How many calories should a woman eat for fat loss?

 We are completely mishandling weight loss for MOST WOMEN at the calorie level.

Sharpay Evans

Lean and sexy on 1200 calories per day!

Picture this.

You are waiting in line at supermarket checkout.

Your attentions shifts from the magazine rack to your iPhone.

You read on facebook:


Written by a strong, smart, respected woman.

You nod in enthusiasm. 1200 calorie diets DO suck. You’ve tried them. You were hungry and irritable and lethargic.

“Stop starving yourselves,” she continues. “These magazines are bullsh*t!!”

Now, this battle is admirable.

This woman is good hearted and her words are well-intended.

But she is wrong.

If your maintenance is 1800 or 1900 calories, you are not “starving” on a 1200 calorie diet.

Let’s back up though.


2.24 proj bangers


No, here is a list of women we ARE NOT talking about:

  • You are relatively advanced in training
  • Maintenance, recomposition or muscle gain is your priority
  • You were previously or are currently a serious athlete
  • You are genetically predisposed to elite levels of lean body mass

So, before you read the headline and go straight for the comments to tell me I’m a bully and you dieted down to 12% for your sixth figure show on 300g of carbs per day, chill out. I’m not talking about you.

Who we ARE talking about:

  • You are relatively sedentary
  • You want to lose bodyfat / look and feel better
  • You are busy and don’t have countless hours to be a gym rat
  • You haven’t done much strength training with barbells

I know you. I know you insanely well because I coach you. I’ve coached thousands like you. And if I don’t coach you, I am exchanging emails with you every single day.

You are not a superstar athlete. You do not work a physically strenuous job. And you want to lean out a bit. Meaning, you want to get toned, defined, smaller, lose fat, etc.

You are the majority.


Our Biggest Problem: A GROSS misunderstanding of calorie maintenance

Listen up, we’ll make this as simple as possible.

Eating a 1200 calorie diet cannot be labeled good or bad without context. And the most relevant factor in setting appropriate calorie intake is the individual’s calorie maintenance.

What is calorie maintenance: Number of calories you eat in a day to maintain your current weight.

This is comprised of 1. Basal Metabolic Rate 2. Calories burned via activity/exercise 3. Digestion (thermic effect of food) and 4. Calories burned via non-exercise activity.

In an attempt to simplify things, many sites including my beginner’s fitness guide use total bodyweight to estimate calorie maintenance.

  • Bodyweight x 14-15 = maintenance

Unfortunately, this is an oversimplification.

Lean body mass is more accurate than total bodyweight for determining calorie maintenance.

Lean Body Mass: Total Bodyweight minus Bodyfat.

  • For Example: A 5’3” 150 pound woman with 34% bodyfat has a vastly different calorie maintenance than a 5’9” 150 pound woman who is 22% bodyfat even though they have the same total bodyweight.

That’s because our first woman has 99 pounds of lean body mass and our second woman has 117 pounds of lean body mass.

While they share the same total bodyweight, the leaner woman will have a higher calorie maintenance.

This is primarily because muscle requires more energy to maintain than bodyfat.

Cal Maint

A completely unrelated pair of food selfie pics to offset the utter bore of this section. I promise this blog post gets better.

How to accurately estimate calorie maintenance

Alright, so bodyweight x 15 is no good… what should I do?

There are many ways to estimate calorie maintenance. I like the Katch McCardle equation best.

Katch:  BMR = 370 + (9.82 x LBM)


This equation allows us to estimate our basal metabolic rate (BMR).

We can multiply our BMR by 1.25-1.7* to estimate our calorie maintenance.

To run with our previous example: 150 pounds and 34% bodyfat:

  • (1-.34) x 150 = 99 pounds LBM
  • 370 + (9.82 x 99) = 1342 BMR
  • 1342 x 1.3 = 1745 calories

What do you think happens when our friend here eats 2000 calories per day (and strength trains) because that’s what her favorite instagram star does?

She is going to build muscle and slowly increase scale weight.

And let me be clear, this is not a bad thing. I think building muscle and getting more strong/athletic/conditioned is cool.

But it isn’t her goal.

Set a calorie intake based on your estimated maintenance to ensure you are moving in the right direction.

*If you are MORE active, use a higher multiplier. For example, a woman with a 9-5 office job and very few physically active hobbies would be closer to 1.25. A single mom bartender who hustles her face off with two kids is closer to 1.7 or higher. Make sense?


Women BF

Next Problem: Most of us drastically underestimate our Bodyfat Percentage 

Look, body image is messy. It is hard to be completely honest with ourselves. Admitting that you might be 38% or 42% or even 55% bodyfat isn’t easy.

But if you are underestimating bodyfat, you are drastically overestimating calorie maintenance.

Put simply, this means you can nail your macros every single day and not lose ANY bodyfat because your numbers were flawed from the start.

lady on rocks didact

She emailed me out of the blue.

