Before this, I want to clarify my position on food and calorie counting. I think calorie counting is a great way to balance the energy expenditure within the body, and in doing so, can provide some great benefits. However, one thing that is more important than the quantity of food we consume is the quality of food.
So please make sure also to read this blog afterwards.
First, it's essential to understand something. It is almost impossible to work out with 100% accuracy what your actual calorie consumption and split of macronutrients are. However, that being said, the good news is:
You don't need to be 100% accurate - you need to be within an optimum range.
Some great tools are available to enable you to do this for free.
For transparency, the tool I will direct you to differs from the calculation I use with my clients. I use another formula, which I have adapted to include my own calculation to determine a particular macro split for each client. However, that being said, I do believe the following to be one of the best out there:
This free tool provides the optimum range of calories and macro split. In addition, it is a pretty intuitive and straightforward tool, so it does not need much explanation other than following the instructions provided.
That being said, the following additional information will also help you get the most accurate reading and the best way to put the knowledge to use.
In the main, and especially if you are also following my recommendation on how often to train, you will use the Light or Moderate exercise option:
Use 'Light' if you are doing the following:
3x weight sessions per week
1-2x cardio sessions per week
<70k steps per week
Use 'Moderate' if you are doing the following:
4x weight sessions per week
2x cardio sessions per week
>70k steps per day
I would use the 'Heavy Exercise' category, as my training week consists of the following:
5x weight sessions per week
2-3x ~1-hour turbo (bike) sessions per week
1x ~3-hour bike ride a week
~70k steps per week
Sedentary desk job
The recommendation that this gives me is 20,439 calories per week for maintenance. As you can read in this blog, I typically consume ~21,000 calories weekly.
This model works best if you can accurately input your body fat%. However, it is almost impossible for anyone to gain a 100% accurate body fat percentage measurement. There is a whole blog on this topic (and if I get around to writing it, I'll link it here).
In the main, if you do have a body fat % measure, it will more than likely have come from one of three sources:
Smart scales (home or gym)
If you have a recent measurement from either #2 or 3 (as long as a qualified professional did #2), use that measurement. Unfortunately, I would not use any measure you get from any smart scales - Again, it's worth noting that I am a fan of smart scales, which can play an essential role in your journey (you can read about them in this blog).
Instead, use the below pictures to gauge, based on a visual representation, what you think your body fat % is.
I would not lose any sleep over which macronutrient split you opt for (Moderate, Lower or Higher). However, I prefer to go for the moderate if you can.
In the main, most people want to lose body fat. So, you would use the cutting option here. This will then give you a good (as accurate as you can be, yourself) quantity of calories per day/ week and the macro split of nutrients.
I would also then recommend the below guidance to help supercharge your results, help with consistency and make sure you are keeping your body, hormones and mental state healthy:
Read this blog on the types of foods to consume
Do not exceed a 25% calorie per day deficit; this is an absolute maximum, not a minimum.
Body fat %
Every 5th week, eat at maintenance (4 weeks deficit, one-week maintenance)
Finally, although I recommend you stick to the daily calories, It is also essential to make weekly adjustments based on life (social events, travel, work, etc.) As an example, if you are on 2,000 calories per day (14,000 per week) and have a nice meal planned out on Saturday, your week could look like this:
There you have it, a free and great way to determine your calorie count and macros split.