T Nation

Right Amount of Calories for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain


I have spent a great deal of time reading from this site and several others. I have found about 5 different ways to calculate the amount of calories for me to take in and I want to reach a conclusion.

First, I am 27 6'4 and currently weight 346lbs. I started eating clean, lifting 4x per week and doing cardio about 1 month ago. During that stretch I have lost only 2-3 lbs but have lost about 2 inches on my waist, thighs, chest (Fat) and increased my lifts and gained some muscle. I must add, during that stretch I was eating 2900 to 3100 calories per day based off of the Harris Benedict Formula, considering my activity level. That was also using a 33/33/33 split of good carbs, good fats, and protein.

I do understand that my lifting, supplementing protein PWO and taking creatine has increased my muscle so that might offset some of the weight loss. I also understand that what the scale says isnt the bible, but I feel that it should have come down at least 2 lbs per week by now instead of 2-3 total. I only weigh myself every 2 weeks as I have made a lifestyle change. I am in it to win it, but only losing 2-3 lbs per month seems VERY LOW so there must be something that can change.

So, you might ask why do I care so much about altering my total calories if I am making progress.... Because I want to maximize my fat loss. I was told by 2 different trainers and 1 doctor that 2500 or 2600 calories a day is a perfect number for me. However that would fall about 1500 below what the Harris Benedict formula says (And almost every other calculator)

Input is appreciated here. I am looking to get some good feedback in hopes of maximizing my efforts and not eating to much or to little.


IME, when losing a bunch of fat, it's really important to have a plan that allows for SEVERAL incremental strategies to continue to drop fat, as well as multiple measures of progress.

I actually think that 3000 kcal is a great number to start at, and dividing it evenly between low-GI carbs, protein, and healthy fats is a great thing to do. You can stay at 3k until progress slows down, then drop to 2500 until progress slows down again, then drop to 2k when progress drops again, and then pray that you get hit by a bus because you're hungry and pissed all the time until you've pretty much burnt out your thyroid and it's time to go back up in kcals to reset your metabolism. Dropping to 2500 too soon would get you faster results, but your results currently are really good. Here's why;

I would pay MUCH more attention to your waist than your scale. IME, within a range of about a 36"-44" waist, each inch of circumference lost about the belly-button corresponds to about 4lbs of fat. This is just my experience, but I'm not the only guy to come up with numbers like that. The fatter you are, the more lbs/circumferencial-inch there'll be (It's geometry- you do it). In this month you've probably lost at or around 10 lbs of fat, not 2 or 3. That's pretty big.

All internet calculators that tell you an exact number of kcal to eat are wrong. Whats right is an arbitrary number you decide (you can agree with the calculators if you like) that you try and it works. If it doesn't work, you lower the kcals, see if that works. If it doesn't, you lower kcals again. If it doesn't, you RAISE kcals out of frustration, just to see if a miracle happens. Sometimes it does. Not usually. But I digress.

One other thing tha I found invaluable as far as organizing a cut was planned progressions. So that I know every four weeks (Usually about the time it takes my metabolism to fully adapt to something new) I do something different, whether it's increase my cardio, change the TYPE of cardio I do (switch to bike from running, switch to complexes from biking), decrease my kcals, or increase my supps (usually caffeine and/or thermogenic compound. I'll admit to being a Biotest whore- HOT-ROX is a good product).

Also, I plan for a cut-off date. It's more fun being at maintenance than cutting, and the most fun is bulking. So I'll plan the length of a cut, knowing there'll be an end, after which point I'll reset my metabolism by slowly increasing the amount of food I eat until I'm back at maintenance and feel good again. For me, that cut-off date is after about 8-12 weeks. For you, it'll probably be closer to 16-20 (the good news is you're four weeks in !), and then you'll only really want to take a break for about 4 weeks before getting back in the business of battering the fat outta your body. The point is to have an escape plan, because it'll keep you focus and motivated.

Hope this helps. Good luck. Keep posting questions in this thread.


That makes more sense than anything I have read to this point. I did my every other week weigh in this AM and I am down to 344.4 (from 348 2 weeks ago) and 7.5 overall after 1 month. That is with taking in around 2700 to 3000 calories. I am seeing gains in all of my lifts and all of my clothes are fitting way better. Even went down a notch on the belt this week.