Carrie, we’ll call her. 5’2″ and 194 pounds at 39 years old.

I get it… 30% seems like a big number.

And you’ve never had a reason to estimate bodyfat before. So, you are in a sense blindly guessing… because how important can the accuracy of that number really be, right?

After a few emails back and forth, we shared photos. We talked about how bodyfat calipers work. I told Carrie that for a woman of her height who has never strength trained seriously before, it is very unlikely she has that much lean body mass.

We conclude that Carrie is 49% bodyfat.

She is mortified. She is so sick with herself. She can’t believe it.

But guess what, this created a change of 482 calories in her deficit! That is literally the difference between losing 50 pounds in a year and not losing a single pound.

How important can estimating bodyfat really be? It’s the difference between making a dramatic transformation and staying exactly the same.

Currently down 13 pounds in 8 weeks, Carrie is owning the game.

I will be writing a “How To Measure Bodyfat” piece, but in the meantime if you want information check out this series by John Romaniello.



Small deficits, slow progress and that damn bathroom scale

So, I did all the calculations and my maintenance is 1900 calories. If I eat 1600 per day, I will still lose weight, right?


However, we have a problem. It is not a physiological problem, but rather both a psychological and lifestyle problem.

At an estimated 300 calorie deficit, you will lose ~0.5 pounds per week.

However, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

First, small deficits are risky because they assume super accurate calculation of calorie maintenance, which isn’t always possible (see FAQs at the bottom of this post).

Further, if you are 10% off on hitting your macros because you weighed your chicken cooked instead of raw or you forgot about that small handful of pistachios after lunch you essentially wipe out your deficit completely.

For those of use who aren’t competitive bodybuilders, super small deficits are unrealistic to manage.

But let’s assume we count perfectly AND estimate our maintenance with great accuracy.

Here’s the scariest part:

You can do everything right. Drop 0.5 pounds of bodyfat per week. And weigh the exact same on the scale 7 weeks into your program.

Crazy right?

You will have lost 3.5 pounds of bodyfat over 7 weeks. But the scale will tell you otherwise. Things like water, carbs, alcohol, salt, big dumps, time of day and time of month cause the bathroom scale to move up and down like crazy.

Can you handle these swings?

Will you stay disciplined on your fat loss plan knowing that you weigh the exact same on February 19th as you did on January 1st despite the fact that you are doing everything perfectly?

Personally, I can’t.

And in my experience coaching thousands of clients, tiny deficits simply do not work. People need to see results to create a positive feedback loop. And when the goal is fat loss, bodyweight is a relevant measure of progress.


ShamingA strange social shift: SHAMING women for wanting to lose weight

We aren’t talking about the shaming that comes from your disgruntled co-workers or your jealous siblings or even your sabotaging friends when you go on a diet.

Those all exist, but that’s separate.

We are talking about the growing popularity of belittling fat loss related goals.

And let me be clear: I think this is partly awesome. I think if you’re a chick who wants to get strong, hell yes. I think if you want to get sick at olympic lifting or be able to do 5 strict pull ups, that is bad ass.

But if you would rather lose 50 pounds of bodyfat than squat 225×10, that’s okay too

Now, these aren’t mutually exclusive; fat loss and strength gains can co-exist for many people.

But having fat loss as your first priority will yield vastly different training and nutrition than if that goal is strength or performance.

So when you tell a woman with an estimated maintenance of 1800 calories to eat 2100 calories per day (to keep her metabolism up!!) and follow your high volume olympic lifting program 5x/week, she will get stronger and increase work capacity and gain muscle mass and have an awesome barbell snatch.

But remember… that’s not her goal. She wants to lose weight.

So we need to program training and nutrition around her goals.


The Instagram Goddess: promising a false reality

Very sexy young beautiful ass in thong. Fitness woman with dumbbells.

You want to look like her and she posts everyday telling you how to look like her.

Why can she eat 2600 calories per day and look like that… but I can’t?

I’ll tell you why:

There is a tremendous difference in the nutritional needs of a lean woman maintaining her figure and an overweight woman trying to lose bodyfat.

It’s really that simple.

She isn’t currently trying to lean out. You are. Period.

And a special note to you, IG girl: I get that you need to sell fucking quest bars with your affiliate link. Or however the hell you are monetizing your genetically superior ass.

But to promise women they can have your body while eating massive amounts of carbs and calories is fraud.

It is immoral. And is disgusting. And if I ever see you in real life I will Avada Kedavra all over your face.


Support groups led by well-meaning airheads


This is Heather. She is one of my online coaching clients. And she is an awesome person.

When Heather and I started working together, she posted her stats and macros in a fitness support group for women on Facebook. One of the ring leaders had an opinion:

OMG your macros are WAY bad your coach is like TERRIBLE!!

The concept of a free online fitness support group is really very cool. Women share information about their programs. They encourage each other. And they look out for any horribly restrictive or dangerous diets.

