For some of you that you are exploring a vegan/plant-based diet, I know you will want to understand how to calculate your daily energy demands and how best to split up the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) you are consuming to achieve your own individual goals. This, of course, is not something everyone needs to do, and in fact the majority of you probably won’t want to (I personally did this at the beginning to understand plant-based nutrition inside out, but it’s not something I track daily anymore). If you are not interested in counting your macros, then jump over to my top tips for healthy living and grocery list blogs as they will be more interesting for you!
If you are in fact interested in counting your macronutrients and fine tuning the exact calories you are consuming on a vegan or plant-based diet to meet your calorie expenditure and/or performance goals, then please read my 7 steps below.
Body Fat % means the % of your total body weight that is from fat. Fat-free mass is your total body weight when you remove the amount that your fat weighs.
There are all sorts of equipment and clinical tests you can buy/pay for to get your body fat %, however they don’t provide that much more accuracy than eye balling your abdominal region and comparing yourself to a body fat chart like the below. Using the below chart, select the body shape that looks most like your midsection. If you think you are slightly leaner or slightly thicker than the example photo (or fall between two of them), you can use the middle ground figure.
Once you have your approximate body fat % you know what your fat-free % is. For example, my body fat sits around the 10% mark for a lot of the year, so my fat-free mass is 90%. Therefore, if I weigh 85Kg, my total fat-free weight is 85Kg x 90% = 76.5Kg.
Your BMR is the number of calories you burn per day at rest before we consider exercise, and your TDEE also factors in the number of calories you burn during exercise. To calculate these figures with greater accuracy, you need to understand your ‘fat free mass’ weight. To do this, you need to have an idea of your body fat %, which I am sure is something you have no doubt heard before.
Now you know your fat free mass, you can use that along with your height, age and activity level and enter it into a BMR/TDEE calculator like this one to give you the total calories your body will burn if you engage in ZERO activity for the day (this never happens unless you literally stayed in bed asleep all day) and the amount of calories you will actually require for your standard day to maintain your current weight (weight loss and gain discussed further down). When I input my details, I get 1,574 calories as my BMR and a daily burn of 2,440 calories. This means that based on my current activity level, I need 2,440 calories per day to stay the same weight that I am right now.
Equilibrium: Setting your calories at equilibrium means you will be consuming the same, or similar, number of calories per day to what you are burning. This is for anyone wanting to stay the same weight.
Surplus: Setting your calories at surplus means you will be consuming MORE calories than you are burning per day. This is for anyone wanting to put on weight. If this is your goal, for optimal results I recommend you set your calories at 15% above your daily calorie burn.
Deficit: Setting your calories at a deficit means you will be consuming LESS calories than you are burning per day. This is for anyone wanting to lose weight. If this is your goal, for optimal results I recommend you set your calories at 15% below your daily calorie burn.
Now you know the total calories you are targeting and also understand the macronutrient breakdown based on your activity level (Step 2), find the appropriate chart below and calorie level. This then shows you the approximate calories you should be targeting.
Note: If your exact calorie target is not in the chart (i.e you fall between two rows) and you want to perform the calculation with great accuracy (rather than just approximating) use the above data with the below calculations:
Read my tips for a healthy plant based diet here. If you are counting your macros and want the best results, then make sure you are eating nutrient-dense foods with each mouthful as it will pay off in dividends both now and in the long term future.
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