Finding your maintenance calories and how fast you should cut or bulk

Finding your maintenance calories is a never-ending cycle of small adjustments until you get it right and even then, it will change again as you lose/gain weight and your body fat increases/decreasesmeaning you can never really win. Keeping your maintenance calories constant also relies on youexpending the same amount of energy whilst performing both your day to day activities andworkouts. Which you should know is near impossible.

So where to begin?

If you've never tracked your calories before and want to get a good understanding of what calories you expend in a given day the number one best way to go about it is to use a total daily energy expenditure calculator or a TDEE calculator for short. You can use google to find one for yourself, however, I personally use the one over at to calculate my calories when I'm starting a specific cut/bulk.

There are two main problems with a TDEE calculator:

Number 1 is that it relies on averages taken by scientists in a lab with people a similar height and weight as yourself, however because of it being hard to find people with the exact same height, weight, bodyfat and activity levels as everyone else, as its such a broad spectrum, a lot of the data is extrapolated (guessed at with fancy maths). so not only is it an average meaning you could be above or below it, it could also mean no one with the same conditions as yourself was even tested and the TDEE calculator is merely showing you a value between someone with slightly lower and higher data than yourself.

This, however, isn t much of a concern as alot of sports scientist and weightloss experts have been adding to this database for many years meaning it is almost very accurateand will get over 99% of peoples Basal Metabolic Rate correct and over 90% of peoples TDEE correct if the right activity level is chosen.

Here lies problem number 2 with TDEE calculators, selecting the right activity level. Yeah, you might class yourself as an athlete or say you do heavy or moderate exercise but what exactly do the people who make the TDEE calculators class as light/ moderate /heavy exercise? Here's where I can't really help you, sorry. However, the TDEE calculator I suggested over at does have a handy little guide, next to each option, comparing each activity level to the number of times you work out in a given week. However, this again doesn't take into consideration how intense your workout was or whether you were lifting super heavy weights or doing long duration cardio.

So, what should you do?

Up until now, I've probably made it sound impossible to figure out how many calories you expend in a given day. But it really isn't that hard after you get going. Yes, finding that initial value is hard and you will have to use your best judgment to determine your activity level, but after that, it's as simple as either tracking what exercises you do and/or how much weight you lose/gain.

Let me explain further, I said previously that the TDEE site will get your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) accurate 99% of the time, so let's just assume this to be true. This is the number of calories you expend if you did nothing at all, the calories used to make your internal body function, your heart beat and your stomach to churn etc. we can then keep track of all the exercise you do, including walking to and from places, like the kitchen and the couch if you're anything like me. You can do this in numerous ways, such as fitness apps on your phone or a sports watch such as a Fitbit. The total of both your BMR and tracked calories will then be your TDEE which will be much more accurate than straight off a TDEE calculator site.

Alternatively, if your finding your maintenance calories you're most likely starting a cut/bulk if you are you can then use the amount of weight you have lost/gained to adjust your TDEE to a more accurate value as weeks go by. This is done by first using the TDEE calculators value as your starting point, you then cut/bulk for a week using the rule that a 500-calorie deficit/surplus a day leads to 1 pound lost/gained per week. If after a week you've lost/gained more/less than what you had intended, you can reverse the rule to figure out how much your TDEE is over/under the calculators value. Eg. If you were aiming to lose 1lbs a week, so was in a 500 calorie deficit per day, but end up losing 2lbs then your TDEE is 500 calories more as you lost an extra pound then expected.

Your calculated TDEE could be less than 500 caloires off meaning you won't be able to figure out that it is off until the second, third or maybe even fourth week until you lose/gain extra lbs then you were meant to in that given period and this is why i said at the begining of this method that you adjust your TDEE as weeks go by, this will also account for increases/decreases in activity level aswell as a lower/higher BMR as you decrease/increase your weight.

So how much should you cut/bulk? How many more/fewer calories should you be having compared to your TDEE.

Well, the simple answer is, it's entirely up to you. But here is some general guidelines/rules.

1) The slower you lose/gain weight the easier it is to stay at your new weight without crashingback to your previous weight, this is because it gets your body used to operating at your new size.

2) The fatter you are the faster you can cut healthily and the skinnier you are the faster you can bulk healthily, if you calculate your body fat via a scan or callipers or simple measurement susing a site like you can use your BF% to determine how fast you should cut/bulk.

The general guideline is that:

-if you're under fat <10% for men and <20% for women then bulk 2lbs a week.

-If you're a healthy fat and just want to change your position in the healthy range 10%-25% for men, 20%-35% for women then do 1lbs or even 1/2lbs a week.

-And if you're over fat 25%+ for men and 35%+ for women than cut by 2lbs or even 3lbs a week if you think you're excessively over fat.