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How to Find Your Maintenance Calorie Level

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  • SummerSkierSummerSkier Posts: 847Member, Premium Member Posts: 847Member, Premium Member
    finally it is STICKIED!!! of course no one bothers to read those before jumping in right? ;)
  • Pastaprincess1978Pastaprincess1978 Posts: 371Member Member Posts: 371Member Member
    My calculated maintenance calories is higher than I would have expected. I have several months of data from 2016, and also from the last 6 weeks. From my calculations, I get somewhere between 2165-2250 to maintain, before exercise. I'm female, 44, height 5'6", and currently 147-ish pounds. I'm in the middle of a diet break right now while my mom is visiting, and I upped my avg calories from 1550 to 1850 (had thought maintenance was closer to this), but I've gone over each day due to PMS, so I'm averaging more like 2050 the past several days. I'll be curious to see what my weight is like after TOM is gone, and the diet break is over. But I guess a week and a half is hard to tell for maintenance?

    ETA: Thank you AnnPT77 for the breakdown! I pretty much knew how to get the numbers, but was confused on whether or not to use net calories for the final calculation.

    Twins - I am 148 (want to be 130 though) and 5' 6" - you must be very active prior to exercise?
  • envscubaenvscuba Posts: 14Member, Premium Member Posts: 14Member, Premium Member
    Please Help I'm going exercise crazy!

    I recently hit my weight loss goal and want to shift into maintaining by reducing exercise time. I currently mainly walk, minimum 14 miles per day which takes me about 4 hours give or take. I have been trying to up the intensity of my exercise the past few weeks. Adjustments include doing a couch to 5k program 3x per week, DDP Yoga 2x per week, 8 minutes of sit-ups per day, and 2-3 days of 10 minute weight lifting sessions mostly arms, upper body and core. Here are my weekly calorie deficient and weight numbers some of which were still while I was losing, I hit my goal the week of 5/21/18.

    4/9/18 -10,568 Calories 5.80 pound Lost
    4/16/18 -9,550 Calories 4.20 Pound Lost
    4/23/18 -8,742 Calories 1.80 Pound Gain
    4/30/18 -10,786 Calories 2.80 Pound Lost
    5/7/18 -10,865 Calories 0.80 Pound Lost
    5/14/18 -8,673 Calories 3.00 Pound Lost
    5/21/18 -5,063 Calories 0.60 Pound Lost
    5/28/18 -6,502 Calories 1.80 Pound Gain
    6/4/18 -10,605 Calories 1.00 Pound Lost

    I have nearly constant cravings for various types of food (mostly the bad stuff) which is also driving me crazy. I'm afraid that cutting back to a more realistic 1 to 2 hours of exercise time per day would send my weight skyrocketing especially if I give in to some of those cravings. I have hypothyroidism which also may reduce my metabolic rate.

    Any advise as to how to reduce exercise, reduce cravings and eat to maintain are welcome.

    Thank you,
  • envscubaenvscuba Posts: 14Member, Premium Member Posts: 14Member, Premium Member
    I am exercising this much because this is the only way I'm seeing results on the scale and I am afraid to cut back or stop.

    I've lost 118 pounds since June 2015. From June 2015 to September 2017 I lost 52 pounds with only walking, no large change in diet. The remainder was lost since then when I started using MyFitnessPal to track calories. During this time (Sept 2015 to present) I have gradually increased my walking distance to the 14 miles per day minimum.

    Pasta, cakes, candy, fries, all the high calorie stuff.

    I just ran my numbers since the beginning of the year, I'm averaging a 6,108 calorie deficit to lose one pound. Which is nearly double the commonly used 3500 calorie mark.
  • stanmann571stanmann571 Posts: 5,736Member Member Posts: 5,736Member Member
    envscuba wrote: »
    I am exercising this much because this is the only way I'm seeing results on the scale and I am afraid to cut back or stop.

    I've lost 118 pounds since June 2015. From June 2015 to September 2017 I lost 52 pounds with only walking, no large change in diet. The remainder was lost since then when I started using MyFitnessPal to track calories. During this time (Sept 2015 to present) I have gradually increased my walking distance to the 14 miles per day minimum.

    Pasta, cakes, candy, fries, all the high calorie stuff.

    I just ran my numbers since the beginning of the year, I'm averaging a 6,108 calorie deficit to lose one pound. Which is nearly double the commonly used 3500 calorie mark.

    More likely, you're overestimating exercise calories.

    Are you using MFP calculation for walking or

    .57* weight* mileage?
    https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20843760/running-v-walking-how-many-calories-will-you-burn/
  • DX2JX2DX2JX2 Posts: 1,921Member Member Posts: 1,921Member Member

    More likely, you're overestimating exercise calories.

    Are you using MFP calculation for walking or

    .57* weight* mileage?
    https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20843760/running-v-walking-how-many-calories-will-you-burn/

    Note that this formula provides the GROSS calorie burn from walking. That is, the result will include calories you would have burned even if you had not taken a walk.

