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Would anyone be willing to help me work out how many calories I need to lose weight and train?

Claire5520Claire5520 Posts: 86Member, Premium Member Posts: 86Member, Premium Member
Hello lovely MFP people, I am hoping someone lovely and patient is prepared to take pity on me.
I have a big issue with setting a realistic calorie goal.
I am quite fit and active, I've been a regular runner since 2010 (I did a marathon last year) and this year I'm focusing on road cycling rather than running, due to injury (currently at ~100/150 miles/week). I also do strength training at the gym.
I am 5'8 (170cm) and currently weigh 142lbs (64.5kg), I have coeliac disease and am largely veggie/vegan.

I have lost track of how many times I have tried to follow different calorie goals. I want to get my weight back down to around 137lbs, which is where I was a year ago. At the moment I am not logging food and have put weight on, which is making my clothes tight and uncomfortable. I tried at 1200 calories a day but couldn't sustain it. 1600 calories a day feels too much to lose weight. There are so many variations on the MFP settings I don't know which one to pick for my situation. I think I was on maybe 1600 cals per day during marathon training last year which felt fine, but I was running a lot of miles and 1600 feels too much based on my current activity.

I know I am obsessing about it a little bit. At the moment I am eating literally ALL the time and it feels out of control. I'm just really grateful for opinions and advice. It feels like I could just pick a figure out of the air, but I kind of want it to be more informed than that.

Thanks in advance

Claire.

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Replies

  • shadow2soulshadow2soul Posts: 7,645Member, Premium Member Posts: 7,645Member, Premium Member
    Why does 1600 feel like too much? It’s not a lot of food. Do you use a food scale?

    I’m not as tall as you but I tend to eat around 2000 calories for weight loss. It’s slow because I don’t have much to lose, but it’s also sustainable and helps with my exercise recovery.

    You don’t have a lot to lose so I would expect that 0.5lbs per week would be the most you should expect to see if you want to also eat enough to fuel your training. Restrict too much and you might put yourself in a binge/restrict pattern which can prevent you from losing weight.
  • erickirberickirb Posts: 11,974Member Member Posts: 11,974Member Member
    Enter your info into MFP with a goal to lose 0.5 lbs/week (since you are close to goal and within a healthy weight for your height already). Eat that many calories, when you exercise, eat most of those calories back too. This will probably have you in the 1600-2000 calories/day range

    If it feels like you are eating a lot, make different higher calorie food choices such as peanut butter, full fat dairy, avoid diet and lite foods, for for full fat full surgar versions of foods.
    edited April 17
  • Claire5520Claire5520 Posts: 86Member, Premium Member Posts: 86Member, Premium Member
    Thank you. 2000 calories is probably what I'm eating at the moment and I can feel jeans getting tighter! I didn't mention my age, I'm 43. I'm very lucky in that I've never really had to worry about my weight; I am always 140 - 145lbs, <140 seems impossible to hit/maintain. I'm usually at 142-145lbs when I adopt an 'anything goes' approach, which is kind of now.
    Eric I rarely do dairy or diet foods but do do veggies and beans! Causes a lot of trumping. You probably didn't need to know that. :-) :-) :-)
  • shadow2soulshadow2soul Posts: 7,645Member, Premium Member Posts: 7,645Member, Premium Member
    Claire5520 wrote: »
    Thank you. 2000 calories is probably what I'm eating at the moment and I can feel jeans getting tighter! I didn't mention my age, I'm 43. I'm very lucky in that I've never really had to worry about my weight; I am always 140 - 145lbs, <140 seems impossible to hit/maintain. I'm usually at 142-145lbs when I adopt an 'anything goes' approach, which is kind of now.
    Eric I rarely do dairy or diet foods but do do veggies and beans! Causes a lot of trumping. You probably didn't need to know that. :-) :-) :-)

    However unless you are logging and tracking as accurately as possible you could be eating almost double what you think you are.

  • apullumapullum Posts: 2,830Member Member Posts: 2,830Member Member
    Regarding the MFP settings, you need to choose a 0.5 lb/week rate of loss since you have a very small amount to lose. With a small deficit, accurate tracking becomes even more important. Get a food scale and weigh all solid food. Without a food scale, you don't know how many calories you're eating.

