I always get asked by new personal training clients “How many calories do I need to be eating?” This varies for each person and depends on what your goal is. A good personal trainer knows how to give you a personalized specific daily calorie number that ensures that what you are eating helps you reach your fitness and weight goals. However, I also think knowing some general numbers related to this provides a great starting point for anyone who wishes to start cleaning up their eating habits even if they are not working with a personal trainer.
Below I’ll give you the stats on how much a typical person needs to eat daily to ensure weight loss and maintenance plus my other top tips for cleaning up your diet to reach your fitness goals and improve your overall health.
-Number of calories per day a “typical”, 160b woman needs to eat to MAINTAIN her weight: 1,800-2,000.
-Number of calories per day a “typical”, 200lb male needs to eat per day to MAINTAIN his weight: 2,300-2,500.
-If you have no clue how to start cleaning up your diet, a great place to start is by taking the calorie count above as a daily goal and start tracking your food intake with an app (I suggest My Fitness Pal). Aim to eat as much real food as possible versus packaged and processed foods.
-If you are wanting to lose weight you will need to subtract up to 500 calories from the above typical daily weight maintenance amounts and get moving a few times a week. I say UP TO 500 calories because, as I mention below, it is not healthy to drop below 1,200 calories a day and it will derail your weight loss efforts. So, that means using the “typical” woman example above, that you would need to eat 1,300-1,500 calories a day to ensure you lose weight weekly. The “typical” man would need to eat 1,800-2,000 daily to ensure weight loss.
*Extra tips for cleaning up your diet and nutrition: These are great tips to improve your health and nutrition, as well as great ways to help you start losing weight if you’re not into calorie counting or are wanting to smaller baby steps to take before tracking calories.
-Learning proper portion sizes for meals is crucial. This helps you know what a balanced dinner plate should look like, and it also helps you know how much you should take home in a doggy bag when you eat out! This chart from webMD is one of the easiest to understand portion size charts I’ve ever seen. I keep this chart bookmarked on my phone for when I’m eating out and need a reminder.
-My suggestion for starchy carbs: Limit carbs to two servings a day, preferably before and after your workout. This ensures that you’re using them as efficiently as possible and storing as little excess energy (weight). Opt for whole grains. I challenge you to start by eliminating all white carbs from your diet this week: that includes white rice, white potatoes, white pasta, white sugar and added sugars.
–Protein requirements: Adults in the US are advised to make 10-35% of their diet from protein sources. If you are working out and staying active I personally recommend aiming on the high end at 30% for proper muscle recovery. Protein snack ideas: string cheese, hard boiled eggs, almonds, fruit with peanut butter, carrots and hummus.
–Special circumstances: Special training for races, certain diseases like diabetes and PCOS, these are all going to require different nutrition requirements and information from a health or training professional working with you personally.
-Never drop below 1,100 calories a day. I even err on the side of not dropping below 1,200 so that you can still burn calories efficiently during your day. When you eat less than this amount your body goes into starvation mode and burns less calories and starts storing more fat, defeating your weight loss goals and setting you up for major overeating when you try to go back to a normal calorie count. This can even happen after just a couple of days of eating this low a calorie amount. This is PROVEN SCIENCE. Do not believe any weight loss pill or method telling you otherwise.
ALWAYS CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE MAKING ANY DIET OR NUTRITION CHANGES THAT YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT.