How much should I be eating?

The numbers explained

How much should I be eating?

Gain weight, eat more. Lose weight, eat less. If only it were so simple. We break down the numbers and why. Plus the external factors you need to consider besides just calories. 


What are calories?

Calories are a measure of how much energy food or drink contains. The official unit is kilocalories (kcal), but commonly people use the term calories. On the food labels you can also find the term kJ - kilojoules. One kcal is approximately 4.2 kJ. 

From the three main macronutrients, protein and carbs have 4 kcal/gram and fats have 9 kcal/gram. Alcohol has 7 kcal/gram with no benefit value to the organism. 


Balance your energy with energy balance

Energy balance can be understood as the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can be transformed from one form to another but cannot be created or destroyed. In the context of human biology, it means that your body weight changes when you consume more or less energy that your body burns. 

  • When you eat consistently the same amount of energy you burn, your weight will stay similar. 
  • When you eat consistently more energy than you burn,  you will gain weight
  • When you consistently eat less energy than you burn you will lose weight.


Why fat loss can be so hard

Fat loss can be complex because you can simultaneously lose body fat and gain muscle, which may not change your overall weight. 

But why is it not so easy to lose weight, when it looks easy in theory? It is not just eating less and moving more. Several factors make it challenging in practice:

  1. Body complexity: Weight loss involves more than just calories; hormones, genetics, and metabolism play roles.
  2. Environmental influence: Ultra processed food is often cheap and convenient, making it hard to resist.
  3. Psychological aspects: Emotions, stress, and habits can lead to overeating or unhealthy choices.
  4. Lifestyle obstacles: Busy schedules and limited access to nutritious options make it tough to stick to a plan.
  5. Individual differences: What works for one person may not work for another due to various factors like age, gender, and medical history.

In essence, while weight loss sounds simple, navigating these challenges requires patience, persistence, and tailored approaches.


So how much should you be eating?


Here's how to calculate your estimated energy requirements (EER)?

You will need your current body weight, height, age and physical activity level.


1. Calculate your basal metabolism rate (BMR)

If you have access to an InBody Scan like the one we offer our clients at ATTIKA, it can measure your body composition and so can fairly accurately estimate your BMR. Otherwise, the most widely used equation for calculating Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the Harris-Benedict equation. There are different versions of this equation for men and women:

For men:

BMR(men) = 66,473 + (13,7516 × weight in kg) + (5,0033 × height in cm) - (6,755 × age in years)

For women:

BMR(women) = 655,0955 + (9,5634 × weight in kg) + (1,8496 × height in cm) - (4,6756 × age in years)

These equations provide an estimate of the number of calories your body needs at rest to maintain basic physiological functions such as breathing, circulation, and cell production. Keep in mind that these equations are estimates and individual variations in metabolism may exist.


2. Multiply your BMR with Physical Activity Level

PAL - physical activity level is a way to express a person's physical activity.

  1. General lifestyle including work and school, regular movements throughout the day (walking), physical exertion at work.
  2. Intentional physical activity

Level of physical activity

Coefficient PAL




Most of the work/study or time spent in school is spent sitting with minimal movement throughout the day (sedentary occupation + approximately 20–30 minutes of slow walking during the day).

Low activity level


The occupation/school is predominantly sedentary, however, there are frequent movements involving walking, occasional standing, with approximately 45–60 minutes of walking during the day + light household chores.

Medium activity level


Most of the work time spent in movement involving walking or moderately demanding manual labor (waiters, postal delivery workers, warehouse work, craftsmen).

High activity level


Heavy manual labor throughout the day at work (non-mechanized work in agriculture, forestry work, manual labor in construction, heavy lifting), or highly active leisure activities.


For intentional physical activity there are different tables and calculators.

  1. Add the thermic effect of the food (TEF), which is 10 %.

TEF = 10 % of EER x PAL

Thermic effect of the food is the energy that your body needs to digest the food.


Example: Woman, 60 kg, 170 cm, 35 years, sedentary job, 2-3 workouts a week.

