Calculating Your Maintenance Calories, Your Calorie Deficit and Calorie Surplus

by | Dec 27, 2022 | Issue 162, Issues | 0 comments

Are you staring at the fridge and trying to decide what would be the best and healthiest option for a meal? Welcome to the club. People desire a healthy...

Are you staring at the fridge and trying to decide what would be the best and healthiest option for a meal? Welcome to the club. People desire a healthy lifestyle and want to ensure the body’s needs are met, but it’s vital to tailor these needs — this includes managing different nutritional intakes. 

One important thing to monitor is calorie intake with its three facets: maintenance calories, calorie deficits and calorie surplus. Understanding how each affects the body will lead to healthy body weight and a happier, more fulfilling life! 


What are Maintenance Calories?

Maintenance calories are the daily calories required to maintain your body weight with no gains or losses in fat and/or muscle tissue. The human body requires a certain calorie intake for energy to carry out bodily processes and maintain body weight. A varied diet provides the body with the necessary nutrients to carry out these functions, which the body stores in different ways, such as fat or carbohydrates. 

Maintenance calorie intake refers to gaining or not gaining weight at the current calorie intake. Maintaining these calories involves constantly replacing energy with more energy from food, a continuous process throughout life.


How to Determine Maintenance Calories?

Scientists have developed maintenance calorie calculators, which are incredible tools for tracking how many calories a person should eat daily to maintain healthy body weight. Some of these calculators, turned into apps or resources, can be found online. Most of them require inputting basic information such as weight, age and height. 

These calculators are derived from different formulas. Regarding maintenance calories, the main equation starts with BMR (i.e., the Basal Metabolic Rate). Some popular BMR equations include the Harris-Benedict Equation, the Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation and the Katch-McArdle Equation. Scientists use these equations to develop maintenance calculators with the highest accuracy levels. For example, one easy way to calculate maintenance calories is to multiply your body weight by 10.


What Does It Mean to Have a Calorie Deficit?

A calorie deficit occurs when a person consumes few calories, increases physical activity levels or does both. It’s much easier to attain a calorie deficit through diet than exercise due to insufficient time or energy for daily exercise. 

There are several ways to reduce calorie intake. First, limiting the consumption of beverages high in calories, such as alcohol, sodas, fruit juices and coffee, can help create a calorie deficit. These drinks do not provide fullness but lead to weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. 

Second, the sugar, fat and salt found in highly processed foods such as fast food, desserts and breakfast cereals encourage excess consumption. Alternatively, eating a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber such as lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes can prevent overeating and supply the body with the nutrients it needs. 

Third, eating primarily home-cooked meals not only saves money but helps with portion and ingredient control as well. Some studies indicate that people who ate at home six to seven meals a week ended up consuming about 137 fewer calories per day than those who cooked dinner at home at least one time per week.

When it comes to weight loss, dividing the total number of calories consumed over 10 days by the number 10, with the number then subtracted by 500 calories, determines the new daily intake goal necessary for weight loss. Weight loss, by extension, causes maintenance calories to decrease over time, thus requiring a calorie intake adjustment. Doctors recommend that women consume no less than 1,200 calories and men consume no less than 1,500 calories per day.


What is a Calorie Surplus?

Calorie surpluses occur when the number of calories consumed is higher than the number of calories burned. In a caloric surplus, body mass increases as the body is provided with more energy than it needs, with the excess energy being used to build tissue such as muscle. 

In order to create a calorie surplus, it is necessary to correctly calculate the caloric intake, eat healthy foods, especially high quantities of protein and carbohydrates, and time meals according to workout times.

For someone to calculate calorie surplus, it’s essential to know how many calories they typically burn, i.e., the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This is a combination of calories burned through BMR or basal metabolic rate, which can include any exercise like walking, lifting, etc. Once the TDEE has been defined, the next step is calculating the calorie surplus based on fitness goals. A 15 to 25% surplus is recommended to maximize muscle gain.


A Parting Reminder

Calorie maintenance, calorie deficit and calorie surplus are all essential to understand when it comes to managing calorie intake and healthy body weight. A healthy lifestyle is important, but something that tends to be forgotten is the aspect of tailoring food intake according to what the body needs. 

Several resources are available to help calculate any deficits or surpluses in calorie intake and maintenance calories the body needs. Most resources are simple to use and can be found all over the web or in your App Store. To maintain a healthy body, remember to try cutting down on unhealthy foods high in calories and managing your calorie intake. Happy eating!

Adreana Mendez

Adreana Mendez


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