • Cool! Nope, you don’t. The cals burned from activity are already calculated into your TDEE.

      Welcome!

  • mat

    i have a problem im hoping you can help me with

    i have spent some time now building my diet plan i have total’d my macro nutrients
    Pro 118.2 Fat 83.1 Carb 341.2 Sug 89.3 D/F 94.7
    which gives me a total of 2972.6 Calories is this correct ?
    i heard from a friend that Sugar and D/F are technicaly carbs and will change the total calories from my carb intake as such, is this correct?
    is this the right way to get my correct total of Calories instead?vvvvvvvvv
    Pro 118.2 x 4 = 472.8 cal
    Fat 83.1 x 8.8 = 731.28 cal
    Carb 341.2 – Sug & D/F = 157.2
    Carb 157.2 x 4 = 628.8 cal
    Sug 89.3 x 2.4 = 214.32 cal
    D/F 94.7 x 2 = 189.4 cal
    making my total Calories 2236.6
    please advise mike 🙂

    • 120 pro, 340 carb, and 80 fat sounds reasonable for bulking for a 120 to 130 pound man, so if that’s you, cool. 🙂

      That said, I would probably lower fats a bit for more carbs, but that’s me.

  • Zak Smith

    Hey Mike, I bought your book last week and I love it. I don’t have calipers yet so I wanted to get your opinion, I’m 174 lbs, and 6’1. I’ve been using the Lose It app to count calories and it says my limit is about 1580 calories a day if I want to lose two pounds a week. I used to do an hour of the elliptical machine every day for the past couple years, but I’m cutting it back to 4-5 30 minute sessions a week now. Does that 1580 number sound low or high to you?
    Thanks man, really love the book, and I’m going to get some of your others.
    Zak

    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Those cals seem in the ball park–a bit low though. You can confirm them here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      Glad you reduced the cardio volume!

      YW! Happy to hear it. LMK how you like the other ones you read. 🙂

      • Zak Smith

        Awesome thanks a lot Mike. I just ordered the Legion Creatine and some other Legion products today.

        I was wondering, how many calories do you estimate that a person starting your workout program would burn in one hour long session if they were following your directions very closely? Meaning including the time in between sets, and mostly doing sets to exhaustion?

        Thanks in advance.
        Best,
        Zak

  • Tonya

    Hey Mike,am a female and i don’t know how to measure my progress.when i do 20-25% deficit,i don’t lose 1 pound every week.do i need weight myself after each period cycle and get average loss and then change anything in diet/workout or do you have any other advise.thanx

    • Tonya

      and can you help me with my activity level.
      i do full body 3 times a week and do cardio about 25 min. 5 times a week + an hour of walking these days.

  • Anthony Pampillonio

    Hi Mike my question is, should I eat the extra calories myfitnesspal gives me when I add in my workouts or should I just stick to the number I got from this article which was great btw? My goal is to lose fat. Thanks

    • Nope! Just stick to the numbers from the calculator. Your activity is already taken into account.

      Glad you enjoyed the article!

      I like the goal. Let’s make it happen. 🙂

      Welcome!

  • Rioh Rizzio

    Hi Mike, when counting calories is it fair to look at total calories weekely and if so can you save calories from one day to be consumed the next? That being said what is the best time period for counting calories: hour, day, week?

    • You can look at intake weekly, yes, but you want to avoid grossly overeating certain days and “making up for it” by grossly undereating others.

  • lost yet learning

    hi mike, my weight has ballooned to 250.4 pounds and i am not sure how to calculate any of that. i walk for two hours a day, six days a week.(no sundays) how many calories would you suggest a person that heavy should take in per day and see results. oh, did i mention that i also run a little too! any advice you can give would be great and most appreciated, cause i am determined to lose a 100 pounds in a year or less for my 30 year anniversary and renew my vows.

