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Joined: Dec 13
Posts: 357

Posted: 16 May 2014, 12:45
Post #1

BMR and TDEE. What the heck!

This is a basic primer for anyone who is starting out and doesn't know how to manage their calories. It's not a place for ranting. It's a place to discuss ideas. If you feel something was missed... of course it was. This is my blog, my ramblings which may help you, and not a complete discussion of all things diet. I read everything and pick out what I like and discard what I don't or what I know doesn't for for me. You should be doing the same. There are a lot of variables that will still allow fat loss.

Many people on this site are trying to make their weight loss work using FS RDI calculator. For many it will work. For others, it won't. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it, but should tweaking be something we have to do right off the start. Well, probably.

There are two other numbers that actually will make your decision far easier. I'll also show you how to set your RDI easily to different numbers of your own choosing.

First the definitions.

BMI is Body Mass Index. This calculation is best ignored. Why? It's a simple calculation based on height divided by weight. What's wrong with that? Arnold S. at contest weight at one point was 235 pounds and at 6' 2" tall, his bmi was 30.2. That's right. With six pack abs and every muscle in his body define, he was classified as obese by the BMI standard. It simply isn't that great. Doctors like it because it's easy.

RDI is Recommended Daily Intake. That's simple enough. It's how many calories FS (or wherever you're logging) feels you should eat in ordre to lose weight given your activity level. Unfortunately, a lot of people will overestimate how active they are, or enter what they intend to do. Don't do that. Calculate your RDI at your current activity level if you're going to use this. That's what you should be doing with any method you use.

BMR is your Basic Metabolic Rate. This is the number of calories you need to maintain your body over the course of the day. It's the 'Basic' which is not to say maintenance calories. You'll see why in a minute. Think of it as bottom end calories, and preferably you should be eating high nutrient calories to maintain proper body function. On a weight loss this can be extremely important. On maintenance or during a weight gain if you're gaining for a reason, quality can be far more flexible but basic nutrition still needs to be there first.

TDEE is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. It's the total number of calories your body needs to maintain it's current weight. That's your current weight... not your target weight.

What we need is a model. I offered to do the numbers for someone but I haven't heard back from them with their consent so I will be your model for today. Wink

Open up the website and under 'Calculators', select the TDEE calculator. This will calculate both TDEE and BMR for our (not so perfect) model.

*** Here are my current stats. Gender male, age 55, height 5'11".

Enter that and for now enter my current weight. 177 pounds.

Select Mifflin-St.Jeor. That will be our standard. It's what most people should use to calculate their TDEE and BMR unless they know their Body Fat % and it's below 20%.

Now enter my exercise level as 'no exercise' and hit the calculate TDEE button. You should see my BMR is 1662 and my TDEE is 1994.

Press F5 to reload the page. Enter my data again from ***. Now using the same info underlined above, change my exercise level to 3 times per week. I consider the exercise time as 45 minutes on the days I work out. Hit the Calculate TDEE button again and you get BMR 1662 and TDEE as 2285.

Hit F5 again and enter the data from *** and enter my exercise level as 4 times/week.

1. No exercise 177 pounds 5'11", BMR is 1662 and TDEE is 1994.
2. Exercise 3 days a week, BMR 1662 and TDEE 2285.
3. Exercise 4 days a week, BMR 1662 and TDEE 2357.

Can you see something interesting in there? My BMR hasn't changed.

It actually does change some from person to person based on their body's efficiency and what they're eating, and this is only an estimate, but in general it's a good estimate and it's close enough to be safe.

While you can go below this calorie intake and survive, there is some discussion that you could be jeopardizing muscle mass. Losing muscle is not something you want to do on a diet. The big difference is the lack of muscle will make it easier to gain weight back at the end of your weight loss. Besides. Eating below your BMR is likely to make you one miserable person to live with. Losing weight is not the same thing as losing fat.

So. BMR we're going to say is static. Let's take a look then at BMR and TDEE. Another way of looking at TDEE is to call it... maintenance calories. That's right. Those are the calories you need to eat to have a stable weight. Anything above TDEE will have you gain weight. Anything below will have you losing weight, BUT we do not want to go below our BMR. If you want to go below your BMR, it is likely best to check with your doctor.

Now it gets interesting. Here's what happens if I go right to my BMR with my calorie deficit.

No exercise: 1994 - 1662 = 332 calories that I can reduce each day.
3 days a week exercise: 2285 - 1662 = 623 calories a day that I can cut.
4 days a week exercise: 2357 - 1662 = 695 calories a day that I can cut.

