How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight or Gain Muscle?

Despite the claims of various misinformed people, diet cults, pseudoscientific nutjobs and the countless “experts” willing to say whatever is needed to make money selling you bullshit, calories are the most important part of your diet.

Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle or simply maintain your current weight, how many calories you eat a day is always going to be the key determining factor.

No, it’s not the only thing that ever matters. It’s simply the thing that always matters most.

And it’s this fact that often leads to the following questions:

  • Why do calories matter so much?
  • What is the best way to calculate my calorie needs?
  • How many calories should I eat a day to lose weight?
  • How many calories should I eat a day to gain muscle?

Let’s now answer all of these questions, starting at the top…

Calories In vs Calories Out

The reason why your calorie intake is the most important part of your diet comes down to a very simple and scientifically proven concept best summed up as “calories in vs calories out.”

Here’s how it works…

  • Calories In
    This refers to all of the calories you “take in” each day via the foods you eat and the drinks you drink. For the most part, everything you consume (except stuff like water and other zero calorie drinks) contains some number of calories. (No, there are no “negative calories foods.”)
  • Calories Out
    This refers to all of the calories you burn each day. This includes calories burned during traditional forms of exercise (weight training, cardio, etc.) as well as normal daily movement (standing, sitting, walking to your car, brushing your teeth, etc.), spontaneous daily movement (fidgeting, adjusting your posture, etc.) and all of the “behind the scenes” activity taking place to keep you alive and functioning (pumping blood, digesting food, breathing, etc.).

With this in mind, there are 3 possible scenarios that can take place…

Scenario #1: Caloric Surplus

Caloric Surplus: This person will gain weight.

When you consume more calories than you burn (i.e. “calories in” is greater than “calories out”), you have what’s known as a caloric surplus.

This means there are leftover calories that never got used for anything, and they now have to go… somewhere. They can’t just disappear into thin air. Rather, your body will be forced to store them somewhere in itself for potential later use.

As it turns out, there are 2 storage options available within your body: fat cells and muscle tissue.

This is why a caloric surplus will always cause you to gain something. Either body fat, muscle mass, or a combination of both.

Now, in some very specific cases when a person is properly training/eating for the purpose of gaining muscle (more about that later), the ideal outcome is for most of those surplus calories to be stored in the form of muscle. However, in all other cases – meaning the vast majority of the time – a caloric surplus is going to result in fat being gained.

This is, after all, the one and only way that fat is EVER gained. So, if you or any other human on the planet has ever gained a single pound of fat, this is always what caused it. You consumed more calories than you burned (aka a surplus) and the excess was stored in the form of body fat.

Now for the opposite scenario…

Scenario #2: Caloric Deficit

Caloric Deficit: This person will lose weight.

When your body burns more calories than you consume (i.e. “calories out” is greater than “calories in”), you have what’s known as a caloric deficit.

This means that you didn’t consume enough calories to support the energy needs of your body. Rather, your body needed some number of calories to burn in order to do all of the stuff we mentioned earlier, and you consumed some degree less than this.

When this happens, your body is forced to find some alternative fuel source to burn for energy instead. After all, new energy cannot just be created out of thin air. It has to come from somewhere.

As it turns out, there are 2 fuel sources available within your body where leftover energy has been stored in preparation for this very scenario: fat cells and muscle tissue.

This is why a caloric deficit will always cause you to lose something. Either body fat, muscle mass, or a combination of both.

As you can already guess, in the vast majority of cases, a caloric deficit will primarily result in fat being lost. Yes, even when people screw up various aspects of their diet and workout and therefore end up losing muscle along with fat (something you want to minimize as much as possible), fat will almost always continue to make up the majority of what’s being lost.

This is, after all, the one and only way that fat is EVER lost. So, if you or any other human on the planet has ever lost a single pound of fat, this is always what caused it. You consumed fewer calories than your body needed to burn (aka a deficit), which lead to stored body fat being burned for energy instead.

