If your maintenance is 1800 or 1900 calories, you are not “starving” on a 1200 calorie diet. So, before you read the headline and go straight for the comments to tell me I’m a bully and you dieted down to 12% for your sixth figure show on 300g of carbs per day, chill out. What is calorie maintenance: Number of calories you eat in a day to maintain your current weight. In an attempt to simplify things, many sites including my beginner’s fitness guide use total bodyweight to estimate calorie maintenance.
For Example: A 5’3” 150 pound woman with 34% bodyfat has a vastly different calorie maintenance than a 5’9” 150 pound woman who is 22% bodyfat even though they have the same total bodyweight. That’s because our first woman has 99 pounds of lean body mass and our second woman has 117 pounds of lean body mass. While they share the same total bodyweight, the leaner woman will have a higher calorie maintenance. What do you think happens when our friend here eats 2000 calories per day (and strength trains) because that’s what her favorite instagram star does? Set a calorie intake based on your estimated maintenance to ensure you are moving in the right direction. But if you are underestimating bodyfat, you are drastically overestimating calorie maintenance.
Put simply, this means you can nail your macros every single day and not lose ANY bodyfat because your numbers were flawed from the start. First, small deficits are risky because they assume super accurate calculation of calorie maintenance, which isn’t always possible (see FAQs at the bottom of this post). Further, if you are 10% off on hitting your macros because you weighed your chicken cooked instead of raw or you forgot about that small handful of pistachios after lunch you essentially wipe out your deficit completely. For those of use who aren’t competitive bodybuilders, super small deficits are unrealistic to manage.
Will you stay disciplined on your fat loss plan knowing that you weigh the exact same on February 19th as you did on January 1st despite the fact that you are doing everything perfectly?
We aren’t talking about the shaming that comes from your disgruntled co-workers or your jealous siblings or even your sabotaging friends when you go on a diet.
But having fat loss as your first priority will yield vastly different training and nutrition than if that goal is strength or performance. There is a tremendous difference in the nutritional needs of a lean woman maintaining her figure and an overweight woman trying to lose bodyfat. And a special note to you, IG girl: I get that you need to sell fucking quest bars with your affiliate link. But to promise women they can have your body while eating massive amounts of carbs and calories is fraud.

When Heather and I started working together, she posted her stats and macros in a fitness support group for women on Facebook.
And based on her personal experience, it is understandable that she believes what she does.
She just lacks the experience and perspective to dole out nutrition advice to women on the internet who she barely knows. Last but not least, there are still niches of people who don’t accept energy balance.
Lunch – Roast beef sandwich (on whole wheat bread with high quality cheese, mayo, mustard and spinach), raw zero trans fat potato chips, and homemade sour cream. If you are closer to the former, follow the advice in this article. Honestly estimate your lean body mass. And then reverse diet your way back to glory because even if a 1200 calorie diet makes sense for you, no one wants to do that for very long. Q: Why do you use BMR x Multiplier to get maintenance rather than calculate each of the 4 components of metabolism individually?
I wondered what your thoughts were on the Harris-Benedict equation - I've been using it for weight loss for a while with reasonable accuracy and success but I appreciate it's like a hundred years out of date.
Sidenote: ALL equations are "meh" to me, including Katch -- but we need SOMEWHERE to start.
What are your thoughts on low calorie diets messing up your metabolism, hormone balance and ability to absorb essential nutrients? No, I don't think any magical ratio of macro intake will fix the negatives associated with those -- however, hormonal impact and metabolic downreg are usually less related to any specific macro ratio than they are to spending too much time in too large a deficit.
And the most relevant factor in setting appropriate calorie intake is the individual’s calorie maintenance. For example, a woman with a 9-5 office job and very few physically active hobbies would be closer to 1.25. So, you are in a sense blindly guessing… because how important can the accuracy of that number really be, right? That is literally the difference between losing 50 pounds in a year and not losing a single pound.
It’s the difference between making a dramatic transformation and staying exactly the same. And is disgusting. And if I ever see you in real life I will Avada Kedavra all over your face.
With above average genetics, years of training experience, ample lean body mass and fat loss a non priority she is in a position where she can carb cycle around maintenance and slowly recomp her already lean and muscular body. She doesn’t possess 14 years of voracious study and obsession about training and nutrition.

But I just had to work some pop culture into this post because I know you currently hate me for all the math. They find calories largely irrelevant, and will argue that food quality is more relevant than quantity for weight gain and weight loss. But here is the difference: when women overfeed without strength training, almost all weight gained is bodyfat. Mostly because I don't program very much training and I think that people vastly over estimate cal expenditure via training.
I've literally read every single one of your articles and because of them I learned how to finally understand macros and how to count them.
I am not, in any way shape or form, an IIFYM girl--mostly because I am a reformed calorie counter who went CA-RAZY. A single mom bartender who hustles her face off with two kids is closer to 1.7 or higher. Make sense? I told Carrie that for a woman of her height who has never strength trained seriously before, it is very unlikely she has that much lean body mass. Things like water, carbs, alcohol, salt, big dumps, time of day and time of month cause the bathroom scale to move up and down like crazy. They encourage each other. And they look out for any horribly restrictive or dangerous diets.
But they are what we have right now, and they are certainly the most relevant factor in manipulating bodyweight. When men overfeed without strength training, they gain about one pound of muscle per two pounds of bodyfat.
I don’t really cater to folks who want to be professional bodybuilders or powerlifters.
I think the age adjustment is definitely better than going SOLELY by bodyweight, but not at accurate as using LBM. Make 80-90% of what you eat lean protein, produce, whole grains and all the other stuff that we intuitively know is healthy. I know you are super busy and there are other important aspects of life – so I want to get you results in the best way possible which usually means only a few hours of training per week. And you made a lot of good points that are highly relevant independent of whether or not you track macros.

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