“Steve, how many calories should I eat every day? I have goals!”
Knowledge is power, so today, we are going to make you more powerful by calculating your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).
Of course, “knowing is half the battle.” The other half is what you actually DO with your TDEE information!
Fortunately for you, we’ve helped thousands of Online Coaching Clients lose weight and get healthy, and TDEE is just one of many factors we consider when building a specific strategy for somebody’s goals.
Okay FINE, I’ll share the other factors and strategies below too.
Simply click on the section below for quick reading, though I’d recommend you read the whole enchilada to properly apply your TDEE to your life:
THE NERD FITNESS TOTAL DAILY ENERGY EXPENDITURE CALCULATOR
We’re going to start off by doing some math.
Don’t worry, our robot calculator (beep boop boop) will do all the hard stuff for you.
We will need to know your height in inches, your weight in pounds, and an idea on your activity level.
Although you can adjust it, I want you to set your “Activity Level” as “Sedentary,” (I’ll explain why in a minute):
Nerd Fitness Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator
(Note: we have used The Mifflin-St Jeor Equation to create this calculator! )
Hooray! You now know estimates of your BMR and TDEE!
You may be thinking, “Ah, Steve, what do either of these mean?”
I got you boo.
Make sure you write down your two numbers, and then move onto the next section.
If you’re already starting to get overwhelmed, have no fear! We help hundreds of men and women calculate their calorie goals, and we’d love to help you too!
WHAT IS BASAL METABOLIC RATE (BMR)?
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the total amount of calories needed to keep your body functioning.
Breathing, cell production, pumping blood, and keeping your body temperature up all require calories to function.
This means that even when you sit perfectly still, you still use plenty of calories keeping your body in good working order.
“Basal” more or less means “basic,” so you can think of BMR as the number of calories needed for basic daily functions.
Your sex, weight, and height will all affect the number of calories you need, which is why they are variables in our equation above.
The taller you are, or the more you weigh, the higher your BMR will be.
There is simply more of you to fuel: more blood to pump, more cells to produce, more body mass to transport and manage.
Your age will also factor in: the older you get the lower your BMR will be.
Roughly two-thirds of the calories you need each day go into keeping your body running.
The other third?
That goes into powering your motion.
You know, because going from one place to another requires energy. So does lifting stuff.
So let’s talk about Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) next.
WHAT IS TOTAL DAILY ENERGY EXPENDITURE (TDEE)?
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is an estimate of how many total calories you burn in a day.
Since your BMR calculates the calories you need for a state of rest, to get a true total we need to factor in movement and exercise.
To do this, we’ll take your BMR and multiply it by an “Activity Level” factor.
Activity Levels can be thought of as the following:
Sedentary. You regularly have to tell Netflix you are still watching. You don’t intentionally exercise at all.
Sedentary = BMR x 1.2
Lightly Active. You casually stroll through your neighborhood a few times a week. On average, you walk for exercise about 30 minutes a day. Another way to think about this would be 15 minutes per day of vigorous exercise like running or lifting weights.
Light Active = BMR x 1.375
Moderately Active. If we called the gym on a weeknight looking for you, they’d find you. This averages out to about one hour and 45 minutes of walking (for exercise, not going around your house) a day, or 50 minutes of vigorous exercise a day.
Moderately Active = BMR x 1.55
Very Active. You work in construction during the day and you’re on the company softball team. This averages out to about four hours and 15 minutes of walking (again, for intentional exercise) a day, or two hours of vigorous exercise.
Very Active = BMR x 1.725
If you’re following along at home, you may notice that different Activity Levels can make a big difference in the calories burned.
Let’s use some numbers:
Suppose you’re male, 35 years old, weigh 200 pounds, and are six foot even (72 inches).
You’re also wearing a recently ironed collared shirt and it looks great on you. It really brings out your eyes.
Awesome shirt or no awesome shirt, we know your BMR comes in at 1,882 calories given the variables we identified. Meaning you’ll need roughly 1,900 calories for basic bodily functions.
This is where things get interesting.
If you’re Sedentary, we’ll multiply 1,882 (BMR) by 1.2 to get a TDEE of 2,258, which means you’ll need 2,258 calories to maintain your current weight, support bodily functions, and to walk around your house, to go from your car to your office, from your office back home, etc.
Let’s imagine a scenario where you are not Sedentary. Instead, we’ll calculate that you are Lightly Active, meaning you walk around your neighborhood a few times a week.
We take your BMR of 1,882 and multiply it by 1.375 to get a TDEE of 2,588.
The difference between Lightly Active and Sedentary is 230 calories, about what you’d find in a single glazed donut.
As we mention in our “Lose Weight and Build Muscle” article, strength training requires a lot of energy, not only for the exercise itself, but also for rebuilding muscle in the days following the activity.
In general, we consider strength training to be “vigorous exercise,” which we highlighted above.
If it takes 30 mins of walking a day to be “Lightly Active,” 15 minutes of daily strength training would roughly be equivalent.