Over a week we get the following: (A pound of fat is 3555 calories. 454g * 9 *.87 . The .87 adjusts for the impurities in the fat stored in the body. 9 is the calories per gram of pure fat. That's everything from a little water, to pesticides, vitamins, and mercury.)
No exercise: 332 * 7 = 2324 calores per week = a little better than 1/2 pound.
3 days exercise: 623 * 7 = 4361 calories per week = roughly 1 1/4 pounds.
4 days exercise: 695 * 7 = 4865 calories per week = roughly 1 1/3 pounds.

Remember. The above calculations were arrived at by respecting the BMR and not going below it. These calculations show why exercise is so important in the weight loss process. It allows you to use fat at a reasonable rate (I consider 1 to 1 1/2 pounds a week to be respectable if you're below 40% body fat. If you're below 20% bf for women and below 15% bf for men you should expect slower fat loss.)

Above 40%, you should be able to expect close to 1% body fat loss per week if you dial it in. Of course, above 40% you should definitely be in touch with your doctor as well as if you have any underlying medical conditions at any weight and your doctor should be setting your calorie intake. Once you're leaner and have your diet under control, if you have no underlying medical conditions, you should discuss with your doctor what you'd prefer to be doing.

We have a couple of other things to consider, and that's how does being significantly overweight affects your BMR and TDEE, so let's start again.

***Gender Male, Weight 177, 5' 11" 3 days a week exercise

Weight 177: BMR 1662 TDEE 2285
Weight 200: BMR 1766 TDEE 2429
Weight 230: BMR 1903 TDEE 2616 (My highest weight.)
Weight 300: BMR 2221 TDEE 3054

So what does this show us? Look at the BMR. The BMR is far higher at 300 pounds than at 177. Over 500 calories difference. So BMR falls as you get leaner. So does your TDEE for the amount of work your doing since you have to move all that extra weight when you're heavier. TDEE is also higher because to maintian your fat levels you need those calories. Now look at the TDEE/maintenance calories at 300 and the TDEE at 177. It's 700 calories different.

There is some argument as to whether it's possible to lose more than 1.5 pounds of fat per week. Of course it is. Ask anyone who has been morbidly obese. But if you're 40% body fat or less, I think you're best to look for that 1 to 1.5 pound weight loss. This is easy enough to calculate your intake. Simply take your calculated TDEE and subtract 500 calories from it. 500 * 7 = 3500 which is approximately one pound of fat. For 1.5 pounds, you're looking at cutting another 250 calories to a total deficit of 750 calories. Remember you do not want to go below your BMR, particularly at lower body fat levels.

You may need to tweek your calories a bit after a couple of weeks if you don't see results. Remember, everything is an estimate. By the way, after each 10 pounds of fat loss, you should recalculate your calorie needs. Doing this is likely to avoid plateaus, though sometimes the body has to adjust and while you don't see a weight loss your body may be simply figuring out what to do. I believe it's when things stall that our body is making significant changes that will affect our heath and we need to be patient at least for two weeks in a stall. As long as we know our calories are correct we need to have faith in what we're doing. It's always worth recalculating at those sticking points just to be sure of our calorie needs though.

Do you wonder why it's so easy to pack weight back on when you go 'off the diet'? It's because you will likely go back to eating the way you used to. If you do that, you'll be eating at least 700 calories a day above your TDEE. That's nearly close to 1.5 pounds a week. What does that mean? If you don't have a plan to continue to count your calories and stay near your TDEE/maintenace at your new weight, you can be back where you were in a year! Astonishing. All that hard work gone because you didn't have an exit strategy and for some reason you thought since the weight was gone it would not come back.

How to set your RDI to any number

Click on the My Fatsecret tab. In the right hand column, look for the 'My Diet' link. Click on that and go to e: setup/change your RDI. It only gives you three choices once you're there for activity level, and there is also a drop down menu where you need to enter whether you're trying to gain or los weight, but if you click 'Calculate My RDI', and it will give you a calculated RDI. You can, however, enter your RDI manually here by entering your chosen calories in the 'Save your RDI' box.

A comment about bodybuilding dogma.

Bodybuilders are an interesting breed. Of any group out there, likely they no more about fat loss and diet than any other group.

Yet if you go onto a bodybuilding website and ask a question about diet, you're still likely to get conflicting answers. A lot of this comes from the fact that a bodybuilder is dealing with a body that is function well. They can get away with eating a lot of things that a significantly overweight person is best to avoid.

