The estimates are based on a level of activity above Sedentary. Not sure which though.
Best way to check that you’re getting the right amount for your goals:
check your bodyfat percentage. There are scales and hand-held devices that can measure this, and even though it might not be ultra-accurate, it’s generally good enough to get a useful estimate.
calculate your lean body mass. In the following formula, LBM is lean body mass, and TBM is total body mass, and BFP is bodyfat percentage. BFP is a decimal, e.g. 50 percent = 0.5
LBM = TBM - (BFP * TBM)
Calculate your desired body mass (DBM). Say you want 13 percent bodyfat. You want 100% + 13% of your lean body mass. (Do this step with whatever you want as your target.)
DBM = LBM * (1.13)
To use this information …
- Using the BMR calculator of your choice, but I recommend one that includes activity level and gender to be sure. Then find out what the target Calories are for that DBM at your actual activity level. Your current caloric intake SHOULD be above that number. If not, you have a depressed metabolism and you’ll need to fix that, and that process is beyond the scope of this answer and you need a doctor to help. Otherwise, you have some juggling to do. First, if the difference between your target and your current is more than 500 Calories a day, you’ll need to approach this in stages. Typically this is true if your target bodyfat is more than 6 percent (0.06) from your current bodyfat percentage. If that’s the case, choose a new target that’s no more than 6 percent away and do the calculation with that, knowing that when you reach that level you will change it again. Step by step.
(I chose that number from a range. You can experiment to find your best difference. It should be a number where you can go without feeling like you’re starving and must snack.)
Once you have the target Calories, eat that many Calories a day. NOTE this may be more than 500 Calories below what your current requirement says – so you may be forced to do it in stages. If it’s less than 500 Calories difference, and you want to make it happen a bit faster subtract 100 Calories. You want to feel slightly but not annoyingly hungry but not right after you eat.
Keep track of your weight once every two or three days, at the same time every day. Stay hydrated but don’t overdo it. The purpose of this process is to make your body composition go to what you want it to be. So keep up exercise levels, because exercised muscles respond better to insulin and teach organs to respond better as well. But don’t go crazy unless you want to do the calculation over again for the higher activity level.
Don’t sweat it if you go over once a week or so, after you’ve got the eating pattern set. And, according to the dieticians I’ve known, that will cause a slow, steady loss (or gain) until you reach the body composition that you targeted. Losing more than 2 pounds a week is stressful on your body and can actually cause more harm that it fixes, so be careful.
This process does rely on activity above ‘sedentary’ because ‘sedentary’ also makes the body’s famine-detection mechanisms switch on more easily, as people who are starving become less active. Feedback. Yay. So if you’re not more active, then walk for a half hour a day, if you can.
And if you insist on asking – yeah, this works when I can get myself to do it. Having my insulin changed (increased) knocked me for a loop and I have to get back into it again… because the insulin made me gain back the weight I had lost doing this process before. (Avoid diabetes, if you can. I am told it’s possible.)
… there was something missing here that I noticed when I was doing another reply but I can’t remember what it was.
Oh well. Someone is sure to point it out. OH RIGHT.
The USDA site says that 500 Calories deficit is a good number to choose as the daily caloric deficit, so my initial 100 Calories deficit recommendation might be too slow. Personally I think 500 might make you feel too hungry, but that’s up to you. Just don’t go much beyond that 500 Calorie deficit. So I’ve adjusted my answers above to fit that recommendation.