  • Raven

    Hi Mike,
    Wanted to know if counting the grams of sugars is considered important in my calorie log…especially when even my healthy choices (plain greek yogurt w. a side of honey – have quite a lot of sugar) How do you go about logging your sugar intake so that it doesn’t work against your calorie cut down?
    I’m currently in that tricky stage of the laaaast percentiles of body fat that are preventing my midsection look as lean as it can – and I’m trying to maintain the health and recovery of my muscles while still losing that tricky fat. Was thinking of tossing in a day or two of Intermediate Fasting throughout my week along with eating well on the other days. Any thoughts are EXTREMELY appreciated. 🙂

  • wei daniel

    hey Mike. I’m getting increasing frustrated as all the weight I gained goes to the belly as fat. I am wondering how I can gain weight as I want to bulk up a bit while burning the belling fat as the same time.
    Many thanks

  • Joe

    Hi Mike, I just bought your book and I am trying to cut from 25% to 10% bodyfat for the first time in my life (I’m skinny fat!). When counting calories, do I weight my protein choices prior to cooking them for accurate calorie/macro tracking? Thanks!

    • Hey Joe! Thanks for picking up my book. Cool on your goal of getting to 10% BF. Let’s make it happen!

      You can weigh them before or after. Just make sure you look up the nutritional info for the way you weighed it.

      Welcome! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Philip Godwin

    Hey Mike, I liked your article but I’m rather curious on a few things.
    I’m 18 and I’ve lost 25 lbs in 3.5 months (26.7% body fat to 21%) body fat while gaining muscle mass (42.4% to 45.4%). I have hit a plateau once before and I restricted my calories from 2300 to 2000. I’ve hit another plateau at 225 and My weight hasn’t moved in three weeks. I have seen some articles on a plan where one eats (lets say me) 2000 calories for 5 days and the 2600-2800 calories for 2 days (of course with my most difficult workouts) to reset my metabolic rate. What do you think I should do?

  • Apoorva Kumar

    I have some confusion regarding calorie counting as I’m new to this. How accurate should your calorie counting be? For example, 2 apples- one redder and sweeter than the other, will provide different number of calories. So what should one do about this? Just take the generally sited no. of calories for both? And how will I know the no. of calories in a single bite of any particular food? Since the labels on the back of food packages are usually inaccurate, will it require weighing the food and a large amount of calculation? Last but no least, how will you count calories while eating out? Most restaurants don’t list the no. of calories that each dish provides. So should you stop eating out?
    You said that even an excess of 100 kcal can make one fat, so it seeems to me that even a little inaccuracy can cause fat gain.
    I would be grateful if you could reply and clear my confusion.

    • Hey hey! No worries. I’m happy to help. 🙂

      There will always be minor differences in the listed cals and the actual cals of the food items. However, the difference shouldn’t ever be enough to prevent results.

      And remember, your intake should always be adjusted based off results. So, if you’re not losing 1-2 lbs a week on a cut or gaining 1/2-1 pound a week on a bulk, you need to adjust your intake accordingly.

      Regarding random bites of food, the simple suggestion would be to not eat or take bites of anything you can’t track and that isn’t on your meal plan. If there are little bits of food you’d like to have, I recommend using a scale and looking up the nutritional info on a site like Calorieking.com or Caloriecount.com.

      You can eat out. However, again, you’d need to make sure you can track the cals/macros of the food you’re eating. If not, I’d save eating out for your weekly cheat meal.

      Yes, that’s true on the excess of cals. However, with a proper cut, you’ll be in a 20-25% deficit from your TDEE which (depending on your weight, activity level and BF%) would put you at a 300-800 cal deficit daily. So, overeating by 100 cals wouldn’t prevent weight loss.

      Hope this clears it up for you. LMK what you think.

      • Apoorva Kumar

        Thank you so much for replying! 🙂 Your site rocks! It’s really hepling me overcome my fear of food and gaining weight.
        I was wondering, if someone ate excess calories for a period of time WITHOUT exercising, will the weight they gain be only fat or will there be some muscle as well? Does the body not gain any muscle naturally? Or does it depend on the kinds of macronutrients in the food one eats? Would exceeding your TDEE while eating a protein-rich diet and not exercising be the same as exceeding your TDEE on a junk food diet? That’s hypothetical, of course, since I have no plans to go on a junk food diet; I’m just curious.
        Moreover, is it ok to track your weekly intake of calories instead of daily intake as long you maintain a caloric deficit?