If estimating your Activity Level and TDEE is starting to freak you out:
Trying to pick and calculate the right amount of calories to consume can be stressful.
Especially if you’ve had trouble losing weight in the past. And that’s just the math part – we haven’t even got to the psychological part about how delicious pizza and ice cream are.
It’s actually the reason we created our uber-popular 1-on-1 Coaching Program. We sought to take all the guesswork out of getting in shape, by creating a program to tell you exactly what to do.
HOW DO I USE BMR AND TDEE FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
If you’ve read this far into the article, I imagine you are interested in learning your Total Daily Energy Expenditure for weight loss.
I also imagine you support my belief that The Shawshank Redemption is the greatest movie ever made:
The TDEE we calculated above will give us a good estimate of calories you require each day – if your scale is staying constant: congrats!
You found your ‘calorie equilibrium.’
This means your body burns just as many calories as you consume each day.
However, I’m going to guess you’re here because your goal is to see the scale go down!
Think of it this way: if your weight is fairly consistent, your body is currently in equilibrium. You burn the same number of calories that you consume every day.
So, in order for you to lose weight, you need to start reducing your total calorie intake, which then forces your body to start burning the stored fat you have for energy.
You’ve already calculated roughly how many calories you burn (your TDEE) on a daily basis, let’s see roughly how many calories you’re consuming each day too!
(If your weight is staying steady, then these numbers should be relatively close – provided your tracking is accurate!)
It’s this nerd’s humble opinion that the easiest way to track calories consumed is with an app.
We live in the future.
Use a smartphone and download one of the following to track your food intake:
My Fitness Pal. The gold standard of calorie counting apps. It’s also the most popular, supporting the largest food database in the game. Plus it can download recipes from the internet and provide an estimate of calories.
FatSecret.Basic, simple, and free, FatSecret is a great calorie tracker. It’ll allow you to connect with other users, plus it’s got a barcode scanner for caloric content from labels. Super nifty.
Lose it!Another free calorie counting app, focusing more on goal setting. Additionally, the Snap It™ feature lets you use pictures for data input. Double nifty.
You certainly don’t have to track your food forever.
But a solid week’s worth of data will help you get a sense of the food you are consuming, especially if you eat roughly the same food each day.
Not sure if you’re getting your portion sizes correct? Most people don’t. Consider a cheap food scale to educate yourself on actual portion sizes! You can also check out our guide How to Portion Control, which will teach you how to use your hand to estimate calories:
The important thing is to compare your daily calories consumed to your TDEE.
In order to lose weight, you need to have your calories consumed less than your TDEE on average.
(If you’re currently thinking, “But Steve according to my stats I burn way more calories than I consume, but I’m not losing weight!” I would read this.)
Some numbers to think about:
3,500 calories equals roughly one pound of fat.
There are seven days in a week.
Basic math suggests if you want to lose one pound of body fat in a week (a sustainable goal for some), you need to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day: either through consuming 500 fewer calories, burning 500 more calories, or a combination of the two.
When you consume fewer calories than you burn consistently, your body will have to start pulling from your stored fat to complete daily functions.
Aka weight loss.
Let’s imagine that your TDEE is 2,500. This means you’d want to consume around 2,000 calories a day to lose around a pound per week.
As we discuss to great detail in “Why Can’t I Lose Weight,” sustained weight loss is largely a result of consistently managing the first half of the equation: “calories in.”
Said another way: it’s much more difficult to sustainably increase your Activity Level than it is to reduce the calories you consume.
After all, what’s more likely to become a lifelong habit? Making a substitution on the food you’re consuming, or suddenly finding the time to vigorously exercise for 90 minutes every single day after being a couch potato?
#3) Compare numbers.Where is your current caloric intake at? How does this compare against your TDEE? If your intake is higher than your TDEE, you’re likely gaining body fat. We want to flip the equation.
#4) Create a consistent caloric deficit.The easiest and most sustainable way to do this is to eat REAL food. Mixing in strength training and fun cardio can help too.
#5) Track progress.Continue to track caloric intake to ensure you expend more calories than you consume.
You can do this. I know you can because many of our readers have done it themselves.
Want help taking your next step after calculating your TDEE? I have MULTIPLE options for you. Pick the path below that best aligns with your goals and timeline:
1) If you want step-by-step guidance on how to lose weight, eat better, and get stronger, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:
2) If you want an exact blueprint for how to eat better and get in shape, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).
Try your free trial right here:
3) Enlist in the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.
Sign up in the box below when you download our free weight loss guide!
Download our free weight loss guide
THE NERD FITNESS DIET: 10 Levels to Change Your Life
Follow our 10-level nutrition system at your own pace
What you need to know about weight loss and healthy eating
3 Simple rules we follow every day to stay on target
You can do this, and we got your back!
PS:Seriously, how great is The Shawshank Redemption? I could quote that movie all day long.