World class diet advice from Nick Trigili!
The term maintenance calories is thrown around a lot. For those that don’t know, your maintenance calories are the amount of calories that you shouldn’t lose or gain weight on. But exactly how much is that? There are theoretical maintenance and practical maintenance calories. They aren’t always equal because of variations in people’s metabolisms.
Theoretical maintenance calculation:
BMR x Harris-Benedict multiplier (Click here to figure out for your calculation)
For example, if you are a 6’ 200lb 25 year old male, your BMR is 1931 calories and, if you work out 3-5 times per week, your theoretical maintenance calories are 2993 calories per day. On the other hand, your practical maintenance calories, based on your current individual metabolic rate may be lower than that calculated number or above. The concept that many people don’t get is that your metabolic rate is not static. You can speed up (or slow down) your metabolism. I hear very often that someone believes they are eating in a deficit based on their theoretical maintenance calories but they are not losing weight. That can be because of a few issues.
For example, if you are a 6’ 200lb 25 year old male, and you’re working out 3-5 times per week and you are gaining weight eating 2500 calories per day, then your practical maintenance calories are actually lower than your theoretical calories, meaning your metabolism is running slow. Also, the vast majority of people are not counting their calories correctly. Most people underestimate their calculations by almost half. To accurately count your intake, you have to use a scale, not just eyeball, every single bite that goes into your mouth. Yeah that includes just snacks here and there too.
So how can you speed up your metabolism? Limiting stress, adequate and high quality sleep, increased water intake, increased gut health by eating enough fiber, making sure you’re getting enough of each vitamin, and performing cardio regularly. All of the miscellaneous things that you might not consider. By limiting stress, cortisol can decrease to a lower baseline allowing for cortisol’s receptors to be more sensitized to cortisol release. Cortisol is a crucial hormone in fat loss along with epinephrine, glucagon, and HGH, the “fight or flight” hormones. With enough water and fiber, our gut can optimally absorb nutrients with minimal bloating and variation in bowel movements. With high quality adequate sleep, we can recover fully from each day and allow for optimal muscle protein synthesis and fat loss.
By taking each of those into consideration, and optimizing them, your theoretical maintenance calories and practical maintenance calories should approximate each other. The actual macronutrient breakdown is controversial, but a safe breakdown to promote lean body mass and minimize fat mass is: 1g protein/lb lean body mass and splitting carbs and fats evenly or based on food preference. For example, if you are a 6’ 200lb 10% body fat 25 year old male with a theoretical and practical maintenance calorie count of 3000, your macro breakdown should look similar to 180g protein, 280g carbs, 130g fat. And if you are lean bulking, increase by a modest 5% to start and see what happens: 180g protein, 320g carbs, 130g fat. If you are leaning out, decrease by a modest 5%, but also increase protein to support muscle retention: 200g protein, 240g carbs, 120g fat.
For specific guidance, a qualified coach can take the burden off your back and do this for you while tracking changes over time with check ins.
Nick Trigili is a respected IFBB Pro bodybuilder and trainer. Check him out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more informative content. Also make sure to visit his official personal training website – World Class Trainers.