    You also need to be sure to eat back your exercise calories. If you are confident that they're calculated correctly, eat them all. If you are using estimates of calorie burn, such as the MFP exercise database, start with eating half of your exercise calories to account for potential overestimates.
  • kimny72kimny72 Posts: 11,642Member Member Posts: 11,642Member Member
    Claire5520 wrote: »
    Thank you. 2000 calories is probably what I'm eating at the moment and I can feel jeans getting tighter! I didn't mention my age, I'm 43. I'm very lucky in that I've never really had to worry about my weight; I am always 140 - 145lbs, <140 seems impossible to hit/maintain. I'm usually at 142-145lbs when I adopt an 'anything goes' approach, which is kind of now.
    Eric I rarely do dairy or diet foods but do do veggies and beans! Causes a lot of trumping. You probably didn't need to know that. :-) :-) :-)

    The key might just be - be patient. Your body doesn't immediately respond today to what you ate and did yesterday. It responds over weeks. And months. You have to give a plan a chance to work before deciding the problem is the number of calories :smile:

    As others have said, set yourself up to lose 0.5lbs per week. Pick an activity level that reflects your normal day to day life (not your purposeful exercise). Log your exercise and eat back at least some of those calories. Log accurately and consistently, everything all the time, using a food scale whenever humanly possible. Then settle in and commit to do that for 6-8 weeks, regardless of what the scale says. At that point, if you are losing weight, just keep going. If you're not, you know you need to tweak those calories down a little. These posts might help too:

    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/1080242/a-guide-to-get-you-started-on-your-path-to-sexypants/p1

    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10084670/it-is-unlikely-that-you-will-lose-weight-consistently-i-e-weight-loss-is-not-linear/p1

    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/1234699/logging-accurately-step-by-step-guide/p1

    :drinker:
  • Claire5520Claire5520 Posts: 86Member, Premium Member Posts: 86Member, Premium Member
    Thank you @shadow2soul - great video! I am brilliant at tracking (to the point of obsessiveness) for a period of time - maybe a month or so - then something happens, I eat something that can't be weighed/measured, or I'm with my boyfriend for the weekend for example, and it triggers 6 months of MFP abstinence, logging nothing, eating everything.
    All or nothing, I know, not healthy!

    Thank you @apullum that is a good point about accurate tracking. My boyfriend (who is overweight) can drop lbs and lbs in a week. I only want to drop around 5lbs and it seems impossible to shift. I really need to pay closer attention, accept that I can't out-train a bad diet and remember that there is less manoeuvre for cheating.

    I guess I know what to do, probably we all do. Doing it, however, seems to be a completely different matter!
    edited April 17
  • Claire5520Claire5520 Posts: 86Member, Premium Member Posts: 86Member, Premium Member
    OK, lovely patient people. I'm going to ask how you do the maths to get the right calorie goal, because this is what confuses me every time.

    I've chosen 'guided setup' to set my goals on MFP. Opted for 'sedentary' - as I work full time, drive to work and sit at a computer all day.

    Selected to lose 0.5lbs a week.

    This has given me a calorie goal of 1390. So far, I understand.

    However, now add in exercise. Looking at my calories expended in training over the last few weeks (I use Strava and a HR monitor) I'm looking at a little over 4000 calories burned a week on proper cardio sessions alone. That's not including weights/strength training which I try to do a couple of times a week, or short lunchtime walks etc.

    So, if I was to average that out over 7 days, that's around 571 calories from exercise per day. Let's assume exercise calories are overestimated, and take that down to 500 calories per day from exercise, because, well, I like round numbers.

    Do you then say - well, let's eat HALF exercise calories back per day, so that's 250 calories allowed for exercise per day?

    And do you then add that to the MFP goal of 1390, so that gives me a goal of 1640? Is that right?

    The other thing exploding my little brain is this: Google says: aim for a calorie deficit of 3500 cals a week to lose 1lb a week. If I want to lose 0.5lbs a week, that's a deficit of 1750. Do I need to factor in that calculation to all of this, or is that what MFP does?

    I know I probably look really stupid and pedantic, but I am just starting to wonder whether my issues with going from one extreme to another is because I never get my numbers right to account for the amount of exercise I do PLUS wanting to lose a bit of weight too, so I can keep to my calorie target for a while, but then get so ravenously hungry (usually the day/two days after a long bike ride) that I want to eat everything and anything, then I can't get back on track again.

    It is really embarrassing getting this angst out of my head and into the real world, so, thanks for reading and being patient with me. I'm really grateful to hear your perspective! :-)
    edited April 17
  • erickirberickirb Posts: 11,974Member Member Posts: 11,974Member Member
    Claire5520 wrote: »
    OK, lovely patient people. I'm going to ask how you do the maths to get the right calorie goal, because this is what confuses me every time.

    I've chosen 'guided setup' to set my goals on MFP. Opted for 'sedentary' - as I work full time, drive to work and sit at a computer all day.

    Selected to lose 0.5lbs a week.

    This has given me a calorie goal of 1390. So far, I understand.

    However, now add in exercise. Looking at my calories expended in training over the last few weeks (I use Strava and a HR monitor) I'm looking at a little over 4000 calories burned a week on proper cardio sessions alone. That's not including weights/strength training which I try to do a couple of times a week, or short lunchtime walks etc.

    So, if I was to average that out over 7 days, that's around 571 calories from exercise per day. Let's assume exercise calories are overestimated, and take that down to 500 calories per day from exercise, because, well, I like round numbers.

    Do you then say - well, let's eat HALF exercise calories back per day, so that's 250 calories allowed for exercise per day?

    And do you then add that to the MFP goal of 1390, so that gives me a goal of 1640? Is that right?

    The other thing exploding my little brain is this: Google says: aim for a calorie deficit of 3500 cals a week to lose 1lb a week. If I want to lose 0.5lbs a week, that's a deficit of 1750. Do I need to factor in that calculation to all of this, or is that what MFP does?

    I know I probably look really stupid and pedantic, but I am just starting to wonder whether my issues with going from one extreme to another is because I never get my numbers right to account for the amount of exercise I do PLUS wanting to lose a bit of weight too, so I can keep to my calorie target for a while, but then get so ravenously hungry (usually the day/two days after a long bike ride) that I want to eat everything and anything, then I can't get back on track again.

    It is really embarrassing getting this angst out of my head and into the real world, so, thanks for reading and being patient with me. I'm really grateful to hear your perspective! :-)

    just follow MFP, eat 1390 on days you don't exercise and enter your exercise in MFP. so if one day you burn 600, you would get 1990 on that day.

    You can take your 4,000/7 and add it to your daily goal too, but I would only suggest that if you are consistent week after week with your exercise. so that would be 1900/day everyday, or 1390 days you don't workout and 2000+ on days you do. six of one half a dozen of the other, as your deficit for the week would be the same

    MFP already factors your deficit of 250/day (1750/week) with the 1390 goal.
  • Claire5520Claire5520 Posts: 86Member, Premium Member Posts: 86Member, Premium Member
    kimny72 wrote: »
    As others have said, set yourself up to lose 0.5lbs per week. Pick an activity level that reflects your normal day to day life (not your purposeful exercise). Log your exercise and eat back at least some of those calories.

    I wonder if this is the thing. The long bike ride I did this weekend had me at 1650 calories (it was 57 miles of road cycling with a fast group, it was exhausting!!). I don't reckon I ate anywhere near 1650 calories on top of my normal calorie allowance that day, so this might explain why I can't stop eating for the rest of the week?? Maybe if I can plan exercise calories over the week, that would help me be more consistent and avoid bingeing (not in the strict sense of the word, I just mean greed eating really)

    Thanks for listening :-)

  • apullumapullum Posts: 2,830Member Member Posts: 2,830Member Member
    If you're using a heart rate monitor to figure cardio exercise calories, your calorie burn numbers are probably going to be a lot more accurate than if you were using database estimates. Eating half your exercise calories may not be quite enough. See what your weight does over a month or so and adjust as needed. I really want to emphasize this point because you are doing endurance training and it is crucial that you're fueling properly. You don't want to pass out on a bike ride.

    Honestly, I think you are overthinking all this. Set MFP for a 0.5 lb/week loss. Set your activity level for what you do during your normal routine *not including exercise that you are logging separately.* If you're using your heart rate monitor consistently, I'd start with eating 75% of those exercise calories. Weigh all your food. Keep in mind that your long rides may cause temporary water weight fluctuations. Give it at least a month, and adjust your exercise calorie intake depending on what your weight does in that time.
  • spiriteagle99spiriteagle99 Posts: 2,058Member Member Posts: 2,058Member Member
    You can also bank calories, so if you do a long ride that burns a lot of calories but you aren't hungry afterwards, you eat a little extra for several days instead of trying to eat them all at once.

    I am also a runner. At age 62, 123 lbs., my maintenance is about 1600. I eat back all my calories from walking and running, since I know that those are pretty accurate. For other activities, they may not be as accurate since they are based on perceived effort, so I'll eat back about half to 3/4. I've been able to maintain for several years or to lose if I've gained a few pounds while on vacation.
  • jflongojflongo Posts: 267Member Member Posts: 267Member Member
    Claire5520 wrote: »
    OK, lovely patient people. I'm going to ask how you do the maths to get the right calorie goal, because this is what confuses me every time.

    I've chosen 'guided setup' to set my goals on MFP. Opted for 'sedentary' - as I work full time, drive to work and sit at a computer all day.

    Selected to lose 0.5lbs a week.

    This has given me a calorie goal of 1390. So far, I understand.

    However, now add in exercise. Looking at my calories expended in training over the last few weeks (I use Strava and a HR monitor) I'm looking at a little over 4000 calories burned a week on proper cardio sessions alone. That's not including weights/strength training which I try to do a couple of times a week, or short lunchtime walks etc.

    So, if I was to average that out over 7 days, that's around 571 calories from exercise per day. Let's assume exercise calories are overestimated, and take that down to 500 calories per day from exercise, because, well, I like round numbers.

    Do you then say - well, let's eat HALF exercise calories back per day, so that's 250 calories allowed for exercise per day?

    And do you then add that to the MFP goal of 1390, so that gives me a goal of 1640? Is that right?

    The other thing exploding my little brain is this: Google says: aim for a calorie deficit of 3500 cals a week to lose 1lb a week. If I want to lose 0.5lbs a week, that's a deficit of 1750. Do I need to factor in that calculation to all of this, or is that what MFP does?

    I know I probably look really stupid and pedantic, but I am just starting to wonder whether my issues with going from one extreme to another is because I never get my numbers right to account for the amount of exercise I do PLUS wanting to lose a bit of weight too, so I can keep to my calorie target for a while, but then get so ravenously hungry (usually the day/two days after a long bike ride) that I want to eat everything and anything, then I can't get back on track again.

    It is really embarrassing getting this angst out of my head and into the real world, so, thanks for reading and being patient with me. I'm really grateful to hear your perspective! :-)

    I am also Sedentary, however, I put in that I workout 4 days per week, for 65 minutes each time. What did you enter there?
  • erickirberickirb Posts: 11,974Member Member Posts: 11,974Member Member
    apullum wrote: »
    jflongo wrote: »
    Claire5520 wrote: »
    OK, lovely patient people. I'm going to ask how you do the maths to get the right calorie goal, because this is what confuses me every time.

    I've chosen 'guided setup' to set my goals on MFP. Opted for 'sedentary' - as I work full time, drive to work and sit at a computer all day.

    Selected to lose 0.5lbs a week.

    This has given me a calorie goal of 1390. So far, I understand.

    However, now add in exercise. Looking at my calories expended in training over the last few weeks (I use Strava and a HR monitor) I'm looking at a little over 4000 calories burned a week on proper cardio sessions alone. That's not including weights/strength training which I try to do a couple of times a week, or short lunchtime walks etc.

    So, if I was to average that out over 7 days, that's around 571 calories from exercise per day. Let's assume exercise calories are overestimated, and take that down to 500 calories per day from exercise, because, well, I like round numbers.

    Do you then say - well, let's eat HALF exercise calories back per day, so that's 250 calories allowed for exercise per day?

    And do you then add that to the MFP goal of 1390, so that gives me a goal of 1640? Is that right?

    The other thing exploding my little brain is this: Google says: aim for a calorie deficit of 3500 cals a week to lose 1lb a week. If I want to lose 0.5lbs a week, that's a deficit of 1750. Do I need to factor in that calculation to all of this, or is that what MFP does?

    I know I probably look really stupid and pedantic, but I am just starting to wonder whether my issues with going from one extreme to another is because I never get my numbers right to account for the amount of exercise I do PLUS wanting to lose a bit of weight too, so I can keep to my calorie target for a while, but then get so ravenously hungry (usually the day/two days after a long bike ride) that I want to eat everything and anything, then I can't get back on track again.

    It is really embarrassing getting this angst out of my head and into the real world, so, thanks for reading and being patient with me. I'm really grateful to hear your perspective! :-)

    I am also Sedentary, however, I put in that I workout 4 days per week, for 65 minutes each time. What did you enter there?

    The "daily fitness goals" part of your MFP setup, where you enter your number and length of workouts per week, has no bearing on the calorie/macro allowance MFP gives you. It is just there as a target amount of exercise that you can set for yourself if you wish.

    ^ This... that is just a goal to keep you accountable. the calories from that is not factored into your intake
  • angelsjaangelsja Posts: 804Member Member Posts: 804Member Member
    At 5ft 8 and 142lbs your well within healthy weight range (I'm 5ft 8 any would love to be where you are)
  • sijomialsijomial Posts: 14,496Member Member Posts: 14,496Member Member
    Don't halve perfectly reasonable exercise calorie estimates!
    That is a way to make estimates less accurate not more accurate, the opposite of what you should be doing now and importantly when maintaining at goal weight.

    Strava estimates I've found perfectly reasonable for cycling.
    Walking net calories can be reasonably accurate using bodyweight in pounds X miles walked X 0.3
    Don't use HR monitor to estimate strength training calories - just use the exercise database here for a decent (if not modest) estimate based on total workout duration.

    Don't go off into "Google land" - it will make you more confused not less.

    Just use this tool as designed, be reasonably accurate and consistent with logging food and exercise, make adjustments if required after you have a month of data to go on.
  • sarabushbysarabushby Posts: 476Member Member Posts: 476Member Member
    You can link your Strava account to MFP so that your exercises calories automatically get loaded into your diary for the day once you upload your activity to Strava.
    Make sure you fuel during your rides - gels/bananas/snack bars/energy drink etc but I’m sure you know that and log it too of course.
    I train for triathlon and also do big rides/brick sessions but have a sedentary job. I know it can be a bit of a head-screw that on your big ride days you might have say 1000 calories left, and then then next day is a recovery/rest day so your calories earned is low and yet you’re ravenous from the energy expended the day before. You just have to get over this I’m afraid. Allow yourself to eat to hunger, taking from yesterday’s ‘calories in the bank’ if that makes sense.
    You may find it more helpful to look at the graphs that show your average weekly net calories than looking at single days in isolation.

    Hope this helps a little. Give it time. You’ll get the hang of things, just be consistent with accurate logging and get yourself back on here when you have those blips. :)

    Also bear in mind body composition, getting back to a weight that you once were may not be right for you if you’ve since built more muscle. There’s a website someone might link to with amazing photos of ppl at the same body weight or even heavier but with entirely different physiques. It’s not all about what the scales say.
  • sijomialsijomial Posts: 14,496Member Member Posts: 14,496Member Member
    By the way....

    There's a monthly cycling challenge thread on here....
    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10736162/april-2019-biking-cycling-bicycling-bike-bicycle-unicycle-tricycle-challenge

    Plus there's a Strava MyFitnessPal group if you are interested in what your fellow cyclists are up to.....
    https://www.strava.com/clubs/MFPChallenge

  • Claire5520Claire5520 Posts: 86Member, Premium Member Posts: 86Member, Premium Member
    Thanks for all these replies. I was wondering how the 'fitness goals' impacted, so good to hear they have no bearing on calorie adjustment.

    I've gone with MFP automatic suggestions as you've all pretty much recommended, based on being sedentary all day, set to lose 0.5lb per week. That brings me in at just under 1400 calories, which I'll set as my baseline. I'll plan to eat half my exercise calories on top of that.

    The one thing I can't work out, and @sijomial you may know the answer to this:

    I'm using a Wahoo bike computer + Wahoo HR monitor for rides. So this monitors calorie expenditure for bike rides and gets uploaded to Strava, which then syncs to MFP.

    I've also use a Garmin Vivoactive3 as my day-to-day watch. It tracks steps and activity - increased HR at the gym, walking etc. You can also sync that to MFP so active calories are also logged.

    However, if I wear the Garmin during a bike ride - and it therefore captures the bike ride calorie expenditure (simply because it's on my wrist, I'm not using it for tracking) - I'm assuming bike calories will be double-counted? (once on Strava via Wahoo, once on Garmin)?

    I know one solution just to remove the Garmin whilst I'm cycling.. I'm just wondering.

    Thanks for being patient with my over-thinking! Will look up those cycling threads and maybe see you on Strava :-)
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