So the thing is, I totally empathize with this girl. She didn’t want Heather turning into a starved cardio bunny. She was trying to do good.

And based on her personal experience, it is understandable that she believes what she does. With above average genetics, years of training experience, ample lean body mass and fat loss a non priority she is in a position where she can carb cycle around maintenance and slowly recomp her already lean and muscular body.

The ring leader has never coached a client. She doesn’t possess 14 years of voracious study and obsession about training and nutrition. But she did watch 12 minutes of a vlog on metabolic damage one time. So I guess there’s that.

When Heather joins the group only averaging 62 grams of carbs/day or whatever, miss ring leader wants that coach’s nuts (mine).

And not in a hot yeah let’s do this I have a new apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, kind of way. But more of a Ramsay Bolton goes crazy on Theon Greyjoy kind of way*


You are Reek!!

Her heart and enthusiasm are coming from a good place.

She just lacks the experience and perspective to dole out nutrition advice to women on the internet who she barely knows.

The take home point here is this: be careful who you take advice from. Which I’m pretty sure was listed on my 40 rules to live by post.


Oh, Heather is currently down 15 pounds of fat. Up 4.5 pounds of muscle. And eating 250g of carbs on training day, which is continuing to increase week over week.

But guess what: she sure wasn’t eating like that during phase one when fat loss was her primary goal.


*ps I’m obviously not Theon, I am Ned Stark. But I just had to work some pop culture into this post because I know you currently hate me for all the math.


Lastly: an irresponsible ignorance of science and energy needs 

Energy Balance

Last but not least, there are still niches of people who don’t accept energy balance. They find calories largely irrelevant, and will argue that food quality is more relevant than quantity for weight gain and weight loss.

Obviously, kcals aren’t the end all be all. They are far from a perfect metric. But they are what we have right now, and they are certainly the most relevant factor in manipulating bodyweight.

So, when my 5’4″  167 pound new client with 94 pounds of lean body mass tells me:

I don’t need to count calories. I eat healthy foods!

  • Breakfast – bulletproof coffee and a large glass of orange juice
  • Snack – two pieces of toast with natural almond butter
  • Lunch – Roast beef sandwich (on whole wheat bread with high quality cheese, mayo, mustard and spinach), raw zero trans fat potato chips, and homemade sour cream.
  • Snack – fruit shake with agave and cranberry juice base
  • Dinner – black bean veggie burger with okra sautéed in olive oil and organic quinoa
  • Snack – a couple of organic cookies and a handful of dark chocolate chunks

I empathize. I know she is trying to eat healthy and I respect her heart and her effort.

But you can’t lose weight if you aren’t in a deficit.


Is the Sharpay Evans 1200 calorie diet right for you?

I don’t know.

But a specific calorie intake cannot be glorified or demonized without context.

Are you a woman without much lean mass who wants to lose bodyfat? Or are you an ex-D1 pole vaulter training to win the crossfit games?

If you are closer to the former, follow the advice in this article. Honestly estimate your lean body mass. Use Katch to estimate your calorie maintenance. Set a deficit that isn’t too small. Count your macros. Train. Sleep. Drink water. Track progress. Ignore people who suck.

And then reverse diet your way back to glory because even if a 1200 calorie diet makes sense for you, no one wants to do that for very long.


Access to my personal email account

If you aren’t currently on my email list, that’s silly. Sign up here.

I’ll send you a free copy of The Beginner’s Fitness Guide and you will have access to my personal email account.


Q: Mike – I have had an eating disorder / real emotional issues with food and I really really really don’t want to count calories. What should I do? 

A: I get it. It probably doesn’t make sense to count calories and that’s okay. Focus on making good qualitative decisions around food. Make 80-90% of what you eat lean protein, produce, whole grains and all the other stuff that we intuitively know is healthy. Listen to your body. Eat slower. Stop shy of fullness. Strength train and add cardio if you enjoy it. Do things you like. Hang out with people you love. Meticulously tracking cals/macros might not make sense for you.


Q: Wouldn’t this apply to men with low levels of LBM too?

A: In a sense, it does. But here is the difference: when women overfeed without strength training, almost all weight gained is bodyfat. When men overfeed without strength training, they gain about one pound of muscle per two pounds of bodyfat. So, untrained/beginner overweight men are going to have more lean body mass than untrained/beginner overweight women (beyond the built in genetic differences that already exist).


Q: I didn’t read the article, but I want to leave a scathing comment because that’s just the type of person I am. What should I do?

A: Do what you gotta do, bro.


Q: Can’t I just workout 21 hours per week to offset the calories?

A: You can absolutely do that! However, my training philosophies are based on getting the most out of your time. I don’t really cater to folks who want to be professional bodybuilders or powerlifters. I know you are super busy and there are other important aspects of life – so I want to get you results in the best way possible which usually means only a few hours of training per week.


Q: Why do you use BMR x Multiplier to get maintenance rather than calculate each of the 4 components of metabolism individually?

