SETTING CALORIE TARGETS:
There are two basic ways to do this: by using the targets provided by MFP after inputting your information or by calculating your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and taking a cut off your TDEE, assuming weight loss is the goal.
for more discussion regarding TDEE and the two different methods, but the components of TDEE are repeated below:
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): The number of calories you burn at complete rest.
EAT (Exercise Associated Thermogenesis): Caloric requirements of training, or training expenditure.
NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis): Caloric requirements of activity that is not planned exercise. Vacuuming, driving, brushing your teeth, for example.
TEF/DIT (Thermic Effect of Feeding or Diet Induced Thermogenesis): Caloric expense of eating/digestion.
TDEE: (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) = Sum of the above. BMR+EAT+NEAT+TEF
Using MFP calculated calorie goal:
MFP will use the statistics that you input, such as age and weight, to estimate your BMR.
There are two main variables that you select when using MFP to determine your calorie goal: activity level (NEAT) and weekly weight loss goal.
The activity levels
per MFP are as follows:
Sedentary: Spend most of the day sitting (e.g. bank teller, desk job)
Lightly Active: Spend a good part of the day on your feet (e.g. teacher, salesman)
Active: Spend a good part of the day doing some physical activity (e.g. waitress, mailman)
Very Active: Spend most of the day doing heavy physical activity (e.g. bike messenger, carpenter)
Many problems arise regarding deficits being created that are larger than desired due to the fact that people often select sedentary as a default. The descriptions in my opinion are too ‘generous’ in that most people, unless truly doing very little in the day, will not be sedentary. Factors to consider are whether you have kids that you are running around after, whether you do a lot of cooking/housework, whether you go out dancing or shopping a lot. All of these activities, while not exercise as such, will increase your energy expenditure. From personal experience, I have a desk job and am a lazy bish outside the gym and my activity level, based on actual weight loss, would have to be set at a higher than Lightly Active setting to equate to my actual NEAT.
In summary, the higher the activity level, the higher your TDEE. If you underestimate, then you are creating a larger than expected or desired weight loss.
If you wish to change this, go to My Home -> Goals-> Change Goals-> Continue (set at default) and update to the appropriate setting.
General recommendations for weekly weight loss goals
should be based on a number of factors, the main one of which is how much weight you have to lose. The more weight that you have to lose the less severe the negative impact of being at a calorie deficit will have generally (see below for examples).
As a rule of thumb, we would recommend that most people set their target weight loss somewhere between .5 and 1% change in body-weight per week. So for a 200lb person, losing about 1 to 2lbs/week would be reasonable. Consider that this is not going to cover all scenarios. This is just a general guideline for "most" people. Weight may come off faster initially due to water losses.
Obviously, the deficit that is right for you will depend on your personal circumstances and how well you deal with the deficit. For example, for someone who is morbidly obese, the health benefits of getting the weight off quickly will often outweigh the possible negative impact and, as such, a higher than 2 lb a week deficit may well be appropriate.
There are many TDEE calculators available on the interwebz. A couple of good ones are:
(but ignore the rest of the site as it's full of bs).
Note however, these are all estimates of averages. The best determination of what your TDEE are your results. If you have been tracking for a while, you should be able to look back over a period of time and calculate what YOUR actual TDEE is. For example, say I lost 8lb over a 10 week period while eating an average of 2,000 calories a day. My TDEE would be: 2,000 x 7 days x 10 weeks (140,000) which represents the total calories consumed over the 10 week period plus 8 x 3,500 (28,000) which represents my weight loss expressed as a deficit using the 3,500 calories per pound approximation. My total expenditure over that period would be 168,000 (the 140,000 plus the 28,000) divided by 70 (7 days x 10 weeks) = 2,400 per day. This would approximate my TDEE. Obviously this number should be tweaked up or down if there is any significant change in activity. It also assumes that you have been logging your intake accurately.
As noted above, general recommendations for weekly weight loss goals
should be based on a number of factors, the main one of which is how much weight you have to lose. Using the ‘TDEE” method it is a good rule of thumb to take a cut of 20% off your TDEE, which will represent your deficit, to get to your calorie target. However, at a low BF%, this will probably be too high and a 10% cut would be more appropriate. Conversely, at when someone has a significant amount of body fat to lose, a 30% cut may well be appropriate.
To customize your goals
in order to be able to use this TDEE based method on MFP, go to My Home -> Goals-> Change Goals-> click Customize and update to the appropriate calorie target.
It is important to not to have too large of a deficit to minimize the negative impact of weight loss, that may include risk of loss of LBM (which can be mitigated to a large degree with strength training and adequate protein), hormonal disruption, metabolic adaptation, lower gym performance, possible lack of sufficient nutrients, lack of adherence and generally being grumpy. As noted above however, the ‘best’ deficit for an individual will depend on personal circumstances and also their sensitivity to large deficits. From my personal experience, when I got down to about a 22% BF%, I could not handle prolonged deficits of much more than about 15% on average as my gym performance suffers and I tend to whine and pout at that stage. Others may be perfectly OK on a 20% cut at that BF%.
Also, if your results are not in line with what you expect, tweak your targets up or down as appropriate.
SETTING MACRO TARGETS:
There are 4 macronutrients. A high level explanation of each of their functions is:
, which is required for muscle retention/growth
, which is required for healthy body functions
, which provide energy
, which provides for embarrassing photos
Macronutrient goals should really not be based on percentages, but on grams which vary depending on your size and activity levels.
We would recommend, as a rule of thumb, the following:
1g of protein per lb of LBM as a minimum target
0.35g of fat per lb of total body weight as a minimum target
The balance can fall where you wish, taking into account performance, satiety and adherence.
Note: the above protein minimum assumes that you are on a deficit, are undertaking moderate exercise and do not have a significantly low or significantly high body fat percentage. It also assumes that you have no pre-existing medical condition that would require a lower intake.
At a very low body fat percentage or with highly intensive workouts a slightly higher amount of protein is recommended.
Conversely, at a very high body fat percentage or with no or little exercise, a slightly lower amount of protein is acceptable.
Also, at a high BF%, the fats recommendation can be decreased. If you have specific questions about this, please feel free to ask us for our input.
When you have determined the minimum grams of protein and fat, you can calculate the corresponding percentages based on your calorie target to input into MFP. Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. Note that MFP only allows 5% increments so you will need to pick the one nearest your desired target.
For example, say someone is 150 lbs with a BF% of 20% on a 2,000 calorie target. Note, a 20% body fat means that someone has a 80% lean body mass (LBM) as LBM is everything except fat (muscle, water, organs, tissue, etc). Their macros in grams would be:
Protein: 1 x 150 x 0.8 (LBM) = 120g x 4 calories = 480 calories divided by 2,000 (calorie target) = 24% - round up to 25%
Fat: 0.35 x 150 = 53.5g x 9 calories = 473 calories divided by 2,000 = 24% - round up to 25%
Carbs: balance of 50%
Remember, protein and fats are minimums and so do not worry about going over on these, carbs would be the variable in this case and you would be under on that macro in order to meet your calorie target.
To change the MFP settings go to My Home -> Goals-> Change Goals-> click Customize and update the macros.