Muscle for life

A Simple and Accurate Weight Loss Calculator (and How to Use It)

A Simple and Accurate Weight Loss Calculator (and How to Use It)

If you want to know how many calories you should eat to lose weight, then you want to use this calculator.


You’ve probably heard that calorie counting doesn’t work.

That it’s outmoded and impractical.

You’ve probably heard that the “calories in vs. calories out” model is flawed.

That it has been debunked by modern science and has little bearing on body weight.

You’ve probably also heard that you can’t eat certain foods if you want to be lean and must eat others.

That there are “weight loss” and “weight gain” foods (and that everything you actually like to eat falls in the latter bucket).

You may have even heard that when you eat is the key to effective weight loss.

That skipping breakfast or some other form of intermittent fasting is the linchpin.

I could go on but my point is this:

When it comes to losing weight, you’ve probably heard a lot of things.

And if you’re here, you’re probably still looking for the ultimate answer.

What does it really take to lose weight easily and healthily?

Well, I have good news:

It isn’t nearly as complicated as you’ve been led to believe.

It’s not as simple as just “count your calories” or “eat this and not that,” but it’s not a Gordian Knot or crap shoot, either.

Once you understand the a handful of metabolic and dietary principles, you can do whatever you want with your body composition.

Now, if you’re skeptical, good. You should be.

But suspend your disbelief, follow the advice in this article, and you’ll never look back.

I promise.

By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what you need to do. And by the end of the next month, you’ll know that it really works.

The Weight Loss Calculator

weight loss goal calculator

I’m going to start this article with the weight loss calculator in case you’re already familiar with the most important aspects of dieting (energy balance and macronutrient breakdown) and so you can get back to it easily and quickly in the future.

If you need a bit of help understanding the calculator, though, and how to use it to create meal plans that actually work, then keep reading!

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Why You Need to Know How Many Calories to Eat

weight loss calculator how long

As you can see, this calculator revolves around caloric intake and how those calories break down into protein, carbs, and fat.

If you want to gain mastery over your body weight, these are the main dietary factors you need to understand and control.

And in this section of the article, we’re going to talk about caloric intake.

Imagine someone tells you that he wants to drive across the country without paying attention to his gas tank.

He plans on stopping for gas whenever he feels like stopping and pumping as much as he feels like pumping.

How would you respond?

I don’t know about you but this would probably be me:


You’re probably a nicer person than I am, though, so let’s say you just politely asked how he came up with such a plan.

Imagine this is his reply:

“I hate feeling like a slave to the oppressive fuel meter. I should be able to drive as far as I want before refueling and shouldn’t have to pay attention to how much I pump into my tank.

“Plus, I read this book that said you don’t have to watch your fuel if you use organic, gluten-free, low-carb, non-GMO, #blessed gasoline.

“It doesn’t clog your engine like other gasolines and burns more efficiently.”


Again, I don’t know about you, but this would be me:


And I would calmly gather up my toys and go play with someone else.

My point:

When someone says he wants to lose weight without having to pay attention to caloric intake or energy expenditure, he’s being equally stupid.

It is possible to lose weight without watching your calories, but this approach works for the same reasons calorie counting works, and actually isn’t likely to work well over the long term. There are just too many ways to mess it up.

If you want to lose weight efficiently and reliably, though, you want to know how caloric intake relates to weight loss and gain, and you want to make sure it’s working for and not against you.

And that requires that you understand a few things, starting with your basal metabolic rate.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Basal Metabolic Rate and Weight Loss

weight loss percentage calculator

Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body burns at rest.

It’s the minimum amount of energy it costs to stay alive.

It’s called this because basal means “forming a base; fundamental” and 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.”

Unless you’re very physically active, your basal metabolic rate accounts for the majority of the energy your body burns every day.

That is, your basal metabolic rate burns more calories than your exercise and other activities. This is why preserving metabolic health is a big part of successful long-term weight loss.

Now, BMR is often expressed in calories, which are a measurement of energy.

One calorie is the amount of energy it takes to heat one kilogram of water one degree Celsius (also called a kilocalorie).

We can measure the amount of energy contained in food and the amount of energy our bodies burn in calories.

For example, I’m 31 years old, 6’2 and 190 pounds and my BMR is about 2,200 calories.

I say “about” because BMR calculation formulas like what you’ll find in this article and the calculator above aren’t 100% accurate for everyone.

That said, they’re accurate enough to be practically useful for diet and meal planning.

So that’s BMR. Simple enough.

And in case you’re wondering how the calculator determines your BMR, it uses a formula that is based on your weight and approximate body fat percentage.

Now, the next thing you need to understand to control your body weight is your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

Total Daily Energy Expenditure and Weight Loss

weight loss calculator calories

If you guessed that total daily energy expenditure refers to the total amount of energy your body burns every day, you’re right.

When you add up the energy burned by your basal metabolic rate (BMR) plus the additional energy burned through physical activity and the food you eat, you arrive at your TDEE.

You already know how BMR fits into this equation and everyone knows that physical activity burns energy, but many people don’t know that digesting and absorbing food costs energy too.

This is known as the thermic effect of food, or TEF, and research shows that it accounts for about 10% of total daily energy expenditure, with amounts varying based on the foods you’re eating.

(Protein costs more energy to process than carbohydrate, and dietary fat costs the least amount of energy.)

Like BMR, the calculator in this article also shows you your approximate TDEE.

You calculate this by first determining your BMR and then multiplying it by a number based on how physically active you are.

(The more active you are, the bigger the multiplier.)

If you’re familiar with these types of formulas, you’ll notice that my activity multipliers are lower than what you normally see.

This is intentional because the standard multipliers that come with TDEE formulas like the Katch McArdle are just too high.

They will likely overestimate your actual TDEE, which means you’ll either lose weight slower than you should or not lose any weight at all.

