How many Calories should I eat to reach my weight goal?

There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation, but there are broad, evidence-based guidelines we can follow.

There is no one-size-fits-all Calorie recommendation for folks looking to lose weight (or gain weight, or maintain weight). That’s why MacroFactor personalizes your Calorie and macronutrient goals based on your preferences and lifestyle, and recommends weekly program updates to keep your targets in line with your goals. 

However, there are some broad, evidence-based guidelines for determining how many Calories are needed to gain muscle, lose fat, or maintain weight. 

How many Calories to eat to gain muscle

If you’re aiming to build muscle, you want to achieve an energy surplus, which has been shown to facilitate hypertrophy (after all, building muscle is an energy-intensive process). 

Having said that, you don’t necessarily want to go overboard with our surplus; the more excessive the surplus gets, the more unnecessary fat gain you’re inviting. 

You’ll probably want to estimate your daily caloric intake by multiplying your total daily energy expenditure estimate by 1.05. By doing so, you’ll be eating about 5% over estimated maintenance Calories, which is a pretty good spot for muscle gain. 

How many Calories to eat to lose weight

If you’re aiming to lose fat, you want to achieve an energy deficit. Barring any precipitous and extremely atypical losses of lean mass, an energy deficit will put you in a position where you need to rely on stored fat to meet your body’s energy demands.

For a pretty conservative weight loss phase, you would set your target caloric intake by multiplying your total daily energy expenditure estimate by about 0.8 or 0.9, representing a 10-20% energy deficit. For a more aggressive weight loss phase, you can probably get away with multiplying by 0.6 or 0.7, putting your deficit in the 30-40% range.

How many Calories to eat to maintain weight

If you’re aiming to maintain your current body composition, then things are pretty simple. Aim for an energy intake that keeps you at a pretty stable body weight, and keep doing what you’re doing in terms of physical activity and training. 

If you’re trying to intentionally “recomp” (lose fat while gaining muscle), you’ll need to focus a little more closely on threading the needle. You need to be eating enough to support muscle growth, while providing a robust training stimulus to promote that growth. Simultaneously, you have to keep energy intake low enough that your body needs to tap into stored fat for energy. You could theoretically be losing, gaining, or maintaining weight during a recomp, which all comes down to the relative rates of muscle gain and fat loss.

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