What most will agree upon is that calories are the finally
determining factor. There is a lot of discussion as well about whether you can eat anything you want as your proteins, fats, and carbs. Some say yes. Some say no. IIFYM was actually a pretty reasoned response to a culture that was eating chicken breasts, brown rice, and broccoli and saying you could eat little else. Also the tendency was to say no dairy and no fruit. The IIFYM idea was that, in the grand scheme of things, having a treat occasionally was acceptable and may even be necessary to avoid binges. Unfortunately, many people use this as an excuse to eat outside of their calories consistently and choose what I will call junk calories most of the time. There is a real argument as to what 'eating clean' is. If you're interested, PM me and I'll send you a link to a very interesting site about what constitutes clean eating. Also, IIFYM is often cited as proving it's okay to have a 'cheat day' three times a week, and to have a few beer each night. They use it as a
justification to allow external influences to determine how closely they will adhere to their diet. People who do this can't seem to lose weight consistently though they talk a big game and are lifting weights and exercising. You'll see huge swings in weight over the course of a couple of days. THAT'S yoyo dieting in my books.

The IIFYM idea misunderstood, also has some believing that it's just CICO (Calories in Calories out) that matters... and yet if you look at competition bodybuilders they're right back to eating chicken and broccoli when they're trying to cut into the neighbourhood of 6% body fat for men, and 12% bodyfat for women. (The two genders have differing essential fat levels.) They go back to those foods because they do work. Starchy foods and fatty steaks will not take you to the same place so food quality does matter, even at low body fat levels. Personally I think the extreme dieting that goes on to hit those levels is is as unhealthy as overeating, though their bodies are much more likely to handle it.

There you have post #1 for this little blog. I'm thinking of doing this once a week until I run out of ideas. Topic ideas for the next post? Any thoughts? I'm considering a couple at the moment. 'CICO - is it solid or flexible' or possibly 'Carbohydrates. Do the types really make a difference', or 'Macro types: What are they, What do they do, and how much do I need of each?' Carbs are particularly interesting because most peoples bodies deal with them differently
depending on your body fat % and blood chemistry. They are far more finicky than any other macro. PM me your ideas.

Congratulations... or my condolances if you made it this far.

Exercise isn't diet. Diet isn't exercise. Binging trumps exercise.

Joined: Apr 13
Posts: 15

Posted: 16 May 2014, 13:10
I really enjoyed this. I think you were spot on about the misunderstanding surrounding IIFYM. Maybe because you often see poptart ice cream sandwiches and flex bowls as part of their diet and you assume they eat that all the time. They don't. Those are meticulously worked into their diets so that they don't binge. If you truly follow IIFYM, then you would never have a cheat meal or day, because simply put, the program is designed so that there is no room for "cheat" because you can eat what you want as long as it fits your macros.
Eat whatever you want, and if anyone tries to lecture you about your weight, Eat them too.

Joined: Nov 13
Posts: 294

Posted: 16 May 2014, 14:32
It was an interesting read but at the end you start begging the question.

Joined: Oct 13
Posts: 119

Posted: 16 May 2014, 15:31
Good read NM. Thanks. I think macos would be a good follow up to this post.
- I don't diet. I eat to achieve my goals.

Joined: Sep 09
Posts: 1,995

Posted: 16 May 2014, 15:34
Very well written! It's great to see that you basically wrote "a manual for weight loss". Of course, there will be too many numbers for the "I'm-just-gonna-eat-right"-people, but I'm pretty certain this will work.
In regards to IIFYM - I do think you can (pretty much) eat what you like, if you hit your numbers, but you're right - people tend to turn to the trusted old methods when it's time to lose the last weight. I think it's just as much a mental thing. There is very little fat to lose when you're at the end of the weight loss journey, and you can only handle a TINY calorie deficit. This is when things get rough, IIFYM or not, and this is when we tend to go back to things we know has worked before.
I have practiced IIFYM for a while, but have DEFINITELY been slacking with it, so I can't really tell you whether it's truly working or not - but I do like the way of eating. I take things very easy, and eat what I like. I make sure the numbers are right. Trouble is, I've had too many days where I did NOT track. Smile Right now, I'm fixing that. I've gone with the numbers all of last week, and weight/bodyfat/fluid is dropping off me like crazy. Muscle? It's still there, so far.
So far so good.
Visit my website:

"Losing weight is never about eating as little as possible"
- Kingkeld.
"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.
― Eleanor Roosevelt
"Do. Or do not. There is no trying."
- Master Yoda.