If you want to learn more about this, check out this article on TDEE calculation.

So, know that you now what TDEE is, let’s move to the next piece of the puzzle: “macros.”

Macronutrient Intake and Weight Loss

weight loss calculator date

A macronutrient is any of the nutritional components of the diet that are required in relatively large amounts:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrate
  • Fat
  • Minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous.

(Most people think of “macros” as just protein, carbohydrate, and fat, but technically it includes the minerals as well.)

For weight loss purposes, the macronutrients you’re going to pay special attention to are protein, carbohydrate, and fat.

Let’s quickly review each.

Protein Intake and Weight Loss

number of calories to eat per day to lose weight

If you want a strong, lean body that you can maintain with ease, then you want to make sure you’re eating enough protein.

There are quite a few reasons for this, but here are the highlights:

Your protein intake is even more important if you’re exercising regularly because this further increases your body’s need for amino acids.

If you want to know how much protein you should be eating to build muscle and lose fat, check out this article.

Carbohydrate Intake and Weight Loss

calorie burn calculator

Ask Google how many carbs you should eat, weed out the idiots, and you’re left with a lot of contradictory answers.

Many well-respected health and fitness authorities argue why low-carb dieting is the way of the future.

Many others rail against it as just another fad.

Many still are in the middle saying “it depends…”

Well, here’s my position:

If you’re healthy and physically active, and especially if you lift weights regularly, you’re probably going to do best with more carbs, not less.

And yes, that applies to both building muscle and losing fat. The reality is a relatively high carbohydrate intake can help you do both.

Check out this article to learn more.

Fat Intake and Fat Loss

calorie calculator to lose weight

Remember when low-fat dieting was all the rage?

When fat-free products flooded the supermarkets and “gurus” used to say that dietary fats made you fat?

Well, that pendulum has swung hard in the other direction.

Now we’re told that carbohydrates are the real enemy and that we should be eating copious amounts of dietary fat if we want to be healthy, lean, and strong.

What gives?

Well, the truth is dietary fats play a vital role in the body.

They’re used in processes related to cell maintenance, hormone production, insulin sensitivity, and more.

If fat intake is too low, these functions can become compromised, which is why the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults should get 20 to 35% of their daily calories from dietary fat.

That said, those percentages were worked out for the average sedentary person, who often eats quite a bit less than someone that exercises regularly.

And even more so if that person has a higher than average amount of muscle mass.

For example, a 190-pound sedentary male with a normal amount of lean mass would burn around 2,000 calories per day.

Based on that, the IoM’s research says he would need 45 to 80 grams of fat per day. That makes sense.

Now, I weigh about 190 pounds…but I also have a lot more muscle than the average person and I exercise about 6 hours per week.

Thus, my body burns about 3,000 calories per day and if I were to blindly apply the IoM’s research to that number, my recommended fat intake would skyrocket to 65 to 115 grams per day.

But does my body really need that much more dietary fat simply because I’m muscular and burn a lot of energy through regular exercise?

No, it doesn’t.

Based on the research I’ve seen, if dietary fat comprises 20 to 35% of your basal metabolic rate(around 0.3 grams per pound of fat-free mass), you’ll be fine.

How to Use This Knowledge to Lose Weight

weight loss calculator calories exercise

We’ve put three dots on a page:

  • Basal metabolic rate
  • Total daily energy expenditure
  • Macronutrient intake

Let’s now connect them and see how they relate to actually losing weight.

The first thing we have to review to do this is energy balance.

Energy Balance and Weight Loss

calories weight loss calculator

Energy balance refers to the relationship between the energy you feed your body and the energy it expends.

Yes, we’re entering “calories in vs. calories out” territory, but don’t worry–this isn’t our final destination.

It is, however, a necessary waypoint.

You see, the scientifically validated, “boring” weight loss reality is this:

Meaningful weight loss requires you to expend more energy than you consume.

A simple way to understand this is to imagine your body has an “energy checking account.”

  • If you eat more energy than you burn, you’re in a positive energy balance.

A positive energy balance causes body fat levels to rise because a portion of the excess energy is stored as body fat.

  • If you eat less than you burn, you’re in a negative energy balance.

And a negative energy balance causes body fat levels to fall because a portion of the energy deficit is filled by burning fat stores.

The real kicker for many people is the foods that provide the energy have little to do with this.

That is, when we’re talking weight gain or loss, what you eat isn’t nearly as important as how many calories you eat.

You can eat nothing but the “cleanest” foods but if you’re in a positive energy balance, you will gain weight.

On the other hand, you can eat nothing but gas station fare but if you’re in a negative energy balance, you will lose weight.

This is why Professor Mark Haub was able to lose 27 pounds on a diet of protein shakes, Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and Little Debbie snacks.

He simply ate fewer crappy calories than his body burned and, as the first law of thermodynamics dictates, this resulted in weight loss.

Now, if you’re shaking your head, thinking I’m drinking decades-old Kool-Aid, let me ask you a few questions.

Why has every single controlled weight loss study conducted in the last 100 years…including countless meta-analyses and systematic reviews…concluded that meaningful weight loss requires energy expenditure to exceed energy intake?

Why have bodybuilders dating back just as far…from Sandow to Reeves and all the way up the line…been using this knowledge to systematically and routinely reduce and increase body fat levels?

And why do new brands of “calorie denying” come and go every year, failing to gain acceptance in the weight loss literature?

The reality is a century of metabolic research has proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that energy balance is the basic mechanism that regulates fat gain and loss.

This is why claims that some foods are “better” than other for losing weight is misleading.

It misses the forest for the trees because foods don’t have any special properties that make them better or worse for weight loss.

What they do have, however, are varying amounts of calories and varying types of macronutrient profiles.

And a more accurate statement is the caloric content and “macros” of foods make them more or less suitable for weight loss.

