Gone are the days of eating 1200-1500 calories, struggling to create a daily deficit that will allow the scale to budge. You’ve lost the weight. By now, you’ve adapted to eating 5+ meals per day, you’re making good choices, and you understand the meaning of portion control. Now, it’s important to begin to identify new goals for yourself. To keep the weight off, it’s essential that you continue to strength train. Doing so will facilitate further increases in metabolism and will ultimately allow you to eat more while sustaining your weight. How much more? We will work on this in a few. The most important thing to remember is that your body, your muscles need these calories to thrive. If you’re coming off of a program in which your goal was to lose at least 1 pound of body fat per week, you’ll automatically be consuming a minimum of 500 calories more than you were before. Those looking to increase muscle mass will generally require an additional few hundred calories/day on top of that. All of a sudden that 1200 calorie diet turned into an almost 2000 calorie ‘diet’ just like that. Scary right? It doesn’t have to be.
Let’s work it another way. The most essential nutrient for sustaining and building muscle mass is protein. Protein requirements for sedentary individuals are typically seen between .6 and .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Since we aren’t sedentary, we won’t worry too much about these numbers. A more active adult may require up to 1 gram/kilogram or .55 grams of protein per pound. For a 150 pound individual, the protein requirement is roughly 82.5 grams. Time for a little math…
Protein has an energy density of 4 calories per gram.
82.5 grams of protein x 4 calories per gram yields 330 total protein calories.
The average active adult should consume roughly 20% of their daily intake in protein alone.
Multiply the total number of protein calories by 5 (20% x 5 = 100%) to determine your estimated caloric intake. In this case, 330 total protein calories x 5 = 1650 calories, which represents your total daily allowance.
For those looking to increase muscle mass, protein requirements are even higher. Research has shown that requirements increase up to 1.4 grams/kg or .64 grams/pound (sometimes even higher in strength athletes). For that same 150 pound individual, using the same equation yields a total daily expenditure of 1920 calories. So there you have it, a range of 1650 – 1920 calories, depending on goals (plus a little extra when you exercise!).
How about the other nutrients? Carbohydrates, like protein, have an energy density of 4 calories per gram. Fat is more than double at a whopping 9 calories per gram! Alcohol is the only other energy yielding substance (not a nutrient) and produces 7 calories for each gram, still more than carbs and protein. In any case, recommendations are typically to sustain a total fat intake of less than 30% of your daily allowance. Using the example above and a daily fat intake of 25%, you get 412.5 total fat calories. Divide this by 9 calories per gram and you are looking at a daily allowance of about 45 grams of fat. Still try and stay away from saturated and trans fatty acids as much as you can. Finally, running the same breakdown for a daily carbohydrate intake of 55% (the remainder), you get 907.5 total carbohydrate calories or approximately 227 grams.
Estimate of average energy requirements for an active, 150 lb adult to sustain muscle mass:
1650 calories on non-exercising days*
200-300 extra calories on strength days*
83 grams of protein*
45 grams of fat*
227 grams of carbohydrate*
If you made it this far, I applaud you! Email me with questions or for help in estimated daily requirements. You can also check out the BMR calculator in the ‘fitness tools’ section of the personal training tab.