      • Apoorva Kumar

        Thank you so much for replying! 🙂 Your site rocks! It’s really helping
        me overcome my fear of food and gaining weight. Btw, I’m a 17-year old
        girl.
        I have a few more questions… I’ll number them so that it’s easier to answer.
        1.
        I was wondering, if someone ate excess calories for a period of time
        WITHOUT exercising, will the weight they gain be only fat or will there
        be some muscle as well? Does the body not gain any muscle naturally? Or
        does it depend on the kinds of macronutrients in the food one eats?
        Would exceeding your TDEE while eating a protein-rich diet and not
        exercising be the same as exceeding your TDEE on a junk food diet?
        That’s hypothetical, of course, since I have no plans to go on a junk
        food diet; I’m just curious.
        2. Another hypothetical situation: What
        if a person ate one huge meal a day, in which they consumed their total
        calories for that day, but still maintained a caloric deficit? Would
        they get fat? You once wrote that there is a certain amount of
        carbohydrates that our bodies can store as glycogen before they start
        getting stored as fat. So does that mean that eating too many
        carbohydrates at one time will result in storage of more fat and less
        muscle than would result from eating the same amount of calories from
        carbohydrates or other macronutrients in multiple meals?
        3. Is it ok
        to track your weekly intake of calories instead of daily intake as long
        you maintain a caloric deficit? Like If I consume an excess of calories
        on day 1, then even it out by eating less on Day 2. But if the no. of
        calories consumed on day 2 is below a certain threshold amount, could it
        result in loss of muscle?
        4. You wrote that exercising in a fasted
        state burns more fat than usual. So even if you expend the same no. of
        calories while exercising in a fasted state and a non-fasted state, will
        you burn more fat in the fasted state? That doesn’t sound possible
        though, since 1 gram of fat provides a fixed amount of calories… Since
        the no. of calories used is equal in both the scenarios, does it
        actually mean you’ll lose more muscle in the non-fasted state than in
        the fasted state, as burning calories can lead to either fat loss or
        muscle loss.
        5. What do you think of this extract from a study:
        ‘Both the amount and composition of food eaten influence body-weight regulation… We overfed isoenergetic amounts (50% above energy requirements) of fat
        and carbohydrate (for 14 d each) to nine lean and seven obese men… From energy and nutrient balances (intake-expenditure) we estimated the
        amount and composition of energy stored. Carbohydrate overfeeding
        produced progressive increases in carbohydrate oxidation and total
        energy expenditure resulting in 75-85% of excess energy being stored.
        Alternatively, fat overfeeding had minimal effects on fat oxidation and
        total energy expenditure, leading to storage of 90-95% of excess energy.
        Excess dietary fat leads to greater fat accumulation than does excess
        dietary carbohydrate, and the difference was greatest early in the
        overfeeding period.’
        If they ate the same no. of cals, how did one group gain more fat? Metabolism increased in case of excess carbs but not fat. So how can fat gain be wholly dependent on calorie intake? Does this mean the people who ate carbs gained muscle?
        6.
        I have a history of anorexia and am currently in recovery. As is to be
        expected, all the weight is from fat gain, and that too, around the
        abdomen. On many sites, I’ve read that the weight gain will “even out”
        if you “keep feeding your body” i.e. eating more and more, though I’m
        skeptical, to be honest. The researchers working on Minnesota Starvation
        Experiment concluded that after starvation (in this case, due to a
        restrictive eating disorder), the body starts storing only fat during
        refeeding. There is an ‘overshoot’ of fat storage, i.e. an excess amount
        of fat is accumulated, so that the ratio of fat and fat-free mass can
        be restored. Fat-free mass can’t be restored until there has been excess
        fat storage, and later on, the excess fat is somehow lost and goes back
        to pre-starvation levels… it’s something like that, according to what
        I’ve understood. Do you think the fat will be redistributed if I don’t
        eat about 3000 kcal per day (that’s the no. of calories recommended
        during recovery).? I’m asking you this because I’ve noticed you always
        back up your answers with a lot of scientific evidence, which appeals to
        me since I’m studying to become an engineer. I would really appreciate
        it if you would tell me what you think.
        Sorry about the no. of
        questions. I started believing in the validity of calorie counting only a
        week ago, thanks to your articles, so I’m full of questions.

