How to Determine Your Calorie Needs

July 9, 2012

in Blog, News, Facts, Fitness

Happy Monday! Hope you all enjoyed your weekend.  How’s your summer been going so far in terms of your diet/exercise plans?  Are you happy with how things are going, or are you wanting to clean things up but not sure where to start?

A Note On Calories

When it comes to calorie counting, I know it can be a real pain in the butt.  Its inconvenient.  But, lets be honest, the only true way you can control the outcome of your goals is to be more conscious of what’s going into your body and what nutrition is in the food you’re eating.

Not only do calories matter, but the QUALITY & QUANTITY of food you’re putting in your body has a huge impact as well.  If you’re eating all your calories in processed carbs and fruits, you will not have the same body composition if you ate your calories in lean protein and vegetables. Trust me, I know this first hand.

Grams vs. Calories

Once you’re in the groove of knowing what your regular food and meals are calorie-wise and nutrition-wise in terms of grams of protein, you don’t need to be as stringent with counting calories.  For myself, I eventually started being more conscious of how many grams of protein & carbs I was taking in per meal, versus actual calories.

For example, I found an effective strategy for me was to take in 30 grams of protein per meal, 30 grams of carbs for 4-5 meals & approx 7-10 grams of fat.  I’d eat 5-6 meals and I wouldn’t include low-starch vegetables like greens in my carb count. Just starchy carbs like oatmeal etc. So it made it easy to keep track.

As long as you’re choosing the right foods (see my Healthy Food Grocery Shopping List and eat off that in addition to my Recipes), you should be well on your way to reaching your goals (along with an exercise program of course).

How To Calculate What You Need

There are so many online calculators out there, but I’ve always gone back to the same one.  This calculator from is great.  But you’ll need to know a few things before you determine your needs. Keep in mind, its still somewhat a guess at best since everyone’s metabolism is different.

– Once you enter all your height/weight/activity information and get your daily calorie goal, GO TO THIS PAGE to break it down into protein, carbs, fats per meal.  A good place to start ratio wise is 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat. Its a great and balanced place to start and you should feel satisfied.  You can always tweak it later.

– Choose how many meals you’ll eat per day.  I’d recommend at least 4 meals per day.

Never use the “extreme fat loss” number to base your calorie/macronutrient ratio on.  You’ll put your body into starvation mode and you’ll be very likely to binge eat…not what you want!

– If on your new eating plan you’re ever feeling starved, add more food. You may not be getting enough.  Usually some more vegetables will do the trick as they can be filling.  Also, add more water.  You may even be thirsty, not hungry.

** Any questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them.

QUESTION: Have you ever used a calculator like this before? Were you surprised with the numbers that came up?

p.s.  Don’t forget to enter the Zevia soda giveaway, it ends tomorrow (July 10, 2012)


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I'm Kristine Fretwell, busy mom of 2 little girls, author, blogger, and former pro fitness competitor. I love almost any kind of cookie, anything coconut or pumpkin flavored, and Thai food. A perfect day for me is enjoying my family, getting to the gym, and whipping up a new healthy recipe. I've got a collection of over 300 healthy recipes, and other tidbits like fitness and health tips. My recipes have been featured on websites such as Huffington Post, Savvy Mom, Shape and Skinny Scoop.
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Latest posts by Kristine (see all)

  • Carissa

    I always have issue with the “exercise” portion.  So if I have a desk job, but do exercise 6 days a week…is that still considered “sedentary”?  Some say yes, some say no.  It doesn’t seem it is really an EXACT science, even though some will claim it is.  

  • Anna @ The Guiltless Life

    This is great – I haven’t used these calculators before but I just did it and it revealed very much the conclusions my naturopath and I have come to after months of tweaking. I’d say my carb/protein/fat ratio is more like the Zone (coincidence, not intentional, as I don’t follow the Zone diet or even really know what it is beyond the breakdown!) at 40/30/30 but I might try your tip of upping protein to 40% and keeping carbs and fat down to 30/30.

    I can’t tell you how much better and satiated I feel eating 100g of protein a day (roughly what I’m taking in on 1600 cals a day right now). My nails are stronger, I’m always comfortably full, never bloated or sluggish. Having said that, it’s easy to do because I’m at home a lot or work close to home and can make my protein shakes. No idea how I will up my protein if I’m travelling etc, as that’s when carbs tend to go higher (being a vegetarian, eating out for protein is tough!). I’ll do my best though!

  • Jeannevanderveen8

    This was such a great post! I have seen this calculator recommended on the oxygen site. I checked my cals again and it suggests 1700for me to maintain. I can do the cals no problem but it’s always the macros that I find difficult. I know you suggested focusing in grams of protein, carbs, fat but any other easy tips. Can you show us a day of your eating just to get an idea of the 40/30/30 macros. I know some blogs do wiaw (what I ate Wednesday) posts and I would love to see a day of your eats. 🙂 I try and use my fitness pals and am good with cals but always off on my macros and can’t seem to figure it out.

  • Kim

    Such perfect timing for this post for me!

    Ok here’s my situation. I used this calculator recently (found it in one of your old posts) and it tells me to 1415 for fat loss or 1769 to maintain (127 lbs, 5’1″, workout 5 days a week). My question is, is that 1415 total calories or net calories after subtracting calories burned? I feel like if I have a heavy workout and burn 600 calories that 1415 won’t be enough to sustain me. I’ve been aiming for around 1400 net but the scale isn’t really moving. Which I’m not overly concerned about because I am noticing changed in my body otherwise. Only I KNOW the scale can go lower because I’ve got a bit of a belly that won’t go away and I was down to 118lbs a few years ago and maintained it. Seems like after gaining back 15lbs being busy and not working out/watching what I eat that nothing I did before is working now.

    • Kristine Fretwell

      It would be 1400 cals total. Not net calories. Do you know for a fact that you’re burning 600 calories in a workout? Do you wear some sort of monitor? If not, you may be over guessing calories burned. Also, if you pay attention to your ratios and get more protein and less carbs, that should make a difference too. Kristine Fretwell, Busy But Healthy,

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