Now for the final scenario…

Scenario #3: Maintenance

Maintenance: This person will maintain weight.

When you consume the same number of calories that you burn (i.e. “calories in” is equal to “calories out”), you’re at what’s known as a maintenance.

Since there is no surplus that needs to be stored anywhere, and no deficit that warrants burning off a backup fuel source, what happens is that you don’t lose or gain anything. Rather, you simply maintain your current state.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking…

“I don’t want to maintain my current state bro, I want to improve it! Let’s skip this section and get to the good stuff.”

I hear ya. But here’s the thing. This “maintenance” scenario is the one that’s going to help you figure out exactly how many calories you should eat a day to lose weight or gain muscle.

How so?

  • Because being “below maintenance” will constitute being in a caloric deficit… which is needed for weight loss to happen.
  • And being “above maintenance” will constitute being in a caloric surplus… which is needed for muscle to be gained (in most cases, at least).

And that brings us to a very obvious question: what the hell is this “maintenance” amount that you need to be below or above?

How To Calculate Your Maintenance Level

Have you ever come across the phrase Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)?

It’s basically a much fancier term for your maintenance level, as it represents the TOTAL amount of calories your body burns each day doing EVERYTHING.

This includes:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate: This is the amount of calories your body burns at rest just keeping you alive and functioning. So, imagine the number of calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day not moving (or digesting food).
  2. Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA): This is the calories your body burns each day via exercise.
  3. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): This is the calories your body burns during the digestion and absorption process of the foods you eat
  4. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): This is the calories burned as a result of all of the little things you do over the course of the day BESIDES exercise… which includes unconscious, spontaneous daily movement (i.e., the seemingly minor movements you make throughout the day that you didn’t consciously plan to make). This actually accounts for a surprisingly significant amount of the calories that people burn each day.

And all of this stuff varies from one person to the next. Hell, even when people are the same gender, height, weight and age, and they’re doing the same amount of exercise, you can still see huge variances in TDEE thanks to NEAT alone.

For this reason, it’s virtually impossible to tell you exactly what your maintenance level/TDEE is. Instead, the best we can really do here is come up with an estimated maintenance level.

Don’t worry though, this is fine. As you’ll soon find out, an estimated starting point is all we truly need.

And that brings us to our next obvious question: how do we calculate it?

The Maintenance Level/TDEE Calculation

There are dozens of different methods, equations, formulas and calculators to use for this, some of which are more or less complicated than others and often more or less accurate as well. In fact, a method that is super accurate for one person can be extremely inaccurate for another.

That’s why I often recommend just using the quickest and simplest method possible. It tends to be accurate enough and, when you compare the various methods, you’ll often find that they all fall within a similar range anyway.

So, here’s what I recommend…

Body Weight (LBS) x 12-18

Take your current body weight in pounds and multiply it by 12 and 18.

Most people will find that their maintenance level falls somewhere in between those two amounts (most often between 14-16).

For example, a 200lb person would do 200 x 12 and 200 x 18 and get an estimated daily maintenance level of somewhere between 2400-3600 calories.

Those who are female or less active both in terms of their job/overall lifestyle and how much exercise they do should usually stick more toward the lower half of their estimate. Those who are male or more active should usually stick more toward the upper half of their estimate. If you’re unsure, just pick a number somewhere in the middle.

Got it? Good.

Now that you have your estimated maintenance level, it’s time for the step you’ve been waiting for: determining exactly how many calories you should eat a day to lose weight or gain muscle.

Let’s start with losing weight…

How Many Calories A Day To Lose Weight?

As I explained earlier, a caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss. Which means, if your goal is to lose weight… your #1 focus must be to ensure that you are consistently below your maintenance level so that a deficit exists.

The only question is, what size should that deficit be? How far below maintenance should you go? Here’s what I recommend:

The ideal caloric deficit for most people is somewhere between 10-25% below their maintenance level. (Whenever in doubt, an even 20% is often a fine starting point.)