    The formula for the NET calorie burn (the extra burn resulting directly from your walk and thus the amount you can eat back) is 0.3*weight*mileage.

    Similarly, running will burn 0.72*weight*mileage on a gross basis and 0.63*weight*mileage on a net basis.
  • stanmann571stanmann571 Posts: 5,736Member Member Posts: 5,736Member Member
    DX2JX2 wrote: »

    More likely, you're overestimating exercise calories.

    Are you using MFP calculation for walking or

    .57* weight* mileage?
    https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20843760/running-v-walking-how-many-calories-will-you-burn/

    Note that this formula provides the GROSS calorie burn from walking. That is, the result will include calories you would have burned even if you had not taken a walk.

    The formula for the NET calorie burn (the extra burn resulting directly from your walk and thus the amount you can eat back) is 0.3*weight*mileage.

    Similarly, running will burn 0.72*weight*mileage on a gross basis and 0.63*weight*mileage on a net basis.

    Thanks. And a good point. MFP generally shows 25-40% over Gross.
  • cmriversidecmriverside Posts: 28,519Member Member Posts: 28,519Member Member
    DX2JX2 wrote: »

    More likely, you're overestimating exercise calories.

    Are you using MFP calculation for walking or

    .57* weight* mileage?
    https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20843760/running-v-walking-how-many-calories-will-you-burn/

    Note that this formula provides the GROSS calorie burn from walking. That is, the result will include calories you would have burned even if you had not taken a walk.

    The formula for the NET calorie burn (the extra burn resulting directly from your walk and thus the amount you can eat back) is 0.3*weight*mileage.

    Similarly, running will burn 0.72*weight*mileage on a gross basis and 0.63*weight*mileage on a net basis.

    Thanks. And a good point. MFP generally shows 25-40% over Gross.

    Because it uses NEAT to calculate.

  • stanmann571stanmann571 Posts: 5,736Member Member Posts: 5,736Member Member
    DX2JX2 wrote: »

    More likely, you're overestimating exercise calories.

    Are you using MFP calculation for walking or

    .57* weight* mileage?
    https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20843760/running-v-walking-how-many-calories-will-you-burn/

    Note that this formula provides the GROSS calorie burn from walking. That is, the result will include calories you would have burned even if you had not taken a walk.

    The formula for the NET calorie burn (the extra burn resulting directly from your walk and thus the amount you can eat back) is 0.3*weight*mileage.

    Similarly, running will burn 0.72*weight*mileage on a gross basis and 0.63*weight*mileage on a net basis.

    Thanks. And a good point. MFP generally shows 25-40% over Gross.

    Because it uses NEAT to calculate.

    NO, because it uses inaccurate formulas.
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,964Member Member Posts: 16,964Member Member
    Not really inaccurate - but trying to apply a single value to a range is one potential inaccuracy.
    The walking speed may be singular, but the range is up to the next value, IIRC from past checking, the burn value is middle of that range.

    It's actually decently accurate (improved would be using newer formula's that use gender/height in formula), instead of established MET values.

    The bigger problem is it's giving a calorie burn for a block of time, just like any other database, but used differently.

    MFP already expected you to burn a certain number of calories for that block of time - BMR x 1.25, 1.4, ect.

    So for a low calorie burner like walking, a decent amount of those calories is already accounted for.

    The exercise database could easily be made to only add on what is truly above and beyond what they already accounted for you burning.
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,964Member Member Posts: 16,964Member Member
    For example - my BMR 1705 x my realistic Sedentary 1.25 = 2131 daily maintenance = 89 cal/hr accounted for.

    If I walk 3mph for 60 min - 280 would be given by MFP (294 would be given by non-MET formula considered more accurate BTW).

    But only 280-89 = 191 would be burned above and beyond what MFP already was expecting.
    So 89/hr overage. Well ah be - almost 50%.

    If I logged a lot of walking time, the overage gets worse obviously. If I go slower, worse effect.
  • envscubaenvscuba Posts: 14Member, Premium Member Posts: 14Member, Premium Member
    I use Fitbit for the exercise calories tracking and have MFP linked to Fitbit so MFP updates Fitbit with my food. I just find MFP easier to track calories in and think Fitbit is a tad more accurate for exercise tracking, but I could be wrong, that is why I am here.

    Also these formulas are most likely based on level walking how do you account for hills which I do a lot of, sometimes near the equivalent of 75 fights according to my iPhone?
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,964Member Member Posts: 16,964Member Member
    envscuba wrote: »
    I use Fitbit for the exercise calories tracking and have MFP linked to Fitbit so MFP updates Fitbit with my food. I just find MFP easier to track calories in and think Fitbit is a tad more accurate for exercise tracking, but I could be wrong, that is why I am here.

    Also these formulas are most likely based on level walking how do you account for hills which I do a lot of, sometimes near the equivalent of 75 fights according to my iPhone?

    That is true, inclines are not accounted for, even by Fitbit.
    They are measuring impacts to calculate distance of that step, and uphill leads to less impact so it would appear less distance and less calories - and that's opposite.
    Downhill leads to more impact and increased distance and more calories than it's really doing, gravity assist does help a bit.
    And down and up never balance each other out.

    But Fitbit would be better because it sees that difference in level, barring massive amounts of up and down.
    Some things are still best to manually log, because neither step-based calories nor HR-based calories is accurate - like lifting, swimming of course, circuit training, similar type things.

    The flights that Fitbit may see are considered not accurate and therefore not used in calculations.
  • envscubaenvscuba Posts: 14Member, Premium Member Posts: 14Member, Premium Member
    So if I wanted to cut back to 10 miles per day at my the middle of my target weight range of 150 to 164 I'd need to be eating 1900 calories per day, BMR = 1427, plus 10*157*.3?
  • envscubaenvscuba Posts: 14Member, Premium Member Posts: 14Member, Premium Member
    What is the best way to estimate calorie burn for other activities such as cycling, swimming, weight lifting, and yoga?
  • PAV8888PAV8888 Posts: 5,782Member Member Posts: 5,782Member Member
    Forget changing the way you've been calculating.

    You have enough data available to you already based on your Fitbit logs and your own weight change observations.

    Unless you radically change everything the data remains relevant, and my personal opinion is that I prefer to "outsource" calculations as opposed to injecting my own perceptual bias of how I feel about an activity.

    You don't need an absolute increase in precision right now. Just some brain hamster adjustments and some experimentation.

    The following are personal observations intended to help @envscuba and not cross-verified.

    1. Less exercise = potentially less hunger

    2. Excessive exercise is stress inducing = higher cortisol = higher water retention. Plus water retention for muscle repair. So less exercise = potentially drop in scale weight (but not drop in fat mass)

    3. In my particular case my fitbit has been off by up to 5% in any two month or longer time period. In a single month it has been off by as much as 8% (correspondence between expected effect of calories and trending weight changes). Within the confines of this, I've observed that in the HALF month periods where for life reasons I've had to walk less, my calories have become MORE, not less accurate.

    I suspect that two things may be in play there. We become very efficient in doing certain activities and our caloric burn per minute of very efficient activity may be significantly lower than predicted. Pile on several hours of that (say 4 hours of walking) and the inaccuracy increases. And then there is water weight lost when exercise decreases which also plays with the scale.

    4. Your belief that calories to lose a lb is > than 3500 several years into weight loss has support through several sources. You may want to look into re-feeds and diet breaks, though neither is relevant in your case of seeking maintenance as opposed to continued weight loss.

    Start by using a trending weight application if you're not already using one. Connect fitbit to trendweight.com and weightgrapher.com or use libra for android or happy scale for iphone.

    Observe your PAST weight range fluctuations by looking at your past data in these apps (back-feed your past weigh ins).

    Knowing your customary ranges, set an experimental budget of how much trending weight you can afford to go up or down in seeking your maintenance.

    If you have NO observable fluctuation range, I would suggest that this means that you've been pushing against a limit.

    If you have a sub 5lb scale range, I would suggest a 5lb SCALE weight range in either direction (10lbs total scale) or 1.5 to 3lbs TRENDING weight range in either direction (total of 3 to 5lbs trending weight range) TO START.

    The goal would be to maximize eating / minimize unwanted exercise while getting to a point where you've got a confirmed upward trend for several weeks and then back off that upward trend into maintaining (or to only having an imperceptible trend up or down)

    It makes perfect sense to me; not sure if I am very clear in explaining it! :blush:
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 16,964Member Member Posts: 16,964Member Member
    envscuba wrote: »
    What is the best way to estimate calorie burn for other activities such as cycling, swimming, weight lifting, and yoga?

    Accurate database entry. They are based on studies measuring people doing the workouts - you just have to know how intense were they.
    Really doing the workout as described.

    Like Spinning in the database is hardly descriptive - not a good one to use. But it was probably intense as most spinning classes are. But was the 60 min with 5 min slow warmup & cooldown, and 5 min stretching, so really only 45 min of actually Spinning?

    Biking outdoors though, if you really do the stated speed on average, and probably round down in the range, not up. Though again, if a ton of hills or bad headwind - the avg is low, but the burn is higher. There is never enough balance between up/down, head/tail, that the avg is actually higher burn than given.

    Swimming when ranges are given is good.

    Lifting is avg routine of 4-15 reps in 2-5 sets, with 2-4 min rests.
    Circuit training is the 15-20 reps, up to 1 min rests.
    So a difference. But smaller burn anyway, so not so bad.
  • CarvedTonesCarvedTones Posts: 2,340Member Member Posts: 2,340Member Member
    The only way I know of to do it completely accurately is complex algebra on history, but even that would assume that the 2 hours of paddling last Saturday had the same burn per hour as the three hours of paddling on Thursday (the answer is no, btw) and it would depend on getting an accurate weight for the beginning and end of the period use to assess. What actually happens is you notice your weight trending up or down and you adjust your base calories or start computing burn differently to compensate. All this stuff can never do more than get you pretty close so that you can accept the numbers for longer before you have to adjust for a trend up or down.
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