I went from morbidly obese to being the owner of TABDIG - a weight loss coaching service that helps people worldwide losing weight. It's been an amazing journey. From October 4th 2010 to April 3rd 2012 I lost half my body weight - 80 kilos/170 lbs. Since then, I have had two cosmetic surgeries to remove excess skin. I have now quadrupled my strength, gained several kilos in muscle mass, and today I focus on building muscle, optimizing my diet, living healthy and helping people to reach the very same goals. I am stronger, healthier, thinner, happier! If you feel that you need help losing weight, don't hesitate to send me an inbox message.

Joined: May 14
Posts: 18

Posted: 16 May 2014, 16:36
This is really interesting information and I look forward to learning from you! Smile

Joined: Dec 13
Posts: 20

Posted: 16 May 2014, 17:52
Very interesting. However, it's alarming that once I hit my goal of 150 pounds, my BMR will be 1303 and my TDEE with 3X/week of workouts will be 1791. Not much of a "maintenance diet", is it? Yikes!
It's not a race to get thin, it's a journey to a healthy lifestyle.

Joined: Jul 13
Posts: 52

Posted: 16 May 2014, 19:25
Thanks so much for sharing this information. It's going to be so helpful. I've been wanting to venture further into the numbers world and I second Brent about the Macros. THANK YOU!
"Focus Danielson!" ― Mr. Keysuke Miyagi

Joined: Nov 13
Posts: 31

Posted: 16 May 2014, 19:30
Great blog! I too am looking forward learning more! And by the way I heard that the someone you were going to use did get back to youSad ......Crying or Very sad LoL...Really!!!

Joined: Jan 13
Posts: 994

Posted: 16 May 2014, 21:26
Thanks for the explanation of the acronyms and the role they play in our diets. Looking forward to future posts from you. Thanks for taking the time to educate us.

Joined: Jun 12
Posts: 934

Posted: 16 May 2014, 21:49
Nicely done. I looked at this at work today and said NO WAY I can read all this. But now that I'm home and rested a bit, I got through it with no problem. Thanks for doing this.

Joined: Apr 14
Posts: 1

Posted: 16 May 2014, 22:10
Thumbs up! to your Blog! Chock full of Great Info!
Yvonne Harper

Joined: Dec 13
Posts: 357

Posted: 17 May 2014, 12:17
MM. I feel your pain with the idea of having maintenance at 1700 calorie, but here's the thing. Right now you're losing weight using about 1200-1300 calories a day. That's in the 500 calorie deficit range. Remember... that's 500 calories deficit from maintenance at your GOAL calories. Right now your system is also trying to use those reduced calories to maintain 60 pounds that you still intend to lose. I believe fat also places demands (cravings) much as muscle wants to be fed. Consider this. When you hit your goal weight, and your body is feeling far less craving since the fat you're carrying no longer wants to be maintained, the calorie jump from 1300 to 1700 is a whopping 30% increase in calories. 30%!!! You'll be in such great shape and your life will have completely changed. Eating 1700 calories a day will make you feel energized and ready to take on the world (which you already do on a regular basis). If you do it right, you'll also get to feel full... from time to time. Feeling full all the time is what gets us in trouble. Better to be satisfied and healthy. I guarantee you that you will love eating 1700 calories. I'll be sharing some of my favourite recipes with you at that point. You'll always be my buddy. Smile

Exercise isn't diet. Diet isn't exercise. Binging trumps exercise.

Joined: Jul 12
Posts: 4,811

Posted: 18 May 2014, 08:31
Thanks NM. I will have to re-visit that site and learn more. I'm close to my arbitrary goal, where I will feel the best is still to be determined. I still need lots of physical work to be toned and increase my endurance. That will be a lifelong project. The calculator is showing about 1400 calories with 3 workouts per week to maintain. That is a huge help to me as a suggestion as to where to set my continuing rdi. And see what happens with my body. I tend to focus on an average over a week instead of worrying about a low or high rdi day. I may struggle to get up to that number.
"The way we eat in America makes us sick, and if we change our diet--simply incrementally-- we will be healthier." Mark Bittman Food Matters


Joined: May 12
Posts: 116

Posted: 19 May 2014, 10:50
Thanks for posting that information, it's very informative and helpful!
Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promised, today is all we've got. Make the best of today.

Joined: Apr 14
Posts: 1

Posted: 21 May 2014, 06:50
Thanks a lot! Now everything makes more sense and I see where I made mistakes all these years...

Joined: Dec 13
Posts: 357

Posted: 31 May 2014, 14:23
Post #2

So here is my plan for June. Calorie cycling on a weight loss deficit while increasing intake for replacement fuels on lifting days.

