T Nation

Calorie Needs?


Hi everyone,

How many calories should I be aiming at as a daily average?

I'm not 189lbs (6ft) @ 13.5% BF.

Goal: to be around 9/10%BF and no less than 185lbs - ideally I would like to stay the same weight or more

Current training: 4 days per week - 2 upper body sessions and two lower body sessions - focus on compounds

Current diet: Following leangains. Eating about 2750 calories a day (counting accurately), with 300 grams protein. Cycling carbs, higher carbs on training days, and higher fat on non-training. Protein stays the same.

I'm seeing great fat reduction and maintaining muscle, with improving strength. So all is good there. But I still wonder what is the most accurate method of calculating ones calorie needs? I'm just worried that I might be under eating? Previously I ate around 3200 calories and that felt like a maintenance level. Thus, the choice to drop down.

So, my question, what method do you guys use for calorie need calculations?
And does anyone know what Martin's leangains calorie recommendations are?

I know i've probably got my calorie level very close to where it should be, but I am a perfectionist, so I would love to get some more insight on this. haha



I wouldl eat around 3200 or so on training days then drop to 2500-2700 on off days you will still be in the negative for the week but this will give your body more nutrients on your workout days. This should allow a slow recomp type effect that will allow you to hover close to the same BW but losing some fat and gaining some muscle. You could also go a bit higher with cals on workout days and drop cals a bit more on off days. What every works best for you. Personally i like a couple days with more cals rather than going straight reduction.


I am going to preface this by saying this is all based on personal experience and not on any published research papers.

Counting calories is a complete waste of time and energy. The published # of calories for each food has such a wide tolerance zone you don't know from day day day how many you actually consume. Even if you did know, your body will metabolize those calories different every day. What you think might be a 3000 calorie day could actually be anywhere between 2400 and 3600

If you are a weight trainer, the two main feedback devices are your weight and your strength. If you are cutting you should weigh yourself every day to monitor that you are losing at an expected rate. The loss will not be linear, but should show a down trend. Factors like carbohydrate consumption and DOMs will cause you to retain more water therefore increasing body weight.

Use your 2750 calorie diet as a baseline and if:

  1. Weight goes down, strength stays the same or increases - maintain current meals and portions
  2. Weight goes down, strength decreases - Add a meal or increase portion size

Also monitor your desire to train. If you normally look forward to training or feel a lack of intensity that may also be an indicator of lack of food

Also look into adding a cheat meal or cheat day each week to reboost your metabolism. There is plenty of info about this on this site.


Thanks for the advice.. I think I will incorporate that style of cycling my weekly calories (higher on training days, lower on rest days). And the slow recomp effect is exactly what I'm after.. So I will also bump up my average calories. But I will monitor my bodies response.



Also good advice. I agree that calorie calculations are not always accurate. For me, I eat a lot of the same food. My protein staples are lean chicken, lean beef, eggs and tuna. And carbs are oatmeal (complex carbs), fruit and veggies; other fats - almonds etc. So I calculate my calorie intake 'accurately', and even if it is off - it still gives a basic basis on which to make adjustments - because I'm eating the same foods. Hope that makes sense. haha

I think I will look to increase calories up to the 3000 mark through additional carbs on workout days; and then have lower calories on off days, with low carbs and moderate fat. So I will cycle carbs and calories.

Anyway, loving the leangains approach to nutrition, and hopefully I will get the calorie intake fine-tuned over the next few months