T Nation

Counting Calories

I’ve been lifting seriously for about 3 years with a couple of brief interruptions. I have a clean diet, but I have never counted calories or calculated my macros. I just eat when I am hungry and try to get a balance of protein, fat, and carbs. I developed some mid section baggage years ago and I have not been able to lose it. I’m hoping that getting my nutrition lined out will solve the problem.

I’m a tad over 5’10" at 195 pounds and would like to stay at that weight. Weight is really not an issue, but I don’t want to get much lighter. Based on an internet calculator, I need about 2,500 calories per day to maintain that weight working out 5 days a week. I lift only 3, but I threw in a couple of days for active rest type stuff.

So, if I continue lifting and adhere to the prescribed amount of calories, I should be able to maintain my current weight. Will this alone take care of my mid section? I guess what I’m asking is, if I am eating to maintain, can I simultaneously lose the fat and gain the same amount of weight in muscle?

Or do I need to have a caloric deficit? Anyway, this is probably common knowledge to many here but I need help understanding it.

Also, it seems to me that using a generic online calculator is a very rough estimate since it doesn’t account for different types of workouts. Thoughts?

the short answer is that yes, you do need to be in a calorific deficit.

The long answer is that you may be able to manipulate macros, nutrient timing, etc. in order to do what would be referred to as a “re-comp,” in which you would maintain the same bodyweight (or thereabouts) but improve body composition.

What you might find is that if you clean up your diet (no matter how clean you believe it to be now, it can always be cleaner) and add a day or two of sprint work then that’ll get you to where you want to go.

I would personally just do a really aggressive cut for a month, then go back to eating normally (albeit cleaner than you are now).

And you’re right, calorie calculators are utter garbage as two people’s metabolisms can be different, thus requiring different caloric values; and different people have different digestive efficiencies so you really have no way of knowing how much of the calories you are eating are being used anyway!

Thanks for the reply. So, how do serious calorie counters calculate needed intake? Is it just a matter of tracking calories and weight gained/loss over a period of time, and then adjusting?

What’s more important - losing the baggage or keeping your weight the same? If you’re trying to keep weight up for a sport or something then I can see that, but if losing your gut is priority then what’s the problem with dropping some pounds?

[quote]smcd wrote:
Thanks for the reply. So, how do serious calorie counters calculate needed intake? Is it just a matter of tracking calories and weight gained/loss over a period of time, and then adjusting?[/quote]

if you must track something, track grams of macros. I personally like the precision nutrition school of thought where you just think in terms of servings. Makes life much easier.

[quote]uv_deth wrote:
What’s more important - losing the baggage or keeping your weight the same? If you’re trying to keep weight up for a sport or something then I can see that, but if losing your gut is priority then what’s the problem with dropping some pounds?[/quote]

that’s a very good question

[quote]uv_deth wrote:
What’s more important - losing the baggage or keeping your weight the same? If you’re trying to keep weight up for a sport or something then I can see that, but if losing your gut is priority then what’s the problem with dropping some pounds?[/quote]

Good point. I guess I should have worded it differently. My priority is losing the baggage. If I must lose weight to do it, then fine. However, I would like to even out at about 195 pounds. I just think it is a good weight for my height with a good amount of muscle mass. I just don’t want to lose any muscle in the process. If I can’t do both at the same time, then that’s fine. I just want the spare tire gone.

[quote]smcd wrote:

[quote]uv_deth wrote:
What’s more important - losing the baggage or keeping your weight the same? If you’re trying to keep weight up for a sport or something then I can see that, but if losing your gut is priority then what’s the problem with dropping some pounds?[/quote]

Good point. I guess I should have worded it differently. My priority is losing the baggage. If I must lose weight to do it, then fine. However, I would like to even out at about 195 pounds. I just think it is a good weight for my height with a good amount of muscle mass. I just don’t want to lose any muscle in the process. If I can’t do both at the same time, then that’s fine. I just want the spare tire gone.[/quote]

I wouldn’t worry about that too much. While you want to avoid losing a ton of weight quickly (which invariably would include a decent amount of muscle), doing a slow, intelligent cut (1 - 2 lbs of flab/week) and holding onto your muscle will make you look bigger. And counting calories isn’t that hard once you get going on it. You should make an attempt to do so (in my opinion).