A: While we CAN calculate BMR, TEF, Exercise Expenditure and NEAT separately, I don’t like to because: 1) it makes the process unnecessarily complicated, 2) most of us don’t have a sound way to measure calories burned via exercise (and people LOVE to overestimate here) and 3) NEAT varies tremendously from person to person.


Q: How can you be so sure about estimating maintenance? Aren’t there genetic variations between people with equal stats? Doesn’t calorie expenditure vary from person to person for the same amount of work? 

A: You are right and this is a super valid point. We are talking about an estimate of calorie maintenance. We will never know your true maintenance with 100% certainty (it’s always changing, by the way) and we don’t need to.

All we need to do is get close. Then, by tracking intake and measuring progress we can backdoor our way into your actual maintenance and adjust your macros as needed 🙂


Thanks for reading. Learn more here.

Comments for This Entry

  • Brian

    Sharing this with all my female clients now. Love this, Mike!

    March 10, 2015 at 3:32 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jen

    Mike, I adore you. This was so informative and really helpful.

    March 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Annie

    So happy with my program and my progress. So glad I found you and it all makes sense to me and I've had results since workout #2

    March 10, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Reply to this comment

  • susie

    Finally! Someone who is honest and REAL! I have lost 17 kg and still have 40-50 to go, but the amount of rubbish clickbait and advice available on this topic is doing my head in!! THANKYOU!

    March 10, 2015 at 4:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Rebecca

    Thank goodness, an article that makes sense and oh by the way-works!! Down 8.5 # in 4 weeks following your advice- so glad I found out about you!!! Keep it up!

    March 10, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ashley

    This is a great article! Thank you so much, Ned, for this information.

    March 10, 2015 at 9:08 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kat

    Mike, I love how realistic you are about people's lives and goals. As always, thank you for sharing your knowledge and making *good* information accessible!

    March 11, 2015 at 1:07 am | Reply to this comment

  • Danielle

    Hey Mike, I've been perusing your site for a while, and the info is great. I have a query, though. The maintenance figure calculated with the equations above—does it account for exercise? Is that what the 1.25-1.7 is all about? D

    March 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Mike Author

      Does NOT include exercise, great point. Mostly because I don't program very much training and I think that people vastly over estimate cal expenditure via training. If your volume/frequency/intensity/time in gym are all (or some of those) pretty high, it makes sense to account for those when setting you intake. Good point.

      March 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Norma

    As always, LOVE all your posts!!! I've literally read every single one of your articles and because of them I learned how to finally understand macros and how to count them. Hopefully I'll be able to work with you later this year when I can afford it. Thanks for keeping it 100% truthful!

    March 11, 2015 at 11:01 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Agathe

    Great article, very smartly explain, clear and simple. Totally makes sense! Did you have an article on reverse dieting ? I thought you did but can't find it... All super useful stuff. You rock!

    March 12, 2015 at 6:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Frank Sowerby Thomas

    I love how aggressive you get about people saying stupid things. It's cathartic. I wondered what your thoughts were on the Harris-Benedict equation - I've been using it for weight loss for a while with reasonable accuracy and success but I appreciate it's like a hundred years out of date. Something's better than nothing of course!

    March 13, 2015 at 10:50 am | Reply to this comment

    • Mike Author

      I don't have a ton of experience using it, to be honest. At a glance.. I think the age adjustment is definitely better than going SOLELY by bodyweight, but not at accurate as using LBM. Sidenote: ALL equations are "meh" to me, including Katch -- but we need SOMEWHERE to start.

      March 16, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Chris

    Great article as usual... it's a hard truth that most folks need to run a stiff deficit if they want results, me included. And yes, the anorexic/thinspo crowd deserves some backlash, but erring in the other direction by ignoring calorie math throws the baby out with the bathwater.

    March 13, 2015 at 10:55 am | Reply to this comment

  • Laura

    Great article, Mike! Thanks for putting my head on straight -- again. :) Also, Katch McArdle sounds like an intrepid fighter pilot who breaks all the rules and still manages to win the war and get the girl. Just sayin'.

    March 13, 2015 at 11:06 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lisa Whitehouse

    Great post and thanks for all the information!!!

    March 13, 2015 at 4:28 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nada

    What are your thoughts on low calorie diets messing up your metabolism, hormone balance and ability to absorb essential nutrients? Can these side effects be alleviated by carefully customizing your macros?

    March 13, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Mike Author

      No, I don't think any magical ratio of macro intake will fix the negatives associated with those -- however, hormonal impact and metabolic downreg are usually less related to any specific macro ratio than they are to spending too much time in too large a deficit. If these are an issue for you I think either: A) adding planned refeeds, or B) a diet break where you spend some time at or slightly above calorie maintenance would make sense for you. though, this is based on super limited information and pretty general advice..