The “best” foods for weight loss are nutritious and filling and relatively low in calories.

Examples of such foods are lean meats, whole grains, many fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy.

Foods more suitable to gaining weight are those that are high in calories but relatively low in satiety.

These foods include the obvious like caloric beverages, candy, and other sugar-laden goodies, but quite a few “healthy” foods fall into this category as well:

  • Oils
  • Bacon
  • Butter
  • Avocado
  • Sugar
  • Low-fiber fruits
  • Whole fat dairy products

Think of it this way:

You can only “afford” so many calories every day, whether dieting to lose fat, you have to watch how you “spend” them.

You want the majority of your calories to come from foods that allow you to hit your daily macronutrient and micronutrient needs without “overdrafting” your energy balance “account.”

Now, don’t mistake this section as me railing against eating healthy foods. Just because you can lose weight eating Pop Tarts, Doritos, and pizza rolls every day doesn’t mean you should.

Long-term health matters more than proving you can get abs on a TV commercial diet.

That said, if you have your diet set up properly, you don’t have to completely abstain from “unhealthy” foods, either.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:

Get the majority (~80%) of your calories from relatively unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, you can fill the remaining 20% with your favorite dietary sins and be healthy, muscular, and lean.

Now, if you have to eat less energy than you burn to lose weight, how much less should you eat?

Calorie Deficit and Weight Loss

weight loss calculator calories burned per day

When you eat less energy than you burn, you’re placing your body in an “energy deficit.”

This is also referred to as a “calorie deficit.”

And the name of the game here is you want to keep your body in a large enough calorie deficit to significantly impact your weight…but not so large that you cause physiological problems.

For example, if you ate 50% of your TDEE, this would certainly reduce body fat levels, but it would also cause various problems.

Namely, muscle loss, metabolic adaptation, mood disturbance, and even bone frailty and immunosuppresion.















On the other hand, if you ate about 95% of your TDEE, you wouldn’t experience those negative side effects, but weight loss would be so slow that you’d eventually just give up.

Thus, the key is being aggressive enough with your calorie deficit to reach your goal without sacrificing your health or sanity.

Well, here’s my recommendation:

When combined with a high-protein diet and reasonable workout schedule, a calorie deficit of 20 to 25% allows for rapid fat loss without any negative side effects.

That is, if you eat 75 to 80% of your TDEE, balance your macronutrients properly, and use exercise to keep your energy expenditure high, you’ll do great.

And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t choose this calorie deficit at random.

It’s based on the findings of a study conducted by scientists at the University of Jyväskylä.

The study involved national- and international-level track and field jumpers and sprinters with low levels of body fat (at or below 10%).

The researchers spit them into two dietary groups: a 300-calorie deficit (about 12% below their total daily energy expenditure) and 750-calorie deficit (about 25% below TDEE).

Both groups ate a high-protein diet.

And the results?

After 4 weeks, the athletes utilizing a 300-calorie deficit lost very little fat and muscle while the group utilizing a 750-calorie deficit lost, on average, about 4 pounds of fat and very little muscle.

These findings are also in line with what I’ve experienced working with thousands of people.

A calorie deficit of about 20 to 25% allows you to lose about one pound of fat per week with little to no muscle loss and without feeling starved or deprived.

Simply put: it works.

How to Set Up Your Macros for Losing Weight

weight loss exercise calculator

You now know a few of the most crucial things about effective weight loss:

  • You need to eat 75 to 80% of your TDEE.
  • You need to eat a lot of protein.
  • You will probably do better with more carbs than less.
  • You don’t need to eat a high-fat diet to be healthy.

The next step is learning how to turn all of this into daily macro targets that you can build a meal plan around.

How should you “spend” your calories in terms of macros?

Well, it’s pretty simple.

Set your protein intake to 1 to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight.

If you’re very overweight (a man with 25%+ body fat or a woman with 30%+), I recommend you set your protein intake at 40% of your total calories.

If you exercise regularly and don’t have any medical conditions, set your fat intake to 0.2 to 0.25 grams per pound of body weight.

This gives your body what it needs for basic health purposes and leaves plenty of calories for carbs.

Allot the rest of your calories to carbs.

Trust me.

Eating a lot of carbs does not make you fat (overeating does) nor does it hinder fat loss (overeating does).

Keeping your carb intake high is going to help you in many ways: better workouts, better meal plans, better mood and energy levels, and more.

Experience it for yourself and you’ll never look back.

If you’re sedentary, though, or have a medical condition like diabetes, then you’ll probably do better with fewer carbs.

If you’re sedentary, about 25% of daily calories from carbohydrate should be plenty.

If you have a relevant medical condition, check with your doctor as to your “carbohydrate ceiling.”

I’ve seen a lot of variation here.

The Bottom Line on Weight Loss Calculation

many calories weight loss calculator

If this article has been a lot to take in, I understand.

For many people it’s a whole new way of approaching dieting.

Let’s take a minute to recap the key takeaways:

  • The most important aspect of dieting is energy in versus energy out (energy balance).

An energy deficit results in weight loss and a surplus in weight gain.

  • Next in importance is how those calories break down into protein, carbs, and fats.

You want to eat enough protein and tailor your carbohydrate and fat intake to your circumstances and goals.

  • Last in importance is the actual foods providing the calories and macronutrients.

The reason to eat “clean” foods is not to accelerate weight loss per se but to provide the body with vital micronutrients.

This supports and preserves health.

Thus, an overall strategy emerges:

Calculate your caloric intake, break it down into “macros,” and build a meal plan that provides the majority (80%+) of those calories and macros from nutritious foods.

This approach is known as “flexible dieting,” and there’s a reason why it’s exploding in popularity these days.