        • My pleasure! This is a LOT to cover in just a comment, haha. Could you please shoot me an email at Mike@muscleforlife.com? I’d be happy to help you and answer your questions there. 🙂

  • disqus_qlwvdmiI2Y

    This is probably a really dumb question lol, but I’m asking it anyway!! When counting calories, let’s say I’m eating 1200 per day, do I eat only 1200 or work out til I’ve burned down to 1200? Or eat 1200 and still work out, which burns to below 1200? I’ve always been confused by this!

  • Ben

    Hi, I’m having some trouble with stubborn stomach fat, I can feel the hard abdominals underneath as i regularaly train abdominals, Ive just got no idea how to shift it. I lost 6st from 2011-2012, I’m happy with my body apart from my abdominals/stomach. Im at a stage where my muscles are getting to a good size. I’m 21 at 165lbs 5’11. I go to the gym everyday for atleast an hour weight training and do cardio once/twice a week. Do you have any advice for the amount of calories, grams of fat/protein I should be eating to shift this stubborn fat & gain/obtain my muscle size. Also what kind of training would be most effective, I’ve read that fasted cardio/training is good!

    I really hope you can help, thanks!!!

  • Tyler

    Hi Mike. I’ve really enjoyed your books and articles. Stuck in a bit of a rut, looking for some advice. I’m about 155 pounds, trying to add size. I’ve been sticking to my bulking meal plan for about a month now, doing the work outs and I’m actually losing weight. I’m a golfer and tend to lose a bit of weight during the summer as a result of how much more walking I do. I read an article recently that said walking the golf course burns somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1500 calories which obviously would have a huge impact on my numbers. I play about 2-3 times per week and I’m wondering how much I should adjust my intake to account for this? Should I simply eat a bunch more on the days I play or adjust my daily meal plan for the whole week? Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Tyler

  • PapiMiAmor

    Wonderful articles, Mike! You are truly a hero to someone like myself who is tired of all the contradictions out there among “experts” and diet book authors. I am a 65 year old male, 5’7″ with hypothyroidism. Calorie counting has allowed me to establish an effective sustainable plan of eating and exercise that is working miracles for me. With 1600 calories and a max of 90 grams carbs daily (parameters set by my bariatrician), along with an hour or so of walking in addition to my daily chores is proving most effective. The best part is that I still get to incorporate some of my favorite foods like a slice of pizza or a cheese steak sub occasionally, so that I never feel deprived or bored with my plan.

    I will get back to the gym once my injured knee and heal a bit more. One important caveat for me is that I have to automatically set aside 300 calories each day for miscellaneous items like condiments, fiber supplements and calcium chews, and any extra calories I may inadvertently consume when I’m eating out or for discrepancies and variations in calories and carbs provided on labels and in books and calculators.

    Thank you for all your informative and very helpful articles!

    • YW! Glad you got so much out of my articles and have been making great progress. Keep it up!

  • Miz Eloise

    all i can say is wow! thank goodness i stumbled upon this site! work smarter not harder. err harder too in some sense

  • David Dietsch

    Should I weigh sweet potatoes uncooked? Same thing for chicken? Raw or cooked? I buy frozen chicken in bulk

    • It doesn’t matter, really. As long as you are using the correct nutrition info (cooked vs uncooked), you will be able to portion out the servings appropriately for your macro targets.

  • joud

    Hi Mike,

    I understood from this article that we need to count calories to lose fat and build muscle or to just maintain a certain body weight. and in another article you mention” how to lose weight without counting calories”.

    I’m confused. if i am a clean eater do i still have to count calories .both articles are a bit different , I’m confused as to whether counting each and every calorie is essential or not while trying to lose fat and build a bit of mnuscle.

    im a 27 year old female. my height is 171 and i weigh 58.5 -59 kg and im trying to get a bit leaner and more toned.

    Thanks!

  • Jesper

    Hey Mike,
    Thank you for all the useful information on the website! I have a few questions for you though, when you have the time:
    1. My main problem with meal planning is how to fit it together as a family. Me and my wife would like to stick to it, but without “pulling the kids” into it as well. So any tips on how to make this possible/trackable when having two kids as well?
    2. Do you have any recommendation for how long to bulk/cut before switching between them?
    3. Do you have any insights about the Beachbody programs (T25, Insanity, etc)? Not as full programs, but if used for cardio workout at home 1-2 times per week on top of 3 weightlifting sessions at the gym?