I am curious what calculator you used. You weigh more than me and those things always give me something in the 3,500 range for maintenance with moderate activity levels.

Yogi gave you some good advice regarding sprints/HIIT.

I’d be curious in you tracking macros for a typical week, and seeing what your breakdown is. POssibly just shifting some ratios around might give you a bit more of what you’re after in terms of body composition.

S

I would go on an agressive cut until you reach your target level of leanness.

2500 calories is a good starting point.

Unless you are off-the-charts hardcore with your discipline and ability to execute a fat-loss diet, you probably don’t need to worry about losing too quickly or losing muscle. I’d focus more on just torching that fat and leaning out.

The only caution I would have is that you may not have as much muscle as you think, so you might trick yourself into believing you are losing muscle and ditch your efforts to lose the fat when you start leaning out. Hard to say without seeing pics and depends on just how much baggage you are carrying.

“Recomping” your way to this goal requires just as much dietary discipline, if not more, and takes much longer.

Good luck!

[quote]Tyler23 wrote:

[quote]smcd wrote:

[quote]uv_deth wrote:
What’s more important - losing the baggage or keeping your weight the same? If you’re trying to keep weight up for a sport or something then I can see that, but if losing your gut is priority then what’s the problem with dropping some pounds?[/quote]

Good point. I guess I should have worded it differently. My priority is losing the baggage. If I must lose weight to do it, then fine. However, I would like to even out at about 195 pounds. I just think it is a good weight for my height with a good amount of muscle mass. I just don’t want to lose any muscle in the process. If I can’t do both at the same time, then that’s fine. I just want the spare tire gone.[/quote]

I wouldn’t worry about that too much. While you want to avoid losing a ton of weight quickly (which invariably would include a decent amount of muscle), doing a slow, intelligent cut (1 - 2 lbs of flab/week) and holding onto your muscle will make you look bigger. And counting calories isn’t that hard once you get going on it. You should make an attempt to do so (in my opinion).

I am curious what calculator you used. You weigh more than me and those things always give me something in the 3,500 range for maintenance with moderate activity levels.

Yogi gave you some good advice regarding sprints/HIIT.[/quote]

The calculator is here http://iifym.com/iifym-calculator/

I put together a base menu to get to 2,500 calories and got my macros to 206 P, 70 F, and 160 C, or 47%, 16%, 37%.

I’m fine with hill sprints, I’ve used them in the past. I just need to tie it all together and get my caloric intake where it needs to be while doing everything else.

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:
I’d be curious in you tracking macros for a typical week, and seeing what your breakdown is. POssibly just shifting some ratios around might give you a bit more of what you’re after in terms of body composition.

S[/quote]
Stu, see my reply to Tyler about macros.

[quote]Serge A. Storms wrote:
I would go on an agressive cut until you reach your target level of leanness.

2500 calories is a good starting point.

Unless you are off-the-charts hardcore with your discipline and ability to execute a fat-loss diet, you probably don’t need to worry about losing too quickly or losing muscle. I’d focus more on just torching that fat and leaning out.

The only caution I would have is that you may not have as much muscle as you think, so you might trick yourself into believing you are losing muscle and ditch your efforts to lose the fat when you start leaning out. Hard to say without seeing pics and depends on just how much baggage you are carrying.

“Recomping” your way to this goal requires just as much dietary discipline, if not more, and takes much longer.

Good luck!
[/quote]
Trust me, I don’t think I have a lot of muscle. That made me laugh, but I see what you are saying. The sad part is, I’m really lean everywhere, except around my middle - that’s where I store my excess. I’m probably overthinking the whole thing, but it just goes back to my original question about calories and macros. No matter how hard one trains, it all comes back to nutrition. I’m good with the strength training and HIIT, I just can’t find the right food intake to eliminate the problem.

[quote]Serge A. Storms wrote:
I would go on an agressive cut until you reach your target level of leanness.

2500 calories is a good starting point.

Unless you are off-the-charts hardcore with your discipline and ability to execute a fat-loss diet, you probably don’t need to worry about losing too quickly or losing muscle. I’d focus more on just torching that fat and leaning out.

The only caution I would have is that you may not have as much muscle as you think, so you might trick yourself into believing you are losing muscle and ditch your efforts to lose the fat when you start leaning out. Hard to say without seeing pics and depends on just how much baggage you are carrying.

“Recomping” your way to this goal requires just as much dietary discipline, if not more, and takes much longer.

