Are we REALLY, with this BS again?

Some people just REALLY don’t want to believe I eat 3000 calories a day. Most of the people who accuse me of lying fall into one of two categories: low-carbers or misogynists. Frequently both, as the two seem to overlap with laughable regularity.

The most recent example is one well known douchebro who, upon reading my recent facebook post about how much I eat, declared: “So she eats more than an average male who outweighs her? Bullshit.

Do you even Mifflin St. Jour, bro? Also, I maintain a higher amount of lean mass than the average man my height and weight. I know this is an emasculating concept for men who base their own self worth as a man on how much muscle they have. Sorry bro.

The Mifflin St Jour equation has been shown in studies to be the most accurate predictor of Resting Metabolic Rate of all the most commonly used equations. It’s also the equation I was taught to use in my Personal Training and Health Coaching certification courses. When I run my numbers through the Mifflin St Jour equation, it gives me an estimate of between 2800 and 3200 calories to maintain my current weight, depending on a couple variables. Here, I’ll show you, using an online calculator that bases it’s estimates on the Mifflin St Jour equation*.

When I program in my height, weight, activity level (although I don’t exercise excessively, I do have a a physically demanding job – I’m a massage therapist and personal trainer) and gender, it gives me an estimate of over 2800 to maintain:

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 6.41.20 AMBut remember, I have a higher than average amount of lean mass – in fact, at sub-20% body fat I have more lean mass than the average man my height and weight (the average American male is 28% body fat, sorry bro). In fact, at roughly 140 pounds of lean mass, I have as much lean body mass as an average American man of 195 pounds. So when I switch the gender, causing the calculator to factor in a higher level of lean mass (a more accurate amount of lean mass for me), I get an estimate of almost 3200. See?

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 6.45.51 AMSo yes. I eat as much (if not more) than an average man who outweighs me. Because I’m MOAR MUSCULAR than an average man who outweighs me. And because I’m, you know, not as sedentary as an average man who outweighs me.

Science says 3000 calories a day is a perfectly reasonable and appropriate amount of food for my height, weight and activity level. #ScienceBro


I chose this calculator for this blog post because it’s based specifically on the Mifflin St. Jour equation, not because I think it’s better than the other calculators I’ve linked to on my blog. :)



34 thoughts on “Are we REALLY, with this BS again?

  1. If we could only get away from the horrifying but pervasive idea that it’s *anybody’s* business what *anyone* puts into his or her mouth, that would be an excellent beginning. I also agree with you–have encountered such serious sexism generally in the “low-carb” community–from both men and women. It’s as if body fat itself represents girl cooties or something, and, wow, we surely need to avoid contamination by those.
    Cultural attitudes–how blind we are to them.

    • Right?

      This particular person is quite scientifically literate and produces a lot of really solid material. His attitude is grounded in misogyny, not ignorance.

  2. May I ask what nutrition certification you hold? I am looking into taking a certification, but not sure which is best. I like yor approach to nutrition. Too many certifications teach the exclusion of certain foods for no good reason (gluten, dairy, etc). Thanks.

  3. The online calculator link is not working. I’m interested in trying it out and comparing it to the results from the calculator I have been using.


  4. Bummer, the calculator says the dieting nazi’s are correct and I need to eat 1200 calories a day if I expect to lose any weight. Guess it proves that the one-size-fits all dieting advice is the major problem.

    • 1200 is awfully low. Is it possible to increase your activity level rather than decrease your calories? NEAT (non-activity termogenesis) is the easiest way to up your calorie burn – walk instead of drive, stand instead of sit, take the stairs, etc. It can make quite a big difference.

  5. Interesting – I used the calculator and it lines up perfectly with what my FitBit tells me I need to eat to maintain or lose weight. (2300 to maintain, 1800 to lose 1#/wk)

    And I’m nowhere near as active or muscular as Amber, so the fact that I could reasonably maintain at 2300 means that 3000 for her to maintain doesn’t sound unreasonable to me at all.

    But what do I know about caloric needs… I’m just a silly dietitian. '?

  6. Eh. Speaking from my own personal experience and nobody else’s, I tried the calorie counting thing for a while using the above calculator and I actually gained weight. After six months of steady gains and really not feeling that great, I switched back to eating a lower carb diet and feel great; immediately dropped 7 pounds in four weeks. I guess my point is that not all low carbers are misognynistic idiots, but then again it’s really nobody’s business how many calories I eat or you eat. I’m at a loss as to why this guy was so upset about this; maybe he was projecting some kind of insecurity he himself is struggling with.

  7. I am curious why you recommend this particular calculator over others? I am inclined to like it because it puts my daily metabolic rate 200-300 calories higher than the MyFitnessPal app I have been using! I am an elite cyclist and only track calories in the off season, and following this app always seems to leave me quite hungry, even though I am supposedly “maintaining” weight.

    • I like any calculator that bases it’s estimates on the Mifflin St. Jour equation, because the Mifflin St Jour is the most accurate. :) There are other calculators I recommend too. The one at Fat Secret is great, as is the health-calc I link to elsehere on this blog, and a few other random ones I’ve found over the years.

      Short answer: Mifflin St. Jour.

  8. 1800 or so to maintain. Exactly what I expected. Thanks for posting this calculator – super helpful!

    And common sense! Move more? Eat more. Duh.

  9. I noticed that the study you cited didn’t include Katch-McArdle, which is based on LBM and makes no distinction between men and women. Now I’m curious if there is a study that compares Mifflin St. Jeor to Katch-McArdle.

    • I would be interested in that as well. I find that for a lot of these calculators (not just calorie), I need to tell the system I’m a man to get an accurate reading.

  10. I have a sedentary lifestyle and am overweight, which is a painful combo. After plugging in my info., It’s sad to see that it says I need to eat 1,759 cals. to maintain my weight (not my goal), 1,259 cals. to loose 1 lb. per week, and 759 cals. daily to loose 2 lbs. a week. Obviously I need to exercise and move more. If I change it to “Light Activity” I need to eat 1,861 cals to loose 1 lb. per week. A change to “Moderate Activity” allows me 2,161 cals. daily to loose 1 lb. a week. Making these changes to increased activity scares me as I am so burned out on going to the gym (I use to be a work-out addict), and have such a busy schedule now. I’m kinda sad that even a small change in increasing activity still keeps my calorie intake restricted. Any suggestions?

    • I totally understand the gym burn-out issue. Used to be a gym junkie (literally – anorexia athletica) and now, post-recovery, can’t stand gyms. For me it was about finding something gentle that I could explore with my mind as well as my body. The great thing is that when you go from sedentary to trying to be more active, even gentle exercise can be challenging, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re working that hard or “breaking a sweat.” So it absolutely still counts as exercise.

      Walking and gentle beginners yoga were where I started with returning to movement, and they’re still my staples even though now I can exercise with more intensity. And by “beginners yoga” I mean gentle forward bends, downward facing dog, upward facing dog, and child’s pose. You can base a solid 15-minute routine off of cycling through those slowly. Doing things slowly and at home with soothing music on might not seem like “working out,” but it made me stronger and fitter. There are heaps of yoga guides online, but the videos I found best (and most suited for a beginner) were actually these ones (hope it’s ok to post links)

      They’re by a dance teacher who’s very well-respected for her yoga teaching as well.

      Also, with walking, podcasts or listening to new music makes 30-60 minutes of walking feel a lot less intimidating.

  11. I wonder if he underestimated you height/weight when he thought that. fit woman your height look so much lighter than they really are. at least I hope they do since I am 5-10 and 180! I am older and not so lean as you but at about 134lbs lean mass I can eat 2600 to maintain when I get my normal exercise in and on busy weeks I can still have 2300 and not gain. thank goodness I am tall! people are shocked when I tell them I weigh 180.

  12. How to pick the activity level? If you work a desk job 40 hours a week, but lift 3 days a week and go running 3 days a week, what activity level are you?

  13. Arrgh!! This is why, I believe everyone is so different that we should use it as a guide, but a guide could also be completely off. So apparently I can lose nearly a kg a week if i consume 1200 calories. But how do you know if that is going to be muscle you are losing as well, what component is fat, what amount if muscle? People can choose what they want to make up those calories, I know that if i only ate 1200 cal and still did all the fitness I do, which is very active as i do on average 6 workout days a week, how do I know i am not digging myself into a hole and removing my muscle gains by not tapping into my fat stores for energy?

    • And I know my body, if i starve it and do all the “diet” things yes sure I can lose the weight, but as soon as I resume healthier eating with better quality foods and less grain carbohydrates, my weight is much more stable, at the moment I am eating lots of good food and yes I am very slowly shifting a few hundred grams here or there, but not going through the upheaval that happens when one “diets” to lose weight

    • the 2/lb a week rate of weight loss is too rapid for all but the most obese. The best way to assure you’re losing fat is to take a slower, more moderate approach, keep your deficit small, and aim for .5-1 pound a week loss. The closer you are to your goal weight, the slower you should be losing. Moderation Is Evidence Based

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  15. I’m not sure which bothers me more: the mainstream media myth that calories are evil getting in the way again or the idea that women should stay weak and frail to attract a man. At 130lbs and 16% body fat I think nothing of putting 2700cals on my plate a day and focus more on how I perform than what others think. Being a badass is hungry work!

  16. OK, things are inconsistent. The reputable Calorie Calculator that you use tells me that I get to enjoy a 500 calories more a day than what a calorie-counting fitness website tells me. Seem weird.

  17. Ugh, that calculator bums me out. At 5’4″ and 135 pounds (33 y/o), it tells me that to lose 2 pounds a week, I can only eat 1019 calories a day and that is WITH being moderately active. BOOOOOO!!

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