While there are certain rarer cases where something below or above this recommended range might be ideal, this tends to be the sweet spot for the vast majority of the population. This is because it will typically cause a rate of weight loss somewhere between 0.5-2lbs per week. For most people, this is ideal.

Here’s how it works…

Let’s pretend some example person had a maintenance level of 2500 calories. If they were to then create a deficit of 20%, they’d figure out that 20% of 2500 is 500. They’d then subtract 500 from 2500 and get 2000. In this example, this person would eat 2000 calories a day to lose weight.

Pretty simple.

Now let’s answer 2 questions that may have just popped into your head…

1. Where In This Range Should I Be?

At this point, you’re probably wondering what determines whether you should create a 10% deficit, a 25% deficit, something in between (like the 20% used in our example), or something below or above this range altogether?

Good question, and I have two answers to it…

The Shorter Answer

Simply put, the faster you want to lose, the larger the deficit should be. The slower you want to lose, the smaller the deficit should be.

But at the same time, the larger your deficit is (and the faster you’re therefore losing), the harder it tends to be because various hormonal and metabolic factors are affected to a larger degree (plus a larger deficit warrants making the biggest changes to your diet and/or workout).

And the smaller your deficit is (and the slower you’re therefore losing), the easier it tends to be because those same hormonal/metabolic factors are affected to a lesser degree (plus a smaller deficit warrants making much smaller diet/workout changes).

In addition, smaller deficits tend to be more ideal for people who don’t have much fat left to lose and/or those who are looking to go from lean to really lean. Larger deficits tend to be more ideal for people with a lot of weight to lose, partly because someone with more weight to lose usually should lose it faster than someone with less to lose, and partly because those hormonal/metabolic issues aren’t as problematic at higher body fat percentages.

And of course, you have your own personal needs and preferences to consider as well. As in… do you simply want or need to lose weight faster or slower?

So… yeah. There are pros and cons to every deficit size, and quite a few factors to take into account.

The Better Answer

This is why I spent an entire chapter answering this question in Superior Fat Loss.

In it, I clearly break down ALL of the pros and cons of EVERY possible deficit size to show you exactly what your ideal rate of weight loss is and exactly what size your deficit should be for getting the best combination of A) realistically fast fat loss, B) minimizing all of those hormonal and metabolic issues (and everything else that makes losing weight so hard) so things are as easy and sustainable for you as possible, and C) maintaining muscle while that fat is lost.

You can learn all about it right here: Superior Fat Loss

2. Where Does Exercise Fit Into This?

That’s entirely up to you. Why? Because exercise – specifically the kind being done for the purpose of burning calories/causing weight loss – is completely optional.

That’s because there are 3 different ways you can create your deficit…

  1. Diet (eating fewer calories)
  2. Exercise (burning more calories)
  3. Diet + Exercise (doing some combination of both)

So, using our same example from before, this person could potentially eat 2000 calories a day, or eat 2500 calories a day and then burn 500 through some form of exercise, or eat 2250 and burn 250, or anything similar.

In all 3 cases (and with all else being equal), they end up with the same 500 calorie deficit and will therefore lose the same amount of weight.

So… which method should you use to create your deficit? That’s entirely up to you and your own preferences.

Basically, whichever method is most doable and sustainable for you, that’s how you should do it. I cover this topic in much more detail here: How Much Cardio To Lose Weight and What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight

Now for goal #2…

How Many Calories A Day To Gain Muscle?

As I explained earlier, a caloric surplus is a requirement for gaining muscle in most cases.

Yes, there are some exceptions (most notably fat beginners) where stored body fat can be converted into the extra energy needed to synthesize new muscle tissue. But, for the most part, anyone looking to gain a meaningful amount of muscle at an acceptable rate will need additional calories via their diet to make it happen.

Which means, if your goal is to gain muscle… you’re #1 dietary focus should be to ensure that you are consistently above your maintenance level so that a surplus exists.