      March 16, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Neghar

    FUCK BRO. I am not, in any way shape or form, an IIFYM girl--mostly because I am a reformed calorie counter who went CA-RAZY. (I do recommend that clients at the very least track macros for 4-6 weeks to develop a base and then wean off for sanity purposes). BUT regardless of that, this is a fucking amazing post. You did an incredible job, both in portraying the information and engaging the reader. And you made a lot of good points that are highly relevant independent of whether or not you track macros. Nice job, bro. For real.

    March 14, 2015 at 1:03 pm | Reply to this comment

  • ConfusedFatGirl

    I'm honestly just so confused now. :(

    March 15, 2015 at 8:14 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ylwa

    I love it when you're not Minnesota nice.

    March 16, 2015 at 5:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • Saad

    I was gonna leave a scathing comment, but then I read your FAQ :P LMAO! Bro, as always, I don't read book (I suck), but you're my favorite writer. Serious! :D

    March 16, 2015 at 10:11 am | Reply to this comment

  • JubbJubb

    This is really helpful! I've just signed up to your mailing list but I was hoping you could recommend an appropriate deficit if I email you with all of my stats (thanks to the above, I did all the math already) and a snapshot of my average week of active/inactive hours? Is this possible?

    March 16, 2015 at 10:44 am | Reply to this comment

  • Megan

    Amazing post!!! The my fitness pal app had my estimated maintenance about 300 cal off... No wonder I wasn't seeing the results I expected. Love love love your support of women trying to lose fat. Women (read: college girls lol) shaming one another for trying to get into shape is such a weird phenomenon but it definitely occurs often. My boyfriend often remarks that he never sees girls working out together in the gym... I think it's because we're too competitive with one another! Thank you for spreading some positivity :)

    March 16, 2015 at 11:56 am | Reply to this comment

  • Christine

    Isn't the Katch formula 370 not 340>

    March 16, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Michelle Roots

    THANK YOU!!! this is a great post and you hit the nail on the head with what I have been trying to get through to my female clients. Especially those who come in and ask me what I think about "detox tea" and "waist trainers" they saw this chick on instagram promoting. I am sharing this with them all.... keep up the good work!!

    March 16, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Adam Trainor

    Thanks Mike. Straight forward advice. There is no getting around the science laws of thermodynamics. It's always funny to me when fitness folk try to say that this law is not relevant. I always ask to see that person's Nobel Prize for dismantling one of our laws of science. Next I plan to disprove gravity.

    March 17, 2015 at 10:09 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dfk

    What is a good deficit for someone who is 170 w/ lbm of 103? Thanks. Great articles. I've read all your blogs

    March 18, 2015 at 2:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • camille

    What if you are skinny-fat, i.e. say a 5ft2 woman who is only 110-120lb but with 30% body fat. Are they supposed to eat 1000 calories a day for fat loss???? That seems highly counter-productive to me.

    March 18, 2015 at 9:20 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jane

    Whoa. Just found your site and am currently working my way through all your posts. Can't believe that you managed to slam IG Quest-bar affiliate chicks, and reference both Harry Potter and GOT in this one...I think that we were separated at birth... But seriously, this article does not apply to me (as you helpfully outline), and that was REALLY helpful for me to understand. I am pretty fit/lean but only recently became enamored with the (heavy) weights. My new trainer has been telling me to eat more and lay off the cardio, and I was struggling to do that because I didn't understand WHY. Now I totally get it, and I'm glad to know that I'm getting good advice but just lacked context/background I needed to implement. Going to cut out the boring Treadmill slogs and rethink what I am eating from a macro perspective. Thank you so, so much; I'll be checking back here often :)

    March 18, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Babs

    Great, sound advice, here. I've lost just over 60 pounds by eating at a deficit, plus mostly low-carb/moderate protein/moderate-to-high fat macros. In the beginning, the daily calories were about 1,500, now I've recalculated to 1,200.

    March 19, 2015 at 7:41 am | Reply to this comment

  • Cindy

    Love to see some realistic and backed up information. As a woman in my late 40s who used to work out a lot but hasn't been able to do much for about a year due to a major injury and works in an office 8 hours a day I knew I couldn't eat as much as I'm being told to by simple experience, but people want to shoot you down if you tell them you need to eat far less. Signing up for your newsletters right now!

    March 20, 2015 at 10:35 am | Reply to this comment

  • Brittany

    Another AWESOME read , as always. Thanks Mike !!!!!

    March 22, 2015 at 1:37 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chaylene

    This was a great article for those ladies that fit the profile (sedentary, focused on fat loss). But I don't fall in that. I'm the other woman that you mention. I am athletic and I'm training to compete in obstacle course races. I'm not sure how i can fuel my workouts and lose fat. My body is awesome at putting on muscle mass (I'm that rare girl that can do that easily) but it does not want to lose fat. Can you point me in the right direction?

