We’ve all heard of calorie counting and you may have first hand experience of it from one time or another. From a weight gain point of view, its purpo
We’ve all heard of calorie counting and you may have first hand experience of it from one time or another. From a weight gain point of view, its purpose is to measure the amount of food we eat – not the quantity but the energy within our diet – to ensure our energy input is above (but not by too much) our energy output.
The problem is that calorie counting is not an exact science and can also be quite tedious. Even when weighing food, it’s difficult to measure energy intake precisely and we can only take a best guess at what our daily energy requirements are.
There are a number of formulas designed to estimate your energy requirements. They range in complexity but all are best guesses and many of these formulas underestimate the resting metabolic rate of athletes, or anyone who exercises regularly.
A much more reliable and accurate approach is to adjust your caloric intake based on your weight – if you don’t notice a change on the scales you up your intake until you do. To do this however, you need a starting point. Here are two options:
If you’re weight is steady at the moment, add about 500 calories a day to your diet. The easiest way to do this is to add an extra (small) meal to your diet and/or to increase the portion sizes of your existing meals.
Start with a calorie intake of 15-25 calories per pound of bodyweight, which has been shown to lead to a suitable rate of lean weight gain [6,32]. For example, someone weighing 11 stone (154lbs) would aim for a calorie intake of about 2300kcal to 3800kcal.
As you can see there is a big difference between those two intakes. Start at the lower end of this scale (15-20 calories per pound) if you have moderate to high levels of body fat. If you’re naturally very lean and light, you should aim for the upper end of this scale (20-25 calories per pound).
Option 2 requires some degree of calorie counting. However, this doesn’t have to be indefinite – just until you get a feel for what food intake allows you to gain weight. Keep a food diary for a few weeks (use approximate portion sizes, there’s no need to weigh food) and use a phone app like MY FITNESS PAL to keep track of your calories.