The only question is, what size should that surplus be? How far above maintenance should you go? Here’s what I recommend:

MEN: create a daily surplus of about 200 calories above your maintenance level.
WOMEN: create a daily surplus of about 100 calories above your maintenance level.

Please note, however…

These Surplus Recommendations Are Averages

Meaning, the average man should aim to gain between 1-2lbs per month. The average woman should aim to gain between 0.5-1lb per month. On average, this tends to be the sweet spot for maximizing muscle growth and minimizing fat gains, and, on average, these are the caloric surplus recommendations that will make it happen.

Can you tell that I’m going slightly out of my way to emphasize the word “average” here?

Good. Because there are actually MANY cases where a smaller or larger surplus will be ideal based on factors specific to each person that can affect their potential rate of muscle growth. This includes their age, experience level and a variety of genetic factors.

Why does this matter, you ask? Two reasons:

  1. Too small of a surplus can prevent or minimize muscle growth.
  2. Too large of a surplus will lead to excessive amounts of body fat being gained.

This is why I spent an entire chapter in Superior Muscle Growth breaking down every single one of these individual factors to provide you with specific surplus recommendations that are ideal for different categories of people. Male or female. Younger or older. Beginner, intermediate or advanced. Good genetics, average genetics and bad genetics. And so on.

You can learn all about it right here: Superior Muscle Growth

But sticking with the average recommendations I gave above, here’s an example of how it would work…

Let’s pretend some example person had a maintenance level of 2000 calories. If they are male, they should eat 2200 calories a day to gain muscle. If they are female, they should eat 2100 calories a day to gain muscle.

Pretty simple.

The Most Important Step Of All

Right now you have a number in mind for how many calories you should eat a day to lose weight or gain muscle.

And as nice as that number may be, it’s crucial to remember that it is just an estimate.

The maintenance level you calculated? Just an estimate. The ideal deficit for you? Also just an estimate. The ideal surplus for you? Again, just an estimate.

So while it would certainly be nice if this calorie intake turned out to be the 100% completely perfect calorie intake you need it to be, there’s a chance that it won’t.

That’s the bad news.

The good news, however, is that there is a very easy solution to this problem.

It’s something I like to refer to as The Key Step.

The Key Step

  1. Weigh yourself every day – first thing in the morning before eating or drinking – and take the average at the end of the week. (Additional details here: When Is The Best Time To Weigh Yourself)
  2. Pay attention to the weekly averages (not the meaningless daily fluctuations) for a period of 2-4 consecutive weeks.
  3. Ask yourself the following question: is my weight moving in the right direction at the ideal rate it should be?
  4. If the answer is yes, you’re all good. Keep eating this amount of calories each day and continue monitoring progress. If the answer is no, then adjust that calorie intake up or down in small increments (e.g. 100-300 calories at a time), wait another 2-4 weeks and see what happens then. Is your weight moving in the right direction at the ideal rate it should be? If so, you’re good. If not, adjust again and repeat this process until it is.

All of the maintenance level estimates, calculators and deficit/surplus recommendations in the world are lovely and wonderful, BUT THIS IS THE KEY STEP to guaranteeing that you’re eating the right amount of calories a day. Additional details here: Which BMR/TDEE Calculator Is Best?

Summing It Up

So, how many calories should you eat a day to lose weight or gain muscle? It’s pretty easy.

  1. Start by estimating your maintenance level.
  2. From there, create your deficit or surplus depending on which one suits your goal.
  3. And finally, monitor your progress and adjust when/if needed.

When your body weight is moving in the right direction at the ideal rate it should be, you’ll know you’ve found your ideal calorie intake.

What’s Next?

Now that your daily calorie intake has been figured out, the next thing you’re probably going to want to do is figure out what your daily protein, fat and carb intake should be.

To do that, just follow the 5 simple steps I explain right here: How To Calculate Your Macros

Need Help With Your Diet And Workout?

Don't waste another minute of your time searching for what to do. I've already done the research for you and created step-by-step plans that work. Select your goal below...