    Thanks!

    Cheers,
    Jesper

  • Zeljko Markanovic

    great article mike 👏🏻

    my biggest problem with food is when i weight the food i do it when its cooked and ready to eat.. is this correct or do i need to weight it raw?

    • That’ll depend on your preference. For example, you can hop on to caloriecount.com and look up “Chicken Breast” and there are options for raw or cooked. If it’s easier for you to measure the raw weight prior to cooking, then use the raw weight macros. If you prefer to measure cooked food and portion it after cooking, then use the cooked weight macros.

      Does that make sense?

  • Letisia

    Hello. I have a question. I buy ground turkey breast from the super market. I just scan the barcode onto my MYFITNESSPAL . The serving is for 4 oz. Is this for raw or already cooked meat? I want to make sure I’m counting my macros and all correct. I’d actually prefer to just hear all my meat up at once and then weigh it. But again. One I scan it to MYFITNESSPAL there’s only a option of ounces. There’s no spot for cooked or uncooked meat. Thanks for your feedback

    • Letisia, I recommend searching on CalorieCount or CalorieKing.com in these cases to make the cooked vs raw distinction.

  • RFKFREAK

    So, Mike, if I understand you correctly, when calculating our macros, if we look at the USDA label of say, chicken, and it says 4 oz is 1 gram of fat, 0 carbs, and 26 protein, for calculating purposes, we should weigh it uncooked rather than using the cooked weight?

    When I cook the chicken, it weighs less, so I want to make sure I’m weighing it in the correct state so as to make sure I’m calculating the proper macros.

    Thanks!

    • As long as you are weighing it in the correct state that matches the nutritional profile you are referencing, cooked or uncooked is fine.

  • golfvilla

    Mike, I’m getting frustrated here. I downloaded your Kindle book from Amazon, I have been pouring over page after page of findings, studies, etc. and I still haven’t started the diet or working out. I went to your website, YouTube videos, Instagram, Facebook and still don’t know where to begin!!! I use to do all the wrong stuff you mentioned in your book. I would spend 2 – 3 hours in the gym with little results. I would mostly do high reps and low weights and 45 minutes of cardio on the tread mill. I have been working out for years and tried different methods. What you have written makes since and you back it up with an enormous amount of data. I just want to start eating right and get back to the gym but still don’t know where to start. I need to loose weight and increase my energy but all I’m doing is reading and watching videos!!!!

    • That’s great you’ve been reading and learning. The next step is to put it all into practice:

      1. Set your macro targets:
      http://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/
      https://legionathletics.com/how-to-calculate-body-fat/

      2. Set your workout schedule and start lifting.

      That’s all there is to it!

      • golfvilla

        Thanks Mike! I appreciate the links! Right after I posted my comment I came to the section in Bigger, Leaner, Stronger were you talk about pre and post workout meals. I made up a spreadsheet to track my daily calories. Next I need to figure out my workout routine and join a gym that is close and convenient (my last one closed).

        • YW! That’s great you’re moving along in the book and are tracking your cals. I recommend the 4 or 5 day routine.

  • Heidi Casey

    Hi Mike! First of all, thank you for all of this AWESOME information! You really get into the guts of it all and how everything works together. I wanted to tell you that I started the “plan” on Saturday 8/20. I have already been working out with HIIT and some light weights for years, however something was “off” and I was not losing weight… I was gaining weight, and not in a good way. I love the calculators that you have on the website and in the book (Thinner Leaner Stronger). I have calculated my BMR, TDEE. I now know that I was eating too much even though I was working out 3x a week, sometimes 5. Now with my TDEE figured out, I am at the correct calories needed to lose some weight. I am 1.8 lb down from my beginning weight on Sat. My BF% has gone down 1% as well. So for me, this is making things “click” and I am stoked to be seeing results. Also, thanks for getting into the supplement area. I have been using the Forge & Pulse pre-workout, Recharge after with my post-workout protein, and Phoneix at breakfast and lunch. Using the Legion sups has only been since Monday 8/22. I am doing my HIIT workouts on M, W, F and then using your 2 day weight workout for T, TH. During my HIIT workouts, I am also getting a weight/body weight workout too, as I got to Orange Theory those days. So, thanks for all the info and more to come on how things are shaking out. But for now… really happy!!