    March 24, 2015 at 10:24 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jules

    Gosh damn this was refreshing. I am so fucking sick of being told 1200 cals will help meet my weight goals. Sure maybe if i want a fucking divorce from being a bitch to my husband or if i want to lose muscle. I am 42, a breast cancer survivor (which taught me great swear words) and went thru surgical menopause at 40. Prior to all this I was pretty fit (in between babies) and I have always loved the gym, lifting weights etc. But my body is so nutso after all the crap i went thru to survive. I can last 4 days on a "lifestyle change" thing. Then fatigue and sugar cravings hit and its all over. So frustrating. I'm looking forward to reading your emails etc. I like how you think. Thanks.

    April 1, 2015 at 9:18 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Alaina

    This article was so helpful for me! I've been stuck at 130 lb (I'm 5'3"; ~70% LBM) for a while now and couldn't figure out what was going on. I used the Katch equation and found that I'd been eating too close to my BMR. Is it okay to eat under 1000 calories (my BMR is 1197)? What do you consider a good deficit? If it helps, I strength train 2x/week for 30 minutes. Thank you for this post!

    April 2, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Meg

    Was this article directly related to GoKaleo/ETF/Amber?

    April 3, 2015 at 6:29 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Olivia R

    Hmm.... You maKe some valid points, but I'm kind of curious how you think a woman can stick to a 1,200 calorie diet? I don't believe that's a sustainable diet even if it's only temporary. Dieting isn't all sunshine and rainbows, and it can suck at times, but a diet should not be the only thing on your mind. With a very low cal, and I'm assuming low carb, you would be thinking about food ALL THE TIME. You also advocate adding 'fun' foods into your diet. But with a low calorie diet like this, do you honestly think you can enjoy some ice cream at night? No, you Would need to all whole foods unless you really want to be hungry (not that you wouldn't be hungry in the first place). This is the reason fall on and off the bandwagon and start yo-yoing because no one can sustain this through the course of their fat loss phase. Any woman would be a raging lunatic and would probably end up binging on the weekend from hunger. I'm just curious what you expect women to eat on diets like these? Broccoli and chicken and 10 calorie jello? There's no way someone could get through a workout on this amount of fuel.

    April 4, 2015 at 12:18 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Kaylee

      I second what Olivia R. said. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on her points! This article is fantastic though - love your writing style and the information provided is extremely helpful. Keep up the good work!

      April 30, 2015 at 8:57 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sandy McFall

    You hit the nail on the head with this one Tony Stark! (Long impressive clap inserted here) great info given very educating, thank you!

    April 21, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sandy McFall

    Question what are your thoughts on the scales that measure your body fat percentage? Can they be trusted and something a person can use in their calculations?

    April 21, 2015 at 10:59 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sandy McFall

    FYI I see you more of a super hero genius hence Tony instead of Ned ;) just my thoughts

    April 21, 2015 at 11:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • BMarie

    "Do what you gotta do, bro." lol, you crack me up. I love reading your posts. Thanks for the helpful info!

    April 29, 2015 at 10:55 am | Reply to this comment

  • Amber Crago

    Hi Mike, I stumbled across your website yesterday and I think its awesome... I used your equation to get a more accurate maintenance level and I calculated 2,668. So my question is how much do I trim off of the maintenance number? I was a Division 1 basketball player I am 6'1'' 211 lbs and 25 years old I lift/workout 4 to 5 days a week for about an hour. I have been tracking food (sometimes more serious than others) since January 1. I am down 9 lbs. I was hoping to be down 20 lbs by now. I had an online trainer give me macros at about 1500 cal and I had a friend who got his cert. and is a competitor give me macros at 2469 calories. That is such a huge spread I am lost!

    May 29, 2015 at 8:29 am | Reply to this comment

  • Meg Frazier

    Holy Schnikeys.....

    June 3, 2015 at 2:08 am | Reply to this comment

  • Hannah

    I just found your site and downloaded the beginners guide. I've been reading through your posts and am loving how down to earth your recommendations are. I'm 27, with 2 small boys(1 and 3) and I work 12 hour shifts as a nurse. I've been making slow modifications to my life, and I think that counting macros is the final key to me losing the rest of the weight I want and keeping it off long-term. I hate that you have to wade through so much bs out there- this is the first guide that actually makes sense to me. Looking forward to reading more of your posts! And I've gotta say, I love that you talk about eating Ben and Jerry's! My personal vice is a fountain coke(terrible I know), but I'm hoping one day I'll make peace and find a happy medium!

    June 7, 2015 at 9:22 am | Reply to this comment

  • John Fawkes

    This is one of the best fat loss posts I've ever read. I see this issue so, so much with my own readers and clients. They underestimate their body fat, and they think the only consequence of that is underestimating how far they have to go, totally ignoring the effect it has on BMR. Then they shoot for the tiniest possible deficit, but aren't even counting calories anyway. Throw in reward eating after every workout, and they can hardly even be said to be dieting at all. Then they tell me they're doing everything they can, and must have a glandular problem. And I have to tell them that the bar is simply set higher than they think, and they have to be willing to make sacrifices if they want to lose weight. Half of them take it to heart, half refuse to listen and keep pretending to diet. Sadly I think that's par for the course as a fitness coach.

