6 min read

How to Calculate Calories for Fat Loss

by | Nutrition

When I first started taking my training and nutrition seriously, I searched for hours on end to find the best formula that finds the number of calories to get lean so my abs would show.

I’m talking so lean that girls would want me and guys would want to be me.

Disclaimer: If those are your main reasons for leaning out you’ll be disappointed when no one really cares, so do it for yourself.

I used plenty of the “best formulas for fat loss” and I didn’t get shredded or receive any surplus of booty. I would get pissed and try something else after a couple of weeks with no results to show for it.

Sound familiar? I thought so.

There is no best formula; actually, most of them will give you a similar number for your calories.

There are way too many factors that go into calorie balance to have one formula that magically works for everyone.

That being said, pretty much all formulas work if you’re consistent and patient; I was neither.

I wasn’t patient and I didn’t track my progress well enough, leading me to feel like I just had bad genetics and maybe having abs just wasn’t for me.

The first thing to understand before tracking calories is you’re not going to undo the last few years over the span of a few weeks.

The second thing you need to understand is you’re going to feel like you aren’t making any progress when you’re actually making tremendous progress.

In my case, I was making progress, but it just wasn’t scale progress or mirror progress.

You think you’re not making progress because the scale hasn’t gone down or you don’t look different from the pictures you took last week.

This led me into a perpetual state of trying something for a week or two, dropping it when I didn’t see immediate results, and trying something else a couple of weeks later. I did this over, and over, and over.

If you’re anything like I was, not only are you being impatient, but you’re also not using enough tools of measurement.

I recommend using at least three different measuring tools, but preferably all of the tools listed below. These tools include, but are not limited to weight, measurements, body fat percentage, the way your clothes fit, energy levels, overall happiness, or even compliments.

Anyhoo, without further ado, I’m going to walk you through my process.

My 5 Step System

1. Find your maintenance calories.

Maintenance calories are the number of calories you need to stay the same weight. To find them, multiply your body weight by 14-16 depending on how active you are (Hint: you’re probably not as active as you think).

Let’s take someone that weighs 180 pounds, has a fairly sedentary job, and works out 4 times each week.

180×14=2,520. So basically 2,500.

 

2. Create A Caloric Deficit

To get leaner, it’s important to accept you’ll have to lose overall body weight as well. So, we’re going to subtract 500 calories from out maintenance calories to ensure consistent weight loss.

2,500-500=2,000

Why subtract 500? Good question

There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. A deficit of 500 calories over a 7 day period (1 week) is 3,500 calories.

In a perfect world, we’d plan on losing about a pound of fat each week.

 

3. Eat Enough Protein.

To ensure we hold onto as much muscle possible, we need to consume adequate protein. Studies have shown that about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight seems to be optimal.

That being said, the 180-pound person would want to intake roughly 180 grams of protein daily.

 

4. Determine carbohydrates and fats based on preference.

If your main goal is performance, then I recommend setting your carbs around 50% of your daily calorie intake. But, when it comes to getting lean and getting your abs to show, the balance of your carbs and fats isn’t that important.

 

5. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient.

Like I said, you’re not going to undo the last few years in just a few weeks. It’s going to take months, maybe a year, maybe two years.

It’s going to take time, embrace it.

There’s no magic pill; if there was I would be tossing one back every morning with a hot cup of coffee.

The end result doesn’t mean as much without the journey attached to it. This is the same reason why 70% of lottery winners go bankrupt. They didn’t actually become a millionaire. You need to become the person who has abs before you actually obtain abs.

How and When to Adjust

Now, how do you know when to lower your calories? It’s important not to anticipate when you need to make adjustments, but rather take everything as it comes.

The end goal is to lose fat while eating the most calories as possible. That being said, it doesn’t make sense to drop your calories unless you really need to. Otherwise, you’re causing yourself unnecessary trouble and hunger.

Once you stall in your measurements or weight for a couple of weeks in a row, drop your calories a 200-300 and continue to track your progress.

If your calories are already fairly low and you’d rather keep them where they’re at, adding a cardio session each week could be a valid course of action as well.

 

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, tracking your progress is the only way to ensure you’re even making progress in the first place. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

You’ll find that you make the most progress when you are more meticulous with your tracking. The more variables that you measure, the more accurate you can be when assessing what isn’t working when you feel you aren’t making progress.

Take Home Points

1. Find maintenance calories

2. Subtract 500

3. Eat enough protein

4. Set carbs and fats to preference

5. Be patient

 

If you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email or comment below 🙂

Connor Youngman is a personal trainer, fitness writer, podcaster, and competitive coffee chugger. He has a deep love for the Chicago Bears, Stoic Philosophy, Harry Potter, and writing about himself in the third person.