How many calories do I need in order to gain weight?
I’ve grappling with that question for about 25 years. Ever since I got started down this path. I’m a lot like many kids who grew up in the age of Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk. I always wanted size like Lou but I turned out more like Bill Bixby.
Many times over the years I have calculated the number of calories I need. In the old days I got it from books and magazines. In my latest attempt I turned to the internet and started with this article that I found on Bodybuilding.com.
No matter what fitness topic I search, the top four or five results are always Bodybuilding.com.
But I digress.
We start out with an estimate of my basal metabolic rate, which I gather is the calories I would burn if I did absolutely nothing. The result for me at 5’11”, 165 lbs and 47 years old is 1,683. That’s slightly less than the “rule of thumb” number of 11 calories per pound. Bottom line, my bmr is in the range of 1,700 – 1,800 calories per day.
I do more than nothing every day so 1,800 calories will not cut it.
Further research indicates that anywhere from 150% to 200% of bmr is what I need. That brings me to somewhere between 2,550 and 3,600. Quite a range.
What to do, what to do, what to do.
The accountant in me would determine the number of calories that consume each day and adjust from there based on movements in the scale. A logical approach if not for the number of variables that go along with calorie counting.
First, you would need a food scale in order to accurately weigh your food.
Second, calorie information is hard to apply. Are we talking about cooked chicken breast or raw? Does the cooking method have an impact? Does medium rare differ from well done?
Third, activity levels differ from day to day? After I all, it seems obvious that more calories are burned in a squat workout than a bench press workout.
Then there are other variables such as the amount of sleep you got last night and even the weather.
Calories are tough to figure exactly. The approach is not to use it as a scalpel but as an axe. Ballpark estimates serve us much better. A chicken breast is a chicken breast for our purposes (approx. 250 calories). The practical approach is to gather these estimates and bundle these individual food estimates into a calories per meal estimate. I shoot for the right number per meal. I look not so much at the number of calories consumed today, but the number consumed this week or even this month. Over a long period my estimates should serve me well.
How many calories per meal? Based on the results obtained above I’ll start with 2,600 calories per day. My daily eating consists of a green smoothie first thing in the morning, an afternoon snack and four other primary meals.
I estimate the smoothie to be 200 calories and the snack (usually a can of tuna) is another 100. That leaves 2,300 calories. Make it 2,200 as I take coconut oil in my coffee. That leaves 550 calories four times a day as the goal.