Maintenance calories are at 2700 per day. Actually this may be a little low, but I’m going with that anyway. That’s 18,900 cals per week. That's with 2000 calories of exercise included. Subtracting those calories, which I don’t consider part of my calorie cut, but rather as extra fuel burned for the exercise days, I get a weekly total of 16,900 calories per day toward static weight. 16,900 / 7 = 2414 calories per day. Rounded… 2400 calories per day.

To lose a pound a week, I need to cut my calories by 500 per day for 3500 over the week. That takes me to 1900 calories per day without considering my exercise calories.

Like I said before, the extra calories from exercise are mostly fuel, though the macros still have to be considered. Here’s the plan. Some will say I’m over thinking it, but everything is playtime for me. It’s all about understanding.

When I take my maintenance at 1900 cals and add in my 500 calories for fuel on those days, I get 2400 calories four days a week. I want my cals slightly higher on one of my days off (the second of the two days when I’m not lifting) to get my glycogen up with slightly higher , so I’m going to short myself by 100 calories for two of the three days off to give myself the extra carbs on the third day. Here’s how it will break down.

Day 1: 2400 Lift day
Day 2: 2400 Lift day
Day 3: 1800 Single day off
Day 4: 2400 Lift day
Day 5: 2400 Lift day
Day 6: 1800 1st day of 2 off
Day 7: 2100 2nd day of 2 off

That settles calories. Now for the macros.

My goals for protein and fats are static. I’m shooting for a minimum of 1 gr of protein and .45 grams of fat as minimums for each day. I’m calculating them at my target weight of 170 (actually 168, but let’s not get anal Very Happy )

Static minimum macros then are:

Protein: 170 gr
Fat: 75 gr

That’s 680 calories from protein and 675 calories from fats.That’s a total base calorie of 1360 cals.

Lifting days:
2400 - 1360 = 1040 above my protein and fat calories. I’m going with 200 gr minimum on carbs. This will be back loaded.
Target macros: Protein 170 gr, Fat 75 gr, Carbs 200 gr.
That gives me total calories of 2160 calories. That leaves me just over 240 calories that are flexible. Yes, it’s close, but anywhere in the ballpark should work.

No lift days at 1800 calories:

Base calories from protein and fats 1360. 1800 – 1360 = 440 calories remaining. Max carbs 50 gr for the day. That leaves 240 or a little more for more fats and protein.

Macros: Protein 170, Fats 75, 440 calories flexible including a max of 50 gr of carbs.

No lift days at 2100 calories:

Base calories from protein and fats 1360. 2100 – 1360 = 740 calories remaining. Max carbs 100 gr for the day with 50 gr or more back loaded. That leaves 340 calories for more fats and protein.

There is a possibility as well that I will eat at maintenance one day a week. I'll do that if I feel the need. It would be the lifting day right before the 2 days non lifting. I'm undecided at this point.

Time to get a few daily plans together to know I’m close. I’m not sure if this will be fun or not. I’m sure you’ll all get to hear me whine. Very Happy

Oh, right. I’ll be cutting for three weeks and then going to maintenance for a week. Keep the ol’ hormones bouncing.

This, by the way, is how IIFYM can work. It still has to be planned. While IIFYM com has it's own macro calculator, I prefer to work from my understanding. I also know better than a calculator what foods do and don't work for me.

Have a great day everyone. Hope I didn't bore you... if you got this far.

Exercise isn't diet. Diet isn't exercise. Binging trumps exercise.

Joined: Jul 12
Posts: 4,811

Posted: 31 May 2014, 16:24
I still have my rdi on fs set at 1200. I'm 2 pounds from my goal so am more trying to find what is going to work for me for maintaining. Spring is not a good gage for me. I do lots of outside work and mixed in is baseball/softball season where many days after work I'm driving then sitting watching grandkids play. So my days switch from sedentary to relatively physical labor. My normal workouts are interrupted by my life, as no time. I think it will be awhile before I get to a maintenance plan.
"The way we eat in America makes us sick, and if we change our diet--simply incrementally-- we will be healthier." Mark Bittman Food Matters


Joined: Jul 13
Posts: 52

Posted: 06 Jun 2014, 21:50
Best wishes to your success with your plan, NM. A lot of thought went into this. I look forward to the whine and then the celebration. Smile
"Focus Danielson!" ― Mr. Keysuke Miyagi

Joined: Jan 13
Posts: 994

Posted: 06 Jun 2014, 21:52
Chica... freudian slip "whine"?

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