Good luck!
[/quote]

my thoughts exactly

cut till u get that fat off to about 8-12 bf% atleast. if possible check on a body recomposition machine. if u feel 2500 is ur maintianence, go for 2K and let the fat go at the rate of 4 lbs a month.

Go slowly would ensure u dont loose much muscle.

Keep ur protein intake high as well as bcaas.

[quote]TNation_Addict wrote:
cut till u get that fat off to about 8-12 bf% atleast. if possible check on a body recomposition machine. if u feel 2500 is ur maintianence, go for 2K and let the fat go at the rate of 4 lbs a month.

Go slowly would ensure u dont loose much muscle.

Keep ur protein intake high as well as bcaas. [/quote]

If I cut calories, but must maintain minimum protein levels, is the reduction of calories from carbs or fats, or both? I need a little help understanding this. My current diet is three solid meals a day with two to three shakes mixed in. I’ll have no problem cutting calories, but I just started putting on a little muscle and don’t want to go backwards by not getting the right macros.
Thanks for the help

You’ll have to figure out what works best for you. Personally, I cut carbs (I love natty PB) as I feel I make better progress. You might be one of those people, though, who feel like hell on low carbs. You will need to test it out.

I’m loving all the specific recommendations up in here without:

  1. pics of OP
  2. OP’s current training regimen
  3. OP’s current cardio regimen
  4. OP’s current macro breakdown after he finally tracks for 3 days or so

Just another day in TNation forums I guess.

[quote]jskrabac wrote:
I’m loving all the specific recommendations up in here without:

  1. pics of OP
  2. OP’s current training regimen
  3. OP’s current cardio regimen
  4. OP’s current macro breakdown after he finally tracks for 3 days or so

Just another day in TNation forums I guess. [/quote]

  1. Can get later.

  2. Fifth cycle of 5/3/1 four days a week - 2 on, 1 off, 2 on. Completed 5 cycles a little over a year ago, but abandoned all strength training for endurance sports (adventure racing/mountain biking). Got weak and skinny. Have regained strength and put on some decent muscle since restarting 5/3/1. Spare tire has pretty much always been there - nothing new.

  3. Cardio is a mix: sprints after squats and deadlifts, random metcons on off days. Recently added early morning walk of 3 miles at a good pace.

  4. As posted earlier, using on online calculator, I need about 2,500 calories to maintain 195. A base menu meeting 2,500 calories puts my macros at 206 P, 70 F, and 160 C, or 47%, 16%, 37%.

For the record, I have been on this planet for half a century.

I don’t want to give you too much since I’m not a trainer or competitor as some will have a stink…

But lots of good key nuggets so far, “drop the fat first, worry about your bulk later”. That’s not saying that you should crash diet hard and waste away on LISS. But there’s also to consider how fast you want to drop the fat. The standard 1-2lbs a week is good advice since you can really maintain your training more easily.

Want to go quicker? Then you can look into more aggressive diets - I’m not going to get all fan boy but you may want to google something similar to Rapid Fat Loss Download…it’s by Lyle McDonald. He has a bad rap and also is known for his good info though so you’ll have to do research on that side of, but I suggest you read that book if speed of loss is for you.

He just released an Extreme Rapid Fat Loss version that’s not freely found on the internet like Rapid Fat Loss is (oops). I’m giving it a run…on the last day. But be forewarned, it’s not named “Extreme” for nothing…that’s all I’m going to say about that. It’s 6.99 USD so it’s cheap, and let me tell you…if I told you how much I lost in 4 days you’d laugh and half the tnation world would ridicule how much LBM is lost but it’s only 4 days but I’d recommend a good read of RFL.

If you want something more steady then just try any of the diets out, carb cycling (not my fav), low carb/keto (again, not my fav), but it’s really something for you to try. I no longer come on boards for specific recs based on my stats because I found that your own body is so individual no one can make a remotely good rec unless they’re watching you constantly posting your macros, etc. It works for some, but for me I’m dialing it in on my own and it’s very interesting to learn for yourself. Pick a reasonably good diet and stick with it.

But be ready to either keep training volume/intensity high while losing at a slower, moderate pace. Or drop the weight slightly quicker while dieting harder and dropping training volume and frequency. You CAN train hard, just not as long and as often on more restricted diet.

Good luck sorting through all our insights…