Ok, ok, ok… I know I have been promising this post for a few weeks now but you are finally getting it! YAY!

This is the method I use to figure out how many calories I need to eat daily. This method works if you are eating to maintain or lose weight (or I guess bulking too). There are many, many, many calculators out there. I prefer the fat 2 fit radio calculator. I prefer this method because you eat the same amount every day. You don’t have to eat back exercise calories like some methods.

Please note, all links are set to open in a new window.

Please note, these are all just estimates. If you aren’t doing what you need (maintaining, losing etc) then you may need to adjust up or down. If you are trying to lose weight be sure to weigh everything possible. If you don’t have a kitchen scale I highly recommend one. I got mine at Target for about $20.

There are several calculators on this site. I will try to explain, as simply as I can, what I do. I have found this to be the best method and website for me. I will use my real numbers and screen shots as a guide for you. You will need a tape measure and scale to get the most accurate numbers.

You will first need to get an estimate of your body fat. I recommend using the Body Fat, Military and Covert Bailey and taking the average.

body fat 1 body fat 2

military body fat 1military body fat 2


covert bailey body fat 1 covert bailey body fat 2

After you have a body fat idea (note: it is an estimate and not entirely correct) you can complete the BMR/TDEE calculation.

bmr 1 bmr 2bmr 3

I do things a little bit different. Instead of putting in my goal weight I re-enter my current weight. I now know how many calories I need to maintain. But what if you want to lose weight? Have no fear, I have a solution for that. You eat 10, 15 or 20% less than your given calorie goal. The percent you choose depends on a few factors. The main one is how much weight do you need to lose? If you are overweight/obese you can most likely go with 20%. If you are 5-10 pounds away from a healthy weight range, go with 15%. If you are already in a healthy range but want to drop lower in the healthy range, use 10%. I currently use 10% because I am in the healthy range for my height but wish to lose about 10-15 more pounds.

Now, how do you determine your activity level? I think of it as hours per week instead of days. It makes it a little easier. If you exercise 1-3 hours a week use the lightly active; if you are around 6 hours use very active. If you feel you are somewhere in between levels, pick a calorie goal between them!

Disclaimer: In the first week or two you may not see results. If you change habits sometimes your body freaks out and holds onto weight because it doesn’t know what is going on. Please give this about 4 weeks and if it doesn’t work then play with your numbers. If you are losing too much, add back 100 calories each week until you lose at the weight you want. If you aren’t losing (or gaining) then cut 100 calories each week. These are all estimates and all results may very.

Disclaimer #2: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer or anything that qualifies me to give advice. This is what I have found, through much research over the years, that has worked for me. Please consult your doctor before trying this. I am not liable for anything that happens if you use this method. I am not the first to use this method. I am not the people who came up with this method.


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.


Russ Turley (@russturley) · April 9, 2014 at 2:54 pm

I’m wondering why you don’t put in your goal weight and use that number for calories? The calculator will recommend a calorie deficit that varies based on the amount of weight you need to lose. It does EXACTLY what your post recommends. The calculator tops out at 20% before giving you a warning that you shouldn’t drop your calories too low.

    J · April 9, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    1) It allows me to know what my maintenance number is. I often eat at maintenance so my body doesn’t get used to the deficit.

    2) 20% is too low for me and anyone else within 10-15 pounds of their goal. I am already a healthy weight so 10-15% is mire ideal for me.

    3) I like to eat and want to eat as many calories per day that I can.

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