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When it comes to finding the diet that works best for you, it is important to first define what your goals are. Whether you are trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight, it all comes down to how many calories you are taking in versus how many calories you are burning off each day. This is when a TDEE Calculator comes in handy.
At its core, there are three basic rules to dieting:
1. You gain weight when you consume more calories than your body burns off each day.
2. You maintain your weight when you consume the same amount of calories as your body burns off each day.
3. You lose weight when you consume fewer calories than your body burns off each day.
This is where knowing your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) becomes crucial. In order to accurately adjust your calories to reflect your goals, you need to know how many calories your body actually burns off in a day.
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How TDEE is Calculated
The first thing that is needed to calculator your TDEE is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is essentially an estimate of how many calories your body would need if you were to just lay in bed all day.
Our brains, hearts, lungs, etc., all need energy to function. BMR is an estimate of how many calories it actually takes to keep your vital organs up and running. It does not take into account the extra energy that is expended through physical activity.
Every time you move it costs your body energy, no matter how long or short the movement is. The more physically active you are throughout the day, the more energy your body has to expend on top of what it already needs to keep your organs working. This is why you must also take into account your <b>activity level</b> to more accurately assess your daily caloric needs.
There are a number of formulas for calculating TDEE; one of the most popular is the Katch-McArdle Equation. This formula divides activity level into 5 different categories, assigning a different multiplier to each. The multiplier increases as activity level goes up — the higher the multiplier, the more calories per day.
Here’s what the equation looks like:
Little to no exercise (sedentary): BMR x 1.2
Lightly exercise (1-2 days a week): BMR x 1.375
Moderate exercise (3-5 days a week): BMR x 1.55
Heavy exercise (6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
Extremely active (Competitive athlete): BMR x 1.9
What Factors Affect Your TDEE?
Weight, Height, Age, and Sex
Your weight, height, age, and sex are also taken into account in your TDEE calculation. The more body mass you have, the more calories you need per day.
In general, age and caloric intake have an inverse relationship when all other variables are held constant. When it comes to sex, males require more calories on average than females of the same height, weight, and age.
Daily Activity Level
As you can see above, your activity level is determined by how many times per week you exercise. Exercise broadly includes anything from weightlifting and endurance training to competitive sports.
Athletes who train multiple times per day will need significantly more calories than a person who weight trains a couple of times per week.
When it comes to considering your activity level, you should also take into account your profession. Labor-intensive jobs that include heavy lifting also up your activity level.
Even if you don’t work out, you will need more calories per day to maintain your weight if you are someone like a construction worker versus someone with a desk job.
How to Use TDEE For Weight Loss
One of the most popular uses for a TDEE calculator is weight loss. When most us say we want to lose weight of course what we really mean is that we want to shed fat, not muscle. Research shows, however, that when we lose weight rapidly, we tend to lose comparable amounts of both fat and muscle.
As we mentioned earlier, the only way you can lose weight is by taking in fewer calories than your body burns off throughout the day. This is why a calorie-restricted diet is the cornerstone of any weight loss program.
But in order to target fat and preserve muscle mass during weight loss, your caloric intake should only be moderately restricted. Somewhere between a 10 to 35% restriction to your TDEE seems to be the ideal range to maximize your muscle-building potential while losing fat.
This is where knowing your TDEE becomes so important. In order to make sure you are only moderately restricting your calories, you need to know how many calories you are actually burning off every day. Our weight loss calculator applies a 25% restriction on your TDEE to give you an estimate of how many calories you need to eat to lose weight gradually.
It is important to point out that our calculator, and any TDEE calculator for that matter, is only giving you an estimate of your caloric needs. You may need to tweak the estimate a little bit to dial in your own specific TDEE. An easy way to do this is by monitoring your weight change.
It may be tempting to lose weight rapidly, but in order to preserve muscle mass, shoot for somewhere in the range of a pound or two a week. Once you start seeing this, it is a good sign you’re on the right track.
How to Use TDEE to Build Muscle and Gain Weight
Knowing your TDEE is also crucial for packing on muscle mass. In order to build size and strength, you need to be taking in more calories than your body burns off throughout the day. Once you know your TDEE, you can add in the extra calories you need to make gains into your diet.
A commonly recommended calorie surplus is 500 calories, meaning you are taking in 500 more calories than your body burns off per day. Our bulking calculator adds on 500 extra calories to your TDEE score to give you an estimate of how many calories you should be eating per day to build muscle.
When we are talking about bulking, it is important to point out that training experience can greatly affect your ability to build muscle. Someone with no prior weightlifting experience may be able to pack on significant amounts of muscle mass in a relatively short time frame, while someone who has been lifting for 20 years may only be able to put on a couple of pounds over the course of the year.
Again, the score our calculator gives you is an estimate. You may have to make slight alterations to your score to reflect your own personal needs. Building muscle takes time, and as such, we want to see gradual gains in weight.
If you are someone with no training experience, you may be unimpressed by the prospect of gaining only two pounds a month but if you look more long term, that’s a potential 24 pounds over the course of a year.
You can easily dial in your calorie intake during a bulk by monitoring your weight change. If you are seeing weight gains greater than 2 pounds a month, you may need to consider slightly reducing your caloric surplus.
On the flip side, if you’ve been consistently lifting but haven’t put on any weight over the course of a month, you may need to throw some extra calories into your daily diet.
How to Use TDEE to Build Muscle and Gain Weight
If you have reached your goal, whether it was to slim down or bulk up, knowing your TDEE is still important! While it would be nice if you could just sit back and relax now that you are looking fit and feeling healthy, keeping your diet consistent and on point is especially important if you want to maintain your current body weight.
As we discussed earlier, in order to maintain your body weight, the calories you take in need to be balanced with the calories you expend. Too little calories and you risk losing the muscle you built; too many and you risk increasing your body fat.
Knowing your TDEE, therefore, will give you a clearer understanding of how many calories you need to eat every day to keep looking and feeling you’re best. As with gaining and losing weight, you may need to slightly adjust the TDEE estimates our calculator gives you until you find the number that works best for you.