What’s your take on weight loss calculators and dietary strategies? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Hector

    My question is what should I do when I hit plateu with loss weight?? Should I move down another 10% to keep losing weight?? and what if I hit plateu again. Then I should add more work, but eventually you are short in Kcal and doing a lot of Workouts, so then ??

  • Ryan Brain

    Hi there! Long time reader, thought I’d ask a question if that’s okay? I take it from this article that you don’t see a need to eat a different amount of calories or a different macro combination on training vs rest days? In my (admittedly limited) experience I have found that while bulking, because (I presume) I work out 4 days in a row and rest for the next 3, if I eat the same amount of carbs on rest days i’ll put on more fat. Would you say there’s something to that or would my observation be wrong?


    • Hey Ryan!

      No, not when you’re cutting. The fact that the deficit is slightly smaller on your rest days isn’t a bad thing, really.

      Remember you won’t gain fat unless you’re in a calorie surplus, and that’s not going to happen if you stick to 75 to 80% of your average daily TDEE.

      • Ryan Brain

        Thanks for replying. I’m actually bulking, so I am in fact in a surplus – I’ve found that your calculator perfectly matches what calorie and macro combination that I’ve discovered works for me on my own, so that’s handy! So just to be clear, I’m bulking, weight lifting Mon-Thur and resting on Fri-Sun. Do you think I should eat the same amount of calories/carbs on rest days as I do on training days? Thanks!

        • NP Ryan!

          Ah okay. Yep, still want to keep the intake the same.

          Welcome! Talk soon.

          • Ryan Brain

            Thanks again 🙂 would you recommend the same macro balance on rest days as in training days? Thanks!

          • YW! Yep, same macros as well. 🙂

          • Ryan Brain

            Thank you 🙂 just bought your book and looking forward to starting the program! Excited for the app too!

          • My pleasure! Thanks for picking up my book, and I’m glad you’re excited to get rolling on the program. 🙂

            LMK how you like the book, and I look forward to seeing your results!

            Oh and awesome you’re pumped for STACKED. I am too! Beta should be ready in Jan and the final product will be available for sale by the end of Q1 2016.

            Stay tuned!

  • laura E

    How do you feel about dieting when you can’t workout?? I just had a baby a week ago, and I am anxious to loose the weight, but the last thing I want is to loose the muscle ( I was able to lift throughout my pregnancy and maintain most of my strength). Should I just be patient and wait till I can do both at the same time, or will I get a head by cutting off some fat now?

    • First off, congrats! Glad you were able to keep up with training during the pregnancy!

      No worries, go ahead and start cutting. Any muscle you do lose will return quickly when you start training again. 🙂

  • Deena

    You’re a little unclear about something. Say someone’s TDEE is 1200. Would that person eat 1200 for maintenance or 1200 x1.2= 1440, (assuming they’re sedentary, thus the multiplication of 1.2)? And would this person really have to cut to 950 cals to lose 1/2 lb per week? Please clarify. Thank you.

    • TDEE is the result of the BMR multiplied by the activity multiplier number. You don’t need to multiply it again.

      So if your TDEE is 1200, your cutting cals are 960. That’s to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

      Hope this clears it up. My pleasure. 🙂

  • Brianne Szuggar

    First of all thank you for taking the time to write such a straight forward approach to diet and exercise in Thinner Leaner Stronger. It’s refreshing to be able to search your website and find answers without having to get out my credit card for some bogus membership. I do have a couple of questions regarding tracking calories burned through cardio. Ive used your calculator and set it to “cuttting” but I’m curious if it’s still beneficial to track via my HR monitor to be sure that I’m actually in a deficit? I’ve plugged in the 4-6 hours per week of excersize preset. I’m curious if it would be better to base my macros off a sedentary level and then add them based on use. Maybe that’s more work than necessary (forgive me, I’m still digesting the simplicity) Some weeks I have more energy and spend more time in the gym and others less. I use the my fitness pal app and have my macros set according to your calculator. How often do you adjust your calories when cutting? By body fat %? By weight?

    • My pleasure Brianne! Thanks for the kind words and support.

      I don’t recommend basing intake off your numbers from the HR monitor. They can be really inaccurate.

      Let’s stick to the intake you got from the calculator and adjust intake based off results. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week while cutting.

      Keep cals the same as long as you’re getting results. Once you stop losing 1-2 pounds a week, lower intake.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Redaloud

    Thanks for the great info! How low do you recommend going? I’m a 5’1 female overweight trying to lose fat and build tone. I’ve been eating between 1000-1200 calories and working out 5x a week. And I’m not losing! Is it because I’m eating too little, is that even possible?
    According to your calculator I should be consuming 1500 a day to lose….

  • George Cendejas

    Hey Mike for maintenance calories is the BW x 15 accurate? I want to use your calculator but it seems too low. Im stuck. Was in a supposed “deficit” all january and lost only 2 lbs. Im 6ft .5 in 183 lbs approx 15-16 % only lift 3 days per week 1 hr. Do you recommend percentage deficits or subtracting like 750 cals?? Thanks

  • Livo

    I have a question: I started the TLS 1 year programme again, I am 165cm, My weight was 64 when I started, I have lost 3 Kg I am now 61kg, this is my 7 week. I have lost 5 cm in my waist, 3 cm in bust, 3 cm in hip BUT my thighs still remain the same 🙁 and I dont know why? why? why?

