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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

How Many Calories Do You Need?

Q. What should my daily calorie intake be? I weigh 175 pounds and have a heavy build. I have a desk job so I'm not physically active during the day, but I work out with weights four nights a week, 75-90 minutes on a split routine.

A. The number of calories you burn each day varies depending on body weight, body composition, metabolism and activity level. I estimate you need approximately 3,150 calories. That figure may surprise you. Many people have no idea how many calories they require simply to maintain their weight and, as a result, they tend to cut calories too much when they attempt to lose body fat.

There's a rule-of-thumb formula for estimating how many calories you burn at rest. For men: Add a zero to your weight and then add twice your weight. For women: Add a zero to your weight and then add your weight. Using the formula, your expected resting calories needs would be 2,100 a day. (To 175 add a zero, giving you 1,750, and to this figure add two times 175, or 350, for a total of 2,100.)

This is an estimate of the number of calories it would take to maintain your weight if you did nothing but vegetate. To determine total calorie needs, you have to add calories for general activity and exercise. With your desk job and workouts, you probably burn one-half again your resting needs, for a total of 3,150 calories (2,100 plus 1,050 equals 3,150). If you were engaged in a regular aerobic exercise program, you would require more calories. On the average, walking or jogging a mile consumes about 100 calories.

As general information, you'll be interested to know that, according to the National Research Council, the average woman (5'4", medium frame, not too thin, not too fat) who does not exercise needs 1,600-2,400 calories a day to maintain body weight. The average man requires 2,300-3000 calories a day to do the same.

You don't say whether you want to lose fat, but most people do, and I'd like to suggest an approach that I believe you will find helpful.

I'm frequently asked how many calories I eat and, frankly, I don't know. I rarely calculate my total caloric intake. For me, and for most people, it's better to establish a regular eating pattern, and then create a calorie deficit by subtracting food from the normal intake. I sometimes count the calories I cut from my usual diet, but I almost never count up my total calorie consumption.

Some people approach the calorie problem the wrong way. They put themselves on a low-calorie diet - 800, 1,000, 1,200 or some other unrealistically low level - without first establishing an eating pattern that maintains their present body weight. They severely deprive themselves and end up going off their diet. They frequently yo-yo up and down on an unhealthy cycle of starvation and bingeing.

Accordingly, before you start counting calories, first get in the habit of eating regular meals - breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and bedtime snack - emphasizing low-fat, natural (as grown) foods.

I eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods and avoid foods with sugar or fat added and the fiber removed. My diet is made up mainly of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy and meat products. I spread my food intake evenly throughout the day and - this is important - I don't skip meals. Because I maintain a regular eating pattern, I rarely have the urge to binge, and I don't come to meals ravenously hungry. The end result is that I eat about the same number of calories each day, and my body fat stays low.

Many people find that eating regularly and making sensible food choices, along with exercise, is all they require to maintain a lean, healthy body. They don't need to count calories.

If a stable eating pattern doesn't do the trick for you, the next step is to cut your calories slightly and increase your activity level slightly. Start by subtracting 250 calories from your normal eating pattern -- eating one less egg and dropping two slices of bread would do it -- and adding 250 calories worth of activity -- two and one-half miles of jogging or walking. These two easily tolerated changes will result in a fat loss of about one pound each week. In the long run, I believe you'll discover that eating regular, planned meals will give you more control over your body fat than counting calories.


This Q&A was taken from my book The Lean Advantage 2. It's still as timely as the day it was written. I know from the e-mails I receive every day that many people are searching for answers to questions about diet and exercise. They need the kind of sound and practical advice given in this column - and found in The Lean Advantage Q&A series (three books).

To encourage people to discover the veritable treasure chest of valuable information in the The Lean Advantage series , we are offering a special on all three books: $30 + $8 shipping ($38.00 total) - for foreign postage check ordering page. If the books were purchased separately they would cost $45.85 + shipping, so the savings is almost $16. To order your set call (505) 266-5858 during normal business hours (8-5 M-F) or fax your credit card order to (505) 266-9123 (24 hours). (For more information on The Lean Advantage series, click on "Products" below.)

Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108.  Phone:  (505) 266-5858, E-mail address is cncbass@aol.com, FAX:  (505) 266-9123.  Office Hours, 8-5, M-F, Mountain time.

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