BMR = 655,0955 + (9,5634 × 60) + (1,8496 × 170) - (4,6756 × 60) = 1263 kcal

PAL = 1.5

TEF = 189 kcal


EER = 1263x1,5 = 1895 + 189 = 2084

Her estimated energy requirements for weight maintenance would be 2084 kcal. 


How many calories should you reduce to lose weight?

When you want to lose weight you need to be in a caloric deficit. The approaches to setting a caloric deficit varies. What is very important is to never go under your basal metabolism. When your body is not getting enough energy for basic functions in the longer period of time, your health will suffer. A properly set caloric deficit should be 15-20 % from your estimated energy requirements (EER). 

How long should you stay in a caloric deficit? There is no correct answer to this question. It depends on your goals and actual body weight, and it is highly individual. In a week it is healthy to lose 0.5-1 % of your body weight. The important thing is to avoid drastic diets that you can't sustain but rather make healthy sustainable choices in your nutrition.


How many calories should you eat to gain weight?

To gain weight you should add 5-10 % of your maintenance intake, or simply add 250 kcal. Per month you should gain 0.5-1 kg of body mass. If you are trying to put on muscle and not body fat you shouldn’t increase your calorie intake more than that, as that would exceed your muscle growth and the surplus calories would simply turn into fat. 


Should you track your calories?

Calorie and macro tracking isn’t suitable for everyone. For some, especially those with past struggles with disordered eating, tracking can trigger feelings of obsession and a need for excessive control.

Additionally, many people who attempt calorie tracking don’t always see results. This can happen due to tracking errors or because of medical conditions or medications that affect hunger and energy levels.⁣⁣

Tracking calories can be a useful tool, when it is used correctly. If you want you can track your calories for about one week, just to have insight into your dieting habits, but I wouldn't recommend doing it for a long period of time. 


It's not all about how much, but also what are you eating 


Don't forget about the macros!

The recommended macronutrient distribution for adults tends to be 45–65 % carbohydrates, 20–35 % dietary fat, and 10–35 % protein. These are not precise targets; they are windows recommended to the general population as guidelines. There is no ‘perfect’ macronutrient ratio from a health point of view or for weight loss. 

General recommendations for protein intake are 0.8 g/kg of body weight. But when you are working out, you will benefit from increasing protein in your diet. Your protein intake could be from 1.6 g/kg up to 2.2 g/kg depending on your goals. Your carbs and fats can be according to your preference. It is good to try what macronutrient distribution suits you the best.


What does our body do with these macros? 

The protein, carbs, and fats we eat break down into smaller molecules in the body (proteins to amino acids, carbs to simple sugars, and fats to fatty acids). Once these molecules enter the body, passing through the intestinal barrier into circulation, they can either be utilised, stored, or eliminated.

While our bodies use amino acids for many body functions, simple sugars and fatty acids are primarily used to make ATP, which our body uses as energy⁣. It is not 100 % efficient, only 40 % of the energy goes to useful work, and 60 % is burned off as heat (calories). The body can produce the same amount of energy from 1 g of protein and 1 g of carbohydrates, and more than 2x energy from fat. That is why protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9.


Get personal advice and education about your current habits

If you are still unsure about your personal circumstance or have unanswered questions about the various myths and mysteries then book yourself in for a nutrition consultation. ATTIKA Personal Training and Group Personal Training clients currently get it free whilst other members and the general public have their own discount too. Read here to find out more about this incredibly valuable service.

InBody measurements are an accurate body composition reading tool to help us see your quantifiable progress of your personal goals you and your trainer have defined together.

We will be able to track:
  • Analysis of body composition – muscle, body fat, water retention
  • Comparison analysis for upper/lower body and left/right side balance
  • Setting specific health goals
  • Tracking and comparing your progress with previous measurements

At Attika our priority is your health. We have met plenty of people with six packs that are totally miserable and unhealthy. Having a six pack can be a side effect of healthy habits and of course we can help you to get there, if you wish to do so. However, our priority is creating healthy mindset and habits towards becoming a better human, feeling good in your own skin, and having energy to keep going. The looks are a bonus 🙂

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