    • YW! Glad to hear you enjoyed it. Good to hear you’re putting everything into practice and getting results! That’s awesome you’re liking the Legion supps too. Keep up the great work!

  • Levik The

    Ahoy Mike! Been listening to you podcast and reading articles, I find them keep me very motivated! As you probably know I’ve commented and ask some advice. ANd I know you are absolutely busy bee, so I figure I wait and throw another question.
    I make all my food home made, and can’t seem to find them on calorie king or calorie count, really want to make a big change and don’t want to mess up.

    Is counting my calories base on the food index close enough?
    For examp if I consumed half of 160 cal, I divide all P/C/F by 2 to estimate my Marco and calories intake?

    Thanks!

    • Awesome! That’s so great you make your food at home. You can look up the individual ingredients on caloriecount.com and then add them up to get the macros for what you’re making.

      For counting calories in the example you gave, either one works. The first is easier.

      • Levik The

        Thank you Mike! Major appreciation.
        I have another question, I’ll try to keep it short.
        I self calculated from your book and then I checked out your site calculation, and it is very different, which one shall I follow?

        MFL Website: Mine:
        LBM: 101. 0.88
        BMR 1363. 1380
        TDEE: 1977. 2071
        Total 1582. 1450
        P:158g. 140g
        C:158G. 117g
        F: 34 g. 24g

        I calculated my first 4 weeks of cutting; I first lost 3lbs then every week 1 pound after. I’m also on HRT and finding I have more strength during workout and stamina. BUt looking to cut down to 10 % BF

        P.s. If you find similiar question in your inbox, you can be sure to pat yourself in the back for awesome job on answering questions and spending the time.

        Thanks Mike!

        • You’re welcome, and thanks! I really appreciate that. 🙂

          • Levik The

            Hey Mike! Just updating on the process if my cut. Lost 5 kg in 6 weeks, the scale isn’t moving down much now. I’ve deficit with calories at 1350 now. Eating clean and no alcohol. My transverse abdominal are showing now with the four upper cubes slowly moving in, I can make them out. 3-4 hiit a week with one day 12 km run.
            Should I give my deficit calories til end of September and see if I want to move towards my tdee to drop more body fat before bulking phase? I take forge only with my.morning hiit, prefer protein and carbs for heavy lifts 3 X a week and phoenix daily.

            Thanks mate!

          • Nice work! 1350 sounds low, but could be appropriate, depending on your body stats. Let’s double check to be sure you’re not below BMR:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/
            https://legionathletics.com/how-to-calculate-body-fat/

            If everything checks out and you’re on track at 1lbs/week, keep it up! You can also increase activity to a 5 day split as opposed to dropping more cals.

            LMK how it goes.

          • Levik The

            Hey Mike, do I calculate my beginning BF and weight or the new ones I’ve acquire from hard work and sweat?
            Thnx!

          • Hey hey! You can use your new stats.

          • Levik The

            Thanks RogerT!

          • No probs!

  • sakib800

    Hey Mike how many days does it take for your metabolism to be “damaged” Like if you have been yo-yo dieting and gaining and losing weight for the past few months is your metabolism damaged?

    Or does it take months and months of very low calorie dieting with lots of cardio?

    For me I feel that I lose a steady amount of weight but then I cant handle it or something goes wrong (festivies come up) and then I just eat a lot of food until I balance out the deficit

    Also lets say I kind of overestimate my caloric intake on purpose, and accidentaly eat a 100-200 calories below BMR. Will that be harmful?

    • “Damage” is probably the wrong term. “Adaptation” is more accurate.

      That said, it would take many months of eating a LOT less energy than you’re burning, which would result in significant muscle loss.

      So, in your case, don’t sweat it. Just don’t go crazy and eat far less than your BMR for long periods of time.

  • Tony

    DO you recommend using calorieking or just reading labels at the supermarket in creating a dieting plan?
    Thanks!!

  • Gabriel Garcia

    I have a question. My body fat is currently at 30%. In your book you give two formulas to figure out your cutting diet. One for people over 25% and another for people above 30%. I was just wondering which one should I use for the best results? I’m a little confused because I feel that I could use either of the two. Thanks!

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