  • SoccerGuy

    Hi Mike,

    As always, great post. Following your guidance has been tremendously helpful but I always seem to hit the same snag. A little background: I’m a 5’5 23 year old, recent college grad. I’m sure my pattern is familiar: every time I balloon to between 168-170 lbs, I go back to this article and follow the advice and make great progress for a short while until I’m at between 160-162. And then I stay here (which is where I am now) for weeks until I get discouraged and fall off the wagon. Rinse and repeat. My target is between 150-155 (depending on how I look, if I look lean enough at 155 then my plan was to stop there.) Here are the numbers:

    Height/Weight: 5’5/163 (current)
    BMR: 1618
    TDEE: 2018
    Attempting to eat around 1500 cal per day, and try to over-count the items I consume so as to account for creeping calories, misreporting on packaging, etc.
    Admittedly, I’ve found it difficult to eat my required amount of protein with such a calorie restriction. 1 full cheat meal every 2 weeks, however, I’m a sucker for desserts and seem to have a bite or two of something every other day.

    -12-15 minutes of sprints (100 yd sprint and100 yd jog back-to-back, rest 45 sec and repeat)
    -full body heavy routine with barbell only, (only equipment I have access to) in the afternoon, about a 45 minute sessions. Emphasis on the big lifts (squat, DL, bench, rows)

    Jog 2 miles at about an 8:30 pace (purposely slow, could increase to about 7:30ish if I want to kill myself haha) with a 10 minute ab circuit

    12-15 minutes of sprints OR 2 mile jog (I’m unable to lift on Fridays so I try to do one of my cardio workouts)

    I have a family tendency to hold on to body fat. Most people would describe me as a “stocky” build. Even in my leaner days in high school when I played soccer at a pretty high level, at weighing 145ish, I still held the same stocky appearance–though def on the leaner side.

    What am I doing wrong? What can I do differently? What should I keep doing the same?

  • Stephen Cheung

    I refer to the part of your article “A calorie deficit of about 20 to 25% allows you to lose about one pound of fat per week…” Here are my numbers, I suspect I make a mistake some where, please advise:
    My TDEE is 2500 Cal
    22% of that is 550 cal
    7 days a week means a deficit of 3850 cal
    a gram of fat is about 9 cal (when one says 1 g of fat is about 9 cal, that is without water, right?)
    3850 cal / 9 cal = 427 g which is about a pound of fat.
    But if I lose 1 pound of fat, I should also lose about one pound of water.
    total weight loss is 2 pounds.
    Is this correct? if so, “A calorie deficit of about 20 to 25% allows you to lose about TWO pound of WEIGHT per week…”!!!!???
    Thanks for looking into it.

    • Honestly you’re overthinking it.

      Let’s have you at a 20 to 25% deficit and see how your body responds.

  • Adrian A.

    How do I know when to adjust the calculator from cutting to maintaining or bulking? Is there a certain body fat % to use as a guideline?

  • Jerd Guillaume-Sam

    I’m gonna try this Mike. I’m 211 lbs about 23% body fat. My goal is to be at 190 lbs Currently I’ve been maintaining 2400 calories for over a month to cut and I’m not liking the results. I’m thinking I should cut out a few hundred more calories. My macros are 35/35/30. According to this calculater I should be at 2122 calories per day for fat loss. I think that’s at least a 700 calorie deficit. I’ve been watching your videos and reading your articles like I’m obsessed. I’m trying to learn. I plan on buying your book bigger leaner stronger to get a better understanding. And I’m gonna do your workout routines starting Monday(new to me). I’ve been used to this bodybuilding 8-12 rep range with weights I can control slowly increasing the weight every week. And of course with proper form/full range of motion etc. Any advice?

    • Sounds good! I like the goal. Let’s make it happen.

      Let’s drop to the cals the calculator gave you and see how you do. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week so adjust intake accordingly.

      Hope you’ve been enjoying everything! LMK what you think of BLS when you read it. 🙂

      I recommend focusing on the heavy compound lifts and working in the lower rep range. I lay it all out in BLS but for now, check this out:


      LMK what you think!

      • Jerd Guillaume-Sam

        I will. Ha, I just reaf that article the other day. I was kind of shocked at the volume. But I see the value in that low rep range/heavy progressive overload. It was interesting learning about the different pathways in muscle growth.

        I just did the chest workout and I felt like I had a lot more in me at the end. I felt a little sore the next day so I know its working. Is it harmful to do hiit cardio right after weight training? I saw that you reccomended rows for cardio. I’ll try that.

        • Nice! Glad you enjoyed it.

          I hear you. As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle.

          Regarding the soreness, take a look at this:


          Nope, totally fine to do the cardio after weightlifting. Whatever you prefer is fine. Running, biking, swimming, row, etc. Personally, I do mine on the bike.

          Talk soon!

  • Jeremy LaHaie

    Any tips on planning the length of a cut? Started BLS a month ago and seeing good progress, just curious if theres anyway to calculate the approximate length of the cut. I’m currently at 17.5% BF, 167lbs, try to get to 10% or so before I reverse diet. Trying to gauge a cut off point of how low to go for weight, or do you just go off weekly BF% and don’t worry about the length of the cut.

    • Eh. It all depends on progress, starting BF% and body weight but with proper training and dieting, you should be able to lose 1-2 pounds a week of mainly fat. So, you can get an idea with that.

      As long as you’re above BMR and getting results (losing 1-2 pounds a week) you can keep cutting until you reach your goal. However, if you find yourself at BMR and not losing 1-2 pounds a week, and you haven’t reached your goal BF%, you need to RD:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • tracy

    Hi im trying to work out my macros with no success it doesn’t take much for me to get confused 🙈 Im very petite weighing at 101lbs height 4ft 10 with body fat of 23% i still would like to loose some more. Your help would be appreciated……thankyou

    • No worries, Tracy. I’m happy to help!

      How many hours of exercise (weightlifting and cardio) are you doing weekly?

      • tracy

        Monday 45mins of kettle power….tuesday 1hr bootcamp…Wednesday 1hr of hitt/bootcamp…thur 1hr of body combat…fri 1hr Pt session which includes weights 😀

  • Trent

    TDEE Question. My calculated TDEE is roughly 2128 with my cut calories coming in at 1702 assuming 4-6 hours of exercise a week. I currently wear an activity tracker which calculated my calories expended in an 24 hour period, with 45-60 min of exercise, at roughly 2400 calories. In this case, if I exercise, should I stick to the 1700 calories or should I use the 2400 calories as my TDEE and eat roughly 1920 calories?

