The number of calories needed to maintain weight require careful consideration. Here are three different scenarios that might fit your situation (though I’m guessing the second is most likely):
- You’ve always been the same weight, but after a lifestyle change or injury, you’re worried about gaining weight
- After jumping for joy at finally reaching your goal weight and finishing your diet, you want to make sure you maintain you new weight
- You have been trying to work out your maintenance calories so that you can start a weight loss programme. You want to know how many calories you’ll be able to eat and lose weight
How to work out the calories you need to maintain your weight
For all three scenarios you need to calculate what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is. But most importantly you’ll also need to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). And when you do this, you need to use your current weight and your planned activity levels as opposed to your existing ones.
You see, if you weigh less than you did at the beginning of your diet, your BMR will be lower than it used to be. But if you now exercise a lot more (and intend to keep up the exercise), then your TDEE may be higher. Your TDEE includes your BMR, so this is what you’ll want to have for working out the calories needed to maintain weight.
Now, if you fit the second example, and I’m guessing you do, there are some other things you may want to think about.
After a diet, it’s not just a matter of knowing the calories you need to maintain your new weight
As well as knowing the calories needed to maintain weight, you should also consider the following:
If you’ve been eating 1500 calories per day on your weight loss plan. And on your first non diet day, you suddenly eat 2200 calories, the scales will jump. That’s because you will have gained some water weight overnight.
This always happens to me and I now know to plan for it.
Find your happy maintenance calories
There are a couple of methods you can employ to ensure you don’t get demotivated on your very first non-diet day:
- Increase your daily calories by 150 calories for 3-4 days and watch the effect on the scales. Then, add another 150 for 5-6 days and again keep an eye on the scales. Keep note of what happens and if the scales move up one day and down again the next, don’t worry. After ten days note down the weight the scales show. If it’s the same or less than your goal maintenance weight, then you can increase your calories by another 200 per day (towards your estimated TDEE). This time keep it up for a week before checking the scales again. If you keep doing this, you will soon find your “happy calories”
- Lose a couple of pounds more than your goal weight before you start eating your newly calculated maintenance calories. This will give you some headroom for any extra water weight you may gain.
Personally, I prefer the first method unless I’m planning a large calorie intake over Christmas for example. Then I’ll try to lose the weight I plan to gain in advance!
Either way, knowing the calories needed to maintain weight is and important first step. Use our TDEE calculator to find your personal “happy calories”