  • I Want To Build Muscle
    If you want to build lean muscle without gaining excess body fat, spending all of your time in the gym, using a diet or workout that isn't customized to you, or doing myth-based nonsense that only works for people with amazing genetics, check out: Superior Muscle Growth
  • I Want To Lose Fat
    If you want to lose body fat without losing muscle, feeling hungry all the time, using stupid restrictive diets, doing 100 hours of cardio, or struggling with plateaus, metabolic slowdown, and everything else that sucks about getting lean, check out: Superior Fat Loss

Get Your Perfect Workout

It takes less than 60 seconds...
Take The Quiz
About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

39 thoughts on “How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight or Gain Muscle?”


  1. As always, an excellent summation of the way it really is. Much appreciate the straight forward honesty of your approach to these issues.

  2. Jay, thanks for this fantastic post summarizing the key dietary requirements for fat loss and muscle building.

    Question: I am currently on a lean bulk and screwed up for a few weeks (due to an error in measuring the calories in a particular food I eat regularly) and ended up going up in weight faster than 1-2 lbs/month, and put on some unexpected belly fat in the process. I imagine that I’m now at 13% bf.

    Do you recommend that I do a ‘mini-cut’ to get back down to 10% and then resume bulking, or just stay the course until 15% or so, and then do a proper cut back down to 10%? I’ve only been bulking for 2 months, so it would be a shame to stop the momentum of progress, but I also would like to give myself another 4 months (or more) to make more gains before having to cut again.

    Your advice would be most appreciated!

    • YF- Most people find that yoyo-ing too frequently results in disappointment. 2 months is practically nothing in terms of bulking.

      Everytime you reverse course, your weight will change easily and quickly due to water retention and amount of food and poop in your body, so 5 lbs up and then down is really more like 1 lb of muscle/fat up and down. It’s a waste of time and effort.

      • Thanks for the advice Mike. So, I’ll simply dial back the caloric surplus a bit to slow down the rate of weight gain. What would you say is a good length of time for bulking before cutting again? For what it’s worth, I am a beginner-intermediate lifter (2.5 years of consistent training).

        • My bad, I am speaking as a relative beginner (1 year of consistent training) and I assumed you were as well. I didn’t think too long about it.

          In this case, if I had to guess what Jay would say, it would be this:

          If your goal is primarily aesthetics, then cut until you’re satisfied because you already got the noob gains, you just need to make sure it stays visible.

          If your goal is primarily performance, then finish the 6 months of bulking that you planned to do.

          By the way, 4 weeks accidentally gaining at, say, 4 lbs/month is only 4 lbs, and since you’re training, shouldn’t be much more than 3 lbs of fat. And 3 lbs on, say, 160 lbs is +1.9% body fat, compared to the planned/expected/unavoidable +0.5% or +1% body fat for the month. Doesn’t sound like you got too far off track, right?

          Good luck!

          • Thanks. I guess I’m just used to a level of lean-ness I achieved after being on a 7 month long cut, so every extra pound of fat fills me with the dread of having to cut again. So my plan is to keep on bulking as slowly as possible until I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore. Cutting during the winter holidays is going to suck though 😉

    • Assuming you did truly gain a meaningful amount of body fat during this period of time (and you’re not mistaking it for water retention or something similar), a mini-cut would be fine in this scenario.

  3. I was following myfitness pal suggestion of 1710 calories a day and not losing weight. I am a 240lb man. I run mornings and go to the gym after work. I work out and run 6 days a week. You are telling me that I am way under my maintenance level. About 1500 to 2000 calories. This is interesting and encouraging news. So I need to eat more.

    • Bro, if you are eating 1710 calories a day and not losing weight, then you need to eat less calories…. not more. And if you are TRULY eating 1710 calories a day, then those estimates don’t work for you.

      • Rick, I have to agree with James, it’s just not believable that you’re maintaining 240 lbs on less than 2500 calories/day while working out and running 6 days a week.

        Every mile at 240 lbs is 180 calories. 1 mile a day puts you at 1530 calories. 2 miles a day puts you at 1350. 120 lb women lose weight at these levels.

        Your calorie estimates have to be wrong. If you can’t find a huge discrepancy, then you’ll be forced to do trial and error with indirect approaches to create a deficit.

        Good luck!

    • RICK…noooooooo, not “eat more calories”. You’ll object and say, “I AM only eating 1710 calories per day!” but, you’re eating more if you’re not losing weight.
      Somehow, somewhere, you’re badly underestimating the calories you consume per day/per week. You’re not counting in things you eat (“But how could those little bites or sips make any difference?”), underestimating the portions/serving sizes your eating (“This looks like a small serving to meeee…”), or both, and it’s meaning you’re eating far more than 1710 calories per day, every day, week-after week.

    • Yup, like the other guys have already said, your solution isn’t to eat more calories. Your solution is to realize that you’re most likely making some kind of mistake in your tracking/measuring of your calorie intake that is causing you to eat more than you think you are and no deficit currently exists.

  4. Very simple to read and the pictures are very easy to understand. Thank you for this article, i will save this for future reference!

  5. Thanks Jay. I’m Thankful for the knowledge you’ve shared in your articles, and this one continues to affirm what I’ve learned from you. Keep them coming, as the serve as awesome inspiration to keep working hard. Progress picks coming soon!

  6. Thanks Jay. Its an excellent article but it will be more helpful with a food and calories chart to determine the intake of calories.

  7. This is the ONLY thing that has helped me lose weight. And guess what? I still eat WHATEVER I want. That’s right – pizza, burgers, fries, whatever – I still eat it. The only difference is that I eat LESS of it.

    In my case i used a food diary app and ate like normal for 2 weeks to track my caloric intake. Most food diary apps have pre-calculated basic foods so you can get a rough estimate. It’s an enlightening thing to do BTW. I saw that I was eating A LOT more than I thought. Interestingly, I saw that breakfast (900-1100 cals in one sitting!) and mindless snacking (850 cals) made up for about half of my caloric intake!

    So I made a plan, then I slowly eased into my dietary habit. I started by making a list of “easy items” that I could knock off right away – things that I snacked on that I didn’t really miss. Then I slowly cut back on everything else that I ate. I also noticed that I LOVED snacking at night. Guess what? I KEPT that habit.
    I just made sure that I had enough in my caloric bank to do that and I did less of it.

    Are there ups and downs? YES
    Is it a pain in the a** when you first start? YES
    Does it really work? YES YES YES

    I averaged a weight loss of about 1.25 per week (some weeks more, some less) for a total loss of 50lbs (from 265 to 215lbs) over the course of a year. Without exercise FYI.

    If I can do it, so can you!

    Good Luck and Thanks A Workout Routine

  8. Jay,
    You always do such a great job breaking down the what you need to do part of the equation. I think most people, including me, struggle most with the “how.” I believe that’s why the rule-based, food restricting fad diets become so popular. Whether it’s low carb, intermittent fasting, body-for-life style 6 small meals a day- as you’ve mentioned before- they can all work through indirectly causing this calorie restriction while keeping Protein relatively high. Or not, as you’ve written about previously as well. Just figuring out an ideal calorie intake for fat loss or muscle gain, and then creating a meal plan that you follow everyday, or trying to track macros using an app daily while weighing everything you eat sounds really easy on paper. Of course it’s harder than it sounds. Eat No Carbs sounds easier. Eat only between noon and six sounds easier. Eat 6 small meals (including 3 of my super duper $3 protein shakes) per day actually sounds easier too. Sorry if it sounds like I’m ranting here, I rarely post on blogs, but the real struggle I have isn’t estimating my calorie and macro needs. Got it. You’ve nailed it. Now how do I get there every day for a long enough period of time to make a difference?

    • BREW…and YOU nailed it — ultimately, it’s the doing-and-sticking-to-it-consistently-for-as-many-months-as-it-requires that’s required.

      I’m sixty-one, a lifelong (no-steroids-ever) bodybuilder…and as every bodybuilder will agree, the toughest part of being cut and having a washboard waist isn’t the grueling workouts week after week — it’s the calorie counting. As old-school bodybuilders quipped, “The exercise that makes visible abs is ‘pushaways’ — push away that food instead of eating it.” I walk by the mocha lattes and the made-from-scratch strawberry pies my excellent-cook-wife bakes and want to live on those instead of half a cup of plain greek yogurt and canned tuna-in-water.

      So, yeah, willpower. That’s the key to the success, no way to elude it, regrettably. One tactic I use — and which I learned from a pre-steroids-era bodybuilder/exercise guru named Jack LaLanne — is this: when I see that additional serving of ice cream or want an additional burrito, I literally ask myself at that moment of temptation, “Do you want the satisfaction you’ll have later when you’re lean; or, do you want the satisfaction you’ll have now from those extra calories?”

  9. Hi Jay,

    Quick question: As for the calories calculated for bulking, do they apply to (weight) training days only? If yes, how to calculate the calories for non-training days?

    For example, I lift weights four times a week and I calculated my “bulking calories” to be approx. 3.000. But how many calories should I consume on the other days when I do not lift? Same 3.000? Or better even maintenance level about of calories? Or less than that?

    Thanks a lot.

  10. what do you think when people say for example, fast carbs are bad and even if u eat under maintainence, the insulin spikes will make u hold those calories as fat? u know, the glycemic index and all…drink pop, juice, eat processed foods, what have you, and fat will just amass upon you. in a cal deficit…really, ive read this.
    btw, i love this site, and yr fb page. ive read every single article and wish id’a found this long ago!

  11. Again, great article!

    A daily surplus of about 200 calories above your maintenance level to gain muscle. What rate of weight loss do you recommend for a 155 lb 5’7” male who is already lean? Would 0.7 percent of weekly body weight loss be fine?

    • I recommend losing somewhere between 0.3% – 1% of your body weight per week. SFL has a whole chapter explaining exactly where within this range is most ideal for each person based on their specific needs/goals/preferences.

  12. Hey all, What if I want to gain muscle but I have a good amount of fat to lose? Do I increase caloric intake or decrease it? I am a 37 year old female, 5’3″ 130lbs, about 26% body fat mostly around the midsection, I have had 3 kids and have been exercising for the past 2 years, 3-4 a week and the fat from the pregnancies (belly fat) has not come off. Not sure what I should do, any help would be appreciated.

  13. Hello Jay, thanks for the valuable info as usual.

    When you gave the example of the surplus needed, you mentioned that it’s going to be 200 only.
    Isn’t that very low since the exercise itself would burn this much? If my maintenance is 2000 and I’m sedentary, shouldn’t I consider the exercise calories as well?

    • Actually, your maintenance level should already include activity like weight training. So if you burn 2000 calories per day without exercise, but then burn 2250 calories per day on the days you exercise, your maintenance level on those days is 2250 in which case your 200 calorie surplus on those days would be 2450.

      • Hey Jay and what about cardio training? I mean first you determine your daily maintenance then subtracting the calories you have burn through cardio on that same day and then and then you factor in the calories you need based on your goals?
        In other words you always determine first maintenance level without factoring in any activity be it strength training or cardio. Then for each day you add in the activity you did on that day and then you adjust how many calories you need on that day based on the activity you did?
        E.g maintenance without any activity 2000. Decided I’ll have 400 deficit. Did on some day cardio worth of 500 calories. Means on this day calories that I need to consume are 2000+500-400=2100.
        And on different day would be 2000+ X (calories from this specific activity) – 400?
        I mean always calculate maintenance without factoring in activity and then adding in the activity itself individually? Since many calculators factor in “activity level” when they estimate your maintenance so it’s kinda confusing if you need to factor additional activity you do or it has already factored by the calculator. How would you suggest doing it?

Comments are closed.