    • Unfortunately, most activity trackers are really off when it comes to calorie estimates. I’d stick to the numbers you got using the calculator and then adjust your intake based off results.

      If you’re losing less than 1-2 lbs a week, you need to lower your intake and/or increase your activity level. If you’re losing more than 1-2 lbs a week, you should increase your intake and/or lower your activity level.

  • minnepinne

    If I set the calculator for 1-3 hours activity and the preset to cut, the calories it says I should eat is always lower then my BMR. And you have said earlier that you should never go below BMR. Is the calculator wrong?

    I’ve been cutting for around 8 weeks and the last 2 weeks I’ve been stuck at 9% at 70 kg.
    Would it be beneficial to up my kcals to maintenance for a week and get back to cutting to jumpstart my metabolism?

    I want to stay at my current activity level at 3 times a week. And I can’t really eat less than 1700 kcals.

    Any advice?

    • Yep, that can happen. To make it work, you need to increase your activity level which will raise your TDEE hence raise your cutting cals. If that’s not workable, set your cutting cals at BMR.

      If you’ve already been eating around there, can’t increase activity level and aren’t seeing results, it’s time to RD:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Acacia

    I’m curious about energy expenditure. Should the energy you use/ calories burned during cardio or weight lifting be considered? Similar to the way myfitness pal calculates. If so how reliable are heart rate monitors?

    Very excited to come across your podcast and site! I’ve been a lifter for almost 3 years now and initially I had really great newbie gains. But now I’m stuck at 145lbs and about 25% BF. I want to get down to 18%. Just ordered TLS and I’m excited to learn more and this new found inspiration. Thanks!

    • Yes, it should. That’s why my calculator takes your hours of weekly activity (weightlifting and cardio) into account when determining your intake. You wouldn’t take out that cals as you do them, they’d just be factored in when calculating your intake. Check this out:


      Hope you’re enjoying everything! TLS will lay out everything you need to know about training and dieting to build muscle and lose fat! To help get the weight moving for now, check this out:


      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • Lil

    Hello Mike,

    Your articles have been eye opening for me. I have actually started to see results after following your advice! So thank you very much.

    I’ve been on a 20% calorie deficit for a couple mounths and was able to bring my body fat down from 24% to about 19. (At least thats what my measurements tell me) Right now I am only doing a 5% deficit because I really want to build more muscle while still losing body fat. (I really don’t have much muscle mass) I don’t know if I’m doing it right tho. I have been showing less and less by the numbers of the caliper measurements, but my problem area (my flabby belly) hasn’t changed all that much! I measure a 9mm on my suprailliac area, but I sure don’t look like the 19% body fat that the accumeasure chart gives me! At least not around my belly, cuz it still looks bloated all the time. What can I do to fix this?

    p.s. I am watching my sodium / potassium intake too..

  • Ethan Runyon

    Does age play a factor in my TDEE? I am almost 15 and wondering if I need to eat more fats or go a little higher in my calorie intake. Since I am still going through puberty does that effect my macronutrients?

  • Laura

    Hi Mike,

    I’m hoping you can help! I’m currently sitting at 129lbs, around 21% BF and have been on around 1,600 cals a day for a few months. I’d like to see my BF drop to 18-19% but I have such difficulty dropping my cals as clearly I’m just greedy and I’m hungry A LOT. My TDEE is 1,850. I workout 4 times a week, predominately lifting doing traditional splits with cardio 3 times a week (2x HIIT, 1x LISS). Would you recommend a 20% decrease in my calories despite my insatiable hunger?! Is this just something I need to get over and ignore? Thank you!!

  • Kelly

    The link you provided on mood disturbances resulting from semi-starvation was very interesting, thank you. The article noted that these disturbances and inability to normally consume calories can persist for years. My question is how does someone recovering from an eating disorder go about losing body fat? Should they even try? I suffered from anorexia and bulimia and still struggle with binging. I’ve weighed everything from 227 down to 112. Right now I’m fluffier than I want to be but still fairly lean and very strong at about 20-21 percent. I can’t seem to stick to any calorie deficit. Should I stop trying to lose fat until my eating habits are totally “normal?”

    • Possibly. Have you tried different dietary protocols that might help you stick to the plan? Intermittent fasting or carb cycling, for example?

  • Kristina

    Hey Mike, I found out that I had PCOS not too long ago and had it for years. I packed on from 155 to 300 pounds. I have not been able to get my hormones aligned yet until I my blood tests. Until then, what would you recommend someone of my weight for calories daily? I have been eating 1200 on a low for two days, 1400 for a high, 2 hours of swimming (pushing myself), bowflex 3 times a week, treadmill daily of 1-2 miles, and bike. My body is retaining water ever since my fun day of 3000 calories and it seems to be getting a little worse if not the same. For people with PCOS it is hard to lose weight, easy to put on because the hormones are off, and hear that the resting rate is a lot lower than a normal person….so a little confused with the calories I should be taking in. I really need to lose as quick as possible, without water retention, but as healthy as possible without causing my body to go stagnant. What is your advice. Thank you kindly.

  • Kristina

    When I said 155 to 300, I meant starting at 155 and ballooned out to a whooping 300. Also I am 5 foot 4in and age 38 LBM 213 BMR 2461 TDEE 3568

  • Kristina

    Unsure about measurements below on other post, however i can tell you my neck is 15 in. hips 61 in. waist 48 in. bicepts are 18 in. forearm is 14.5 inch. I THINK my body fat percentage if I am correct is 69%. Obviously new at this. Ha ha. Any help will be greatly appreciated, tired of living this way and willing to do whatever it takes to be normal.

