I have written a lot lately about how women who chronically under eat end up in something I call the “Metabolic Shit Hole”. When you chronically under eat you affect your physical and psychological health in numerous ways. There are a host of problems that under eaters deal with. The way to fix almost all of these problems is by following a simple rule: Eat more, not less.
When I tell women to eat more the biggest question I get it “How many calories should I be eating?”
Let’s address that.
Different people require different amounts of calories. The amount of calories you need depends on numerous factors including your sex, height, age weight, and activity level. The easiest way to start to calculate how many calories you need is by figuring out your BMR. If you have access to a DEXA Scan then certainly do that but if you don’t there are some calculators on the internet that can help you. For the purposes of this article I will use my BMR as an example. I have had mine tested in many different ways and the number is always somewhere around 1400 calories. That means the number of calories I need at a bare minimum every day to function is 1400. This doesn’t take into account any activity or exercise. Again, this is the bare minimum in order to get through the day. I want you to take a note that this is not enough calories and you need to eat far more than this number. You are likely an active person, you take walks, do housework, have a job, maybe some children, engage in activities and so forth. For people I train (and myself) I always add an extra 400-500 calories to account for this baseline “lifestyle” activity. That means I am now at 1800-1900 calories.
Have you noticed I haven’t added exercise into the mix yet. This baseline “lifestyle” activity DOES NOT include exercise. If you are on a workout program you need to account for those calories as well. Different workouts (yoga vs weight training vs circuit training) burn different amounts of calories. Do you know how many calories you burn in a workout? Do you know how many calories an hour of yoga burns? Or how many calories an hour of weight lifting burns? It’s probably more than you think. The only way you will know for sure its by wearing a heart rate monitor with a chest strap but I have some general guidelines for you below:
One Hour Yoga = ~200 - 500 calories (depending on difficulty of class)
One Hour Weight Training = ~600 - 800 calories (depending on difficulty)
One Hour Circuit Training = ~750 - 1000+ calories (depending on difficulty)
So now lets add up the calories you need:
BMR = 1400 calories (using me as the example. A 135 pound woman)
Daily Activity = 400 - 500 calories (general “lifestyle” activity)
Workout = 800 calories (weight training session)
Total Amount = 2600 - 2700 calories a day.
That is a good starting point for how many calories you may need but is it exact science? No. There are multiple factors which affect how many calories you need but some people need more than this. I have been eating 3000 plus calories a day and am actually losing weight. When deciding how much a person should eat a lot of people like to air on the side of eating less. They say things like “well maybe I don’t work that hard” or “my metabolism is slow”. Bullshit. Always aim for more calories than less especially when you are trying to fix health issues brought on by under eating. My advice. Take the total above (2600-2700 calories) and add 10% to it. Now that pushes the total close to 3000 calories.
If there is any doubt always eat more food. We have been taught our whole lives to eat less but that is not the answer. If you want to perform and want to be at your best you need to be well fueled.
Enjoy all the food you’ll be eating and all the progress you’ll be making both in the gym and with your health.