The ultimate comment came from my wife who causally rubbed my arm last night and did a double take.... for what its worth I guess. I have gained about 1.5 inches in my biceps and my man boobs are flattening out very quickly. My thighs shrunk another inch this week and my waist measurements stayed the same.

I am also incorporating more leg lifts/exercises (body weight squats, lunges, leg press, ect) into the routine. That keeps my heart rate flowing as my shins haven't responded well to jogging yet.

I also went to the grocery store yesterday and stocked up:
Cottage Cheese
Green Beans
Pinto Beans
Chix Breast
93% Lean beef
and Almonds

Thanks for the feedback, any other success tips/ideas are greatly appreciated.


Overall you have a lot of weight to lose but I wouldn't try to lose to quickly or you will risk crashing your metabolism. given that you are gaining muscle, 2-3 pounds a week is not VERY LOW and is actually a very sustainable pace. Body transformations are marathons, not sprints. Imagine how awesome you will be a year from now if you actually kept losing at that rate?

Overall, your approach looks good.

Some tips:

1 - Do a carb cutoff about 4-6 hours before bed to help facilitate weight loss. Veggies are fine, and if you work out in the evening, a post workout shake with carbs is okay, but no starchy cabs like pasta, rice, bread, or potatoes.

2- There are some disagreements on this, but some easy early morning cardio on an empty stomach seems to help me with controlling bodyfat(I am actually trying to gain weight). Just do 30 mins of walking right when you wake up or bike, whatever works.

3 - Get some healthy cookbooks or look up recipes online. Many people hate healthy food because they don't how to cook it properly. You need to ramp up your skills here to make this a permanent change.

4 - I second the idea of progressions above, but see how far your current strategy takes you before worrying about that.


Instead of just using more leg-lifts and stuff, Complexes offer a great way for big dudes to do cardio without actually running and stuff. Check them out:
(CAUTION: the article points out it is not intended for beginners/out-of-condition folk. Therefore, a good idea would be to follow the set/rep/rest scheme with a manageable weight. An empty bar if you need to. That way your body gets the benefit of long work periods and short rest periods, without dying).

Also, sleep a lot and use Flameout.

I don't know, so I'm not gonna postulate why, but for some reason, on those few saturday mornings where I clock in ten hours of sleep, I usually wake up noticably thinner (If I'm cutting). I personally think it has to do with the accumulated energy deficit only manifesting itself after periods of lengthy rest, that sleeping great only allows the body to display progress, not necessarily make it, but I can't argue that it does something profound. I shoot for 8 hours during the week, and don't bother setting the alarm clock on Saturdays.

Flameout is the fish-oil product Biotest sells. I know it might not look that way, but it's the cheapest-per-gram-of-DHA I've seen on the market yet. Fish oil has a host of general benefits, from increasing immune and brain function to reducing the length of time of a cold, but it also really really helps out with your body's willingness to use fat as a fuel source. This is one of the few supps I use regularly, and I highly recommend it.


I think that sounds great (2 lb per week) but it was about 2 lb for the first 3 weeks or so that had me worried. seems to be good to go now.

Also, ALL of my workouts come in the AM because I travel for work during the day. At night, if i do anything its a quick walk.

Also, I have cut out carbs as you suggest, about 2 days ago and it has been helping.


Those links are a great resource. I was able to run/jog/walk fine the first 2 weeks, then my shins began to explode and limited me to about 10 minutes of cardio. I started using the elliptical, but I haven't found a good stride length yet at my height.

The Flameout product sounds intriguing. I have yet to mention but I take the following:
3,000 mg of CLA
1200 mg of EPA
600 mg of DHA
Fruits and Veg supplement (from whole food extracts) containing:
Ellagic Acid

Double XX multi vitamin
Glucosamine for the knees (blew one out, had issues with other)

I am going to stick to my current suppliments for now, but I do research each one you suggest. I just dont want to take 25 pills a day


Ok, it looks like you are doing everything you can and should for now. Save the more advanced workout, diet, and supplementation ideas for later. You do not need to take anything like HOT-ROX for quite some time if at all depending on your goals.


Thanks. I have spent about 2 hours a day for the last month reading and reading. I will keep you posted.