  • Dave

    Hi Mike. I find all this BMR stuff very fascinating. I am 78 kg (172 Pounds) 18% body fat (Approx) with normal muscle for a male. Activity multiplier is at 1 as currently not doing any exercise but work 3 days a week in retail (but plan to start back at Gym in 1 month as recovering from an injury). My BMR is 1751. I can see my belly fat increasing slightly each week probably because I don’t exercise at the moment and I eat over the 1751 calories a day… Maybe 1900 a day I eat now. Can I go into a 10% calorie deficit which brings my calories down to 1576 a day and lose weight without it being detrimental to my health. Is it safe to go below my BMR? I see you do not recommend this..and am interested as to why? Thanks Mike… and love what you do. Also, I found this article on BMR and lifespan very interesting. http://www.bustle.com/articles/118002-do-people-with-slow-metabolisms-live-longer

    • Hey Dave,

      If you’re not exercising, then you’ll have to drop your cals so that you’re not gaining any more fat because right now you are in a calorie surplus. The calculations are an approximation, and ultimately, you have to adjust based on results.

      Thanks for the article. Interesting stuff.

  • Susana Soto

    Hello Mike I recently purchased you book thinner leaner stronger , I’ve loved it so far , but I got a little bit confused with something when I calculate my cutting diet I get this numbers I’m 53 kgrams with 20% body fat 139 g do Protein 23 g of fat 116 grams of carbs that’s 1227 calories which is below my bmr which is 1285 , and it says that I shouldn’t go below my bmr so what should I do ! Thanks for the help

    • Hey Susana, that’s great you picked up TLS and enjoyed the reading! If your cutting calorie target is below BMR, then I recommend that you increase your exercise activity. Doing to will increase your TDEE and thus increase the cutting target. It also allows you to eat more!

      • Susana Soto

        Okay , thanks a lot ! Great book 🙂 I just have one more little question then ,I haven’t got to the training part yet but I plan on finishing the book this week so I suppose once I read it I’ll know what that extra exercise should be , should I increase my cutting target just by adding carbs ? Or should it be proportionally to the cutting fat protein and carbs.

        • Any time, Susana. OK no problem! Extra exercise would be an additional lifting day (for example, 5 days instead of 3 or 4) or adding a 25min HIIT session.

          Because we are basing your cutting target as a percentage of TDEE, an increase to TDEE would increase that cutting target. For example:

          TDEE: 2000kcal, -20% deficit: 1600kcal

          TDEE: 2200kcal, -20% deficit: 1760kcal

          As a result of the 160kcal increase, carbs and fat would increase as well.

  • Geno

    If a 25% deficit puts at 2000 calories a day, how, or should I adjust with a fat burner such as PHOENIX?

    Assuming everything else is in order.

    • Good question! There is no need to adjust when taking Phoenix.

  • Geno


    I am having incredible results with your advice and supplement line. Legion customer support is 5 star. I do have a question though.

    I’ve been in a cut for just over 12 weeks. Im 5’10” and have gone from 234lbs and ~30% down to 200 at ~18%.

    My goal is 10% as quickly as possible so I don’t stretch this cut out too long. My calories are at 1900 a day give or take a few.

    What should I expect and lookout for these next 12 weeks to hit that mark? Should I continue a cut that long?

    Thanks for your help,


    • Hey Geno, I’m happy to hear it! Thanks for sharing your great experience with the supps and my team.

      Excellent work with the cut. You’re killing it!

      At around 18%, you should shoot to lose 1-1.25lbs a week. It can slow down to about 1lbs/week when you get to 12%, though. At that point, I definitely recommend putting in the time and effort to do HIIT cardio. You’ll have no problem continuing a cut that long.

      LMK how it goes, and keep up the amazing work.

      • sakib800

        wait wait. if you are hovering around 12-13% and see that you lose about a pound every week or 10 days is it good results?

        Can you get lower without HIIT cardio?

        personally i hate HIIT and try to add a moderate cardio session with high resistance for at least 15-25 minutes everyday after my weights.

        • A pound every week at 12-13% is pretty good! Bigger the deficit, the more you lose. You can create that deficit with any exercise.

  • Frank

    Hey Mike!

    I was doing IF 23:1 since January along with keto. I found myself bingeing on desserts and carbs whenever I was at a social gathering. I needed to get myself off the keto at the very least because my strength went down. I feel like I was losing weight, but it seems like after one binge, I’d just go up over 5 pounds, so it makes me wonder if that was even fat loss to begin with. I’m 5’6, 23% bf, 145-150lbs and am using your 3x/week workout routine. As far as coming off of keto and incorporating high carbs, what do you think about that? I used your calculator to estimate my TDEE and macros, and it seems to be pointing me towards 1500kcal (as a 20-25% deficit) with 150g carbs, 150g protein, and 30ish g of fat.

    I was planning on eating things like red potatoes and oatmeal to get my carbs in. Are there big differences in eating various types of carbs? Starchy vs non starchy etc.? Thanks for all your blog posts and book, it’s been a big help.

  • Kevin

    Hi Mike. Been reading your articles and I like how scientific they are too. I’ve always had a fairly athletic/lean build but always with some belly fat around my core. Ive tried bulking and cutting and always ended up getting either too skinny or too fat. After my recent bulk, I weighed in at 160 lbs. I am 5’9″. Based off calipers, I was around the 12-13% BF range, based off images prob 13-14%. I’ve been cutting for 3 months now losing 1 lbs/week. Last weigh in was 148 lbs, calipers showing 11% but images still make me feel like I’m around 12-13%. Waist size has been constant. I lift heavy 3x week for 1hr on average and another 1 or 2 days of rock climbing (2hrs) which puts me in the 4-6 hour range for physical activity. I’ve been lifting for over 10 years on and off so not a newbie. I don’t do much cardio but starting rowing, maybe 10 minutes after I work out? My goal is 10% BF but I’m worried my weight is going to drop really low to achieve that. My weight loss has remained constant but I feel my BF% hasn’t dropped as significantly. My question is how low should you expect your weight drop to be able to achieve 10% BF, much lower than your “ideal weight”? Diet’s been pretty consistent at 1875 calories with my TDEE at 2344. Made one adjustment about 2 weeks ago so now I’m aiming for 1800 calories. I’ll usually reach about 130-150g of protein per day. Usually cheat on the weekends as it gets really hard with alcohol and eating out and for my own sanity. Should I just stay the course as long as I’m losing weight, maybe incorporate more HITT (Which I hate), or do I need to shave off more calories? Thanks!

    • If you want to drop to 10% or any BF%, really, you’re going to have to expect your weight to drop. Hard to say exactly what your weight will be at 10%. Be careful with the weekend cheats. Those can really bog down your progress. Do some HIIT, and drop your cals. You can check your targets with the calculator above. If you’re not losing fat, then you just need a bigger deficit through increased activity and/or reduced cals.

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Hi Mike,

    I just had a surgery, and the doctor says I have to take two weeks off from exercising of any kind. I was in the middle of a cut. My question is, what should I do with my diet during these two weeks? Should I increase my calorie deficit so I continue to lose weight in spite of lack of exercise? Or is that going to result in unnecessary muscle loss due to the lack of training? Should I strive to eat enough calories to maintain my current weight instead?

    • Hey Elijah, I suggest you do a quick reverse diet into maintenance to help with your recovery and to reduce muscle loss.

  • Keran Moll

    Hi Mike,
    I was 120.6 lbs 3 months ago with bf % at 23.3% (tested via hydrostatic test). I work out 6 days a week ( 3 bootcamp days, 2 weight lifting days and 1 spin day – each workout is ~ 1hr). I followed the recommended daily macros and calories based on the TDEE calculator in your post focusing on keeping my daily protein ~ 135g+ and calories around 1400. I have also been taking your pre-workout, Phoenix, Forge and Whey +. Today, I went for another hydrostatic test and I am down to 113 lbs and 19.9% bf. Though I achieved my target of getting below 20% bf, I am disappointed to find out that I also lost 2 lbs of lean mass (in addition to losing 5 lbs of fat). How may I adjust? eat more? train harder? start a clean bulking period? I would appreciate your guidance.


    • Hey Keran! Great job on the cut!

      Hydrostatic tests can actually be off by as much as 6%, so it’s not really the best gauge of figuring out how much lean mass you may have lost. Also, keep in mind that water and glycogen are also forms of lean mass, and you will generally store less of those when you’re in a calorie deficit. Check this out:


      As long as you weren’t getting consistently weaker on your lifts, you probably didn’t lose much muscle to speak of. That said, now that you’re lean, it’s the perfect time to start a bulk. Check this out:


      What do you think?

      • W’s Mama

        Hi Mike,
        I really appreciate your quick response. I am feeling much better now. I indeed have been getting stronger in the gym (recently hit a couple of PRs in my squat, deadlift. Struggling with the overhead press but improving slowly nonetheless.). I was also wondering whether glycogen (which binds water) is considered part of the “lean mass”. You answered my question. Instead of being discouraged about losing lean mass, I really should pat myself on the back for my successful cut! The linked articles you included are both very enlightening. I did not know hydrostatic weighing test can be inaccurate (it has been boasted as the gold standard by so many trainers).

        Starting a bulk is a great idea. I adjusted my calories to maintenance yesterday and will continue to add till it is 5-10% over my maintenance. It just feels so weird having to eat more. Good timing though now that the holiday season is upon us.

        I also want to commend what a wonderful job you have been doing – your books, your science based philosophy in developing your products and programs and your sincerity when interacting with your reader base. I read and re-read your TLS book and have been using an assortment of your products with good results. Please keep up the great work!

        I wish you continued success.

        Hey, by the way, I am eagerly waiting for your stimulant-free pre-workout to come out. Keep us posted!!


        • Thanks so much for the support! I’m glad you’re loving the book and supplements!

          Just working on the flavoring of the stim-free 🙂

          Keep me updated on your progress!

  • GG

    Hi Mike,
    The above calculator is different than what you recommend in your book. For cutting in your book you recommend 1.2 X bw for protein, 1 X bw for carbs and .2 X bw for fat. Which should I follow? Thanks.

  • ORyan

    Hey Mike!
    I have possibly a silly question. I’ve read some of your other articles regarding lifting and creating a workout routine.
    One of the guidelines I really took to heart was the 2-4 minute rest time between sets to allow full strength each time you lift. I’ve started to practice my form for the different workouts and I’ve slowly built towards the combination of Strength and HIIT training across a 5-day routine while ensuring I learn proper form, safety and technique with exercises.

    My silly question is this: When using the Weight Loss calculator and choosing an Activity Level, how do you account for time in Strength Training?

    It only takes maybe 30 seconds to go through the 4-6 Reps of each set of exercise. With 4 exercises, at 3 sets each, that comes to: 30s×4×3= 6 minutes of active effort during Strength Training.

    Is that how you’d estimate time for Strength training when adding up exercise time for the activity level?
    Or maybe you’d half account for elevated heart rate another 30 seconds following each set and make it a full 12 minutes? I’m probably splitting hairs but it leaves me unsure and I want to make sure I’m accounting properly.

    • Hey there! Count your total time training. So if your workout lasts an hour (including rest time), and you workout 5 times a week, you’d count 5 hours of activity.

      This will give you a starting point to work from and adjust your calories as needed from there based on your results.

      I hope this helps!

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