    June 19, 2015 at 7:33 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Cecile

    I used your Katch equation to calculate my BMR. 5'2" at 119lbs. 92 is lean mass (i'm basing this on my scale that measures body fat and we all know how up and down that thing can be so who knows really). According to Katch my BMR = 1273 cal/day for maintenance. The last line of this post was "...because even if a 1200 calorie diet makes sense for you, no one wants to do that for very long." Man did that make me SAD. And trust me. I love food and want to eat well beyond 1200 calories almost always. This is my mental battle to stay fit. I have to eat to maintain what most people eat to diet. Single tear.

    July 16, 2015 at 1:39 am | Reply to this comment

  • Pamela Sue

    Mike, This is the perfect post! I'm working with a few clients who are worried about eating only 1500 calories a day and think they need to be lifting more like the girls on Instagram. I'm a former bikini competitor who's had 16% body fat and 105-110 lbs of lean mass on my 5'4" frame since I was 14. My goal is to lose a bit of muscle mass, believe it or not, I know not good but for someone with my genetics I want to be a little bit smaller and not feel bulky when I gain a pound or two of extra fat or water weight. This article is the perfect explanation to my clients (both up around 30% body fat with under 100 lbs of lean mass) who want to get smaller, lose body fat, tone up. You ladies do not need to be lifting heavy and gaining muscle mass. Though lifting heavy will certainly help burn calories unless you're eating at a calorie deficit you will only GAIN weight in the form of muscle. I really appreciated the way you outlined everything and expressed that it's OK to eat at a calorie deficit. That is the only way to lose weight after all, unless you're spending hours in the gym. Thank you for simplifying so I can share with all of my girls! Pamela

    July 16, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Samantha

    Sharing this one with my newsletter – so well-presented , logical and easy to follow!

    July 24, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Charlotte

    Ironically some British Athletics guys wanted Jess Ennis to lose weight, said she was fat!

    November 11, 2015 at 6:14 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Alijia-Jean

    Hi mike! So I found a free macros calculator online and I don't even know how to decipher whether or not it's completely accurate it was just too easy. But after I read three of your articles it made me want to ask you for your Input about what they should be because you seem to know exactly what you're talking about and how everything works. I don't understand the whole deficit thing but I wanna make sure I'm doing everything right. I'm a 20 year old 5'7 female weighing 137lbs. I know nothing about body fat percentage but Id like to get back down to my comfortable weight of 115-110. I currently don't do a whole lot of excersize but I'm determined to get fit and back into shape. Can you help me??

    November 17, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kristen

    You're so right about the shaming part!! I'm 5'3" and was up to 135 from my average 120. All my taller friends (who are also much curvier) constantly say things like "oh stop, I would kill to be 135!" I don't have the same frame! Her 135 is my 110, plus just cause I'm not massively obese doesn't mean I shouldnt try to be comfortable happy and healthy. Good article.

    December 4, 2015 at 12:22 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dana Fairbanks

    Great article.. Thank you for your insights.

    January 16, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Angie

    I get it. Finally I get it. No wonder I'm hardly moving the scales. I'm not working smart so I'm not getting the results I'm looking for ie. lose 8 pounds.. But I don't know how to measure my BMR. I'm 5'6" and currently 128.6 lbs (you noticed the .6 right?). I am carrying weight in my thighs and hips. It's taken me since Jan 6 to drop 3.4lbs.

    February 23, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Joey

    Very nice! Good, good. read it, understood it, felt as though I have some things in common with other commenters, it's OK to be fat (ugh, it's actually not OK with me, but that's how I am right now) and it is possible to fix it. Not patronising, interesting, logical, clear - oh and humorous! That goes a long way with me. Thank you :)

    June 4, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Dee

    Interesting. I want to learn more about what I've seen in your vids. Specifically for vegetarians who don't want to track free veggies, and what those macros look like.

    June 21, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kathy Cruthirds

    You are so awesome.

    August 17, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Cyndi

    I have to wonder about how much I can change this 64 year old body that is 36% body fat!

    August 17, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Karina

    Great article. I agree one should evaluate each individual. Any tips for someone like me who is a diabetic type 1 and morbidly obese (about 2%+ of type 1's are obese)? I use daily Lantis and Apidra insulin as well as working out at least 45 minutes a day, apart from walking 6km daily whenever I can. I follow a low carb, low fat moderate protein diet.

    August 23, 2016 at 9:06 am | Reply to this comment

  • Shelly

    I really enjoyed your article! You were blunt and to the point, without being rude or a @bully". You just said what a majority of us girls think, but maybe don't say. With that said, have you ever helped any women who have had Bariatric surgery for morbid obesity? Have you helped them maintain a healthy, protein based dietary lifestyle and weight ?? Thank you.

    September 10, 2016 at 9:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sandi

    Mike, I am completely lost as far as getting help for weight loss. I am strength training with weights, I use exercise equipment and have tried cardio programs and have been on one yoyo diet after another (only to gain 20 pounds more)...I don't know how to find my maintenance weight. I am now 183 and 53 years old. I have no health issues...but need help before I do. I would appreciate anything you could tell me. Thank you!

    January 12, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Mike Author

      Hey Sandi! I would check out this post: And if you want to know how much to eat (given your personal stats) for your goal, my free app will give you those answers. You can download that here if you like: -Mike

      January 16, 2017 at 1:55 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dawn LaCroix

    Lots of great information! Post-menopause is kicking my butt so I need all the help I can get. Thank you Mike! :)

    January 13, 2017 at 5:44 am | Reply to this comment

  • Trevor

    Mike, I'm new to counting Macros and the actual science of fat loss. I just started calorie counting and after reading how bad "Carrie" missed her body fat percentage, I ordered a set of calipers to be sure of what kind of deficit I actually need to be in. Thanks for the info!

    January 18, 2017 at 4:55 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sara

    This makes me happy- and sad- my Dr told me I was fat today- and then she said- "1900 calories a day is too much for any woman to loose weight - even most men are around 1500 to loose- no. nope.. try 1200 a day for a week and come see me next month" - and I was angry- but she is probably right... soooo. Thanks again for this article- it was fun to read, too <3

    January 26, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sara

    lose* that one always gets me!

    January 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Trudy

    Hi Mike - Just discovered your site and am really learning a lot! I'm a 52 year old woman and very aware of the slowing of my metabolism over that past several years. How do you consider age when determining BMR?

    February 10, 2017 at 10:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • Joy

    This is harder than I thought. I've already lost a lot weight in the past 4 months. BUt I am not lean. I am skinny fat. I exercise 30-60minutes at home with mix of cardio and bodyweight. I can't lift weights yet due to medical condition which has something to do with my thyroids. Losing bodyfat, specially the stubborn ones (inner thighs and belly fat? Is so frustrating for me! I am skinny fat. I want to get lean.

    May 28, 2017 at 9:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • Nancy Edith

    Hi, I loved your writing style and ended up reading a lot instead of working, lol. Now, I don't qualify for this article cos I am going for body recomp, with a small deficit, currently at 1750 with macros recommended from my coach at gym, I lift heavy but not oly heavy, my point in commenting here was to congratulate you for your posts, they are funny, love the pop culture references and you make sense :D

    September 28, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Anevillec

    Hi Bart, My name is Amanda I am 25 years old from quebec canada. What I am about to ask you and share with you is pretty personal but I think you would actually be the best person to give me an answer. So I amsomeone who has been battling with anorexia and bullimia for the last 8 years... I have got my weight back up but I have always been struggling to know HOW the body works with this calorie thing. I eventually want to eliminate calorie counting but in order to do so I want to be able to SEE that I actually need « X » amount of calories a day and not go lower ( or higher) in order to maintain a HEALTHY weight. I run at the gym put my weight in and age to keep track of the amount I burn wich at the end is 500 calories. I weight for now 115 pounds( wich is better than 85..) and I am 5ft7 and 25 (female) I used to burn off my 500 calories and eat 1300/1400 calories a day but figured it was not enough and increesed to 1800 , bmr/1300 + 500 I lose in the gym... I am just verry scared this will make me gain weight.. I just need the REAL answer I am soo confused but I am willing to continue on the right path( gaining a little more) but I just don’t know where to start I am alone in this and I keep reading o internet but I want professional advice , not advice from people who think they know , I need somebody who KNOWS. I am sorry to disturb you with this but I am actually just trying to seek help at the right place to get healthy and have a actual life... I am tired of having this illness stick with me EVERY single day. the rest is up to me and is my work to be done and I am motivated more than ever. I would be rilly thankful if you could help me here I don’t know who else to reach (for this question that looks simple to you)Thank you

    April 4, 2018 at 8:55 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dawn LaCroix

    Love your emails Mike! Thank you!!

    May 19, 2018 at 7:44 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jolie

    I loved this post. I loved the frankness, the no-nonsense. Just a really awesome post!

    September 14, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jennifer Davis

    Hi Mike! I have a question for you. I am a 43 year old female. I am an exercise junkie. I workout pretty much 7 days per week, however, my job is very sedentary. So I spend large amounts of time sitting at my desk during the day. I have been struggling hard for YEARS trying to figure out how to lose weight. I bust my but a they gym and I eat healthy but I can't seem to lose a single pound. I have worked with a Dr. and had zero results. I worked with a personal trainer...nothing. Most recently I sought the advice of a nutritionist. I started my journey weighing 173 lbs. I had an inbody scan and determined my body fat% was 27%. My BMR was 1600 (according to the inbody scan). My nutritionist has me eating 1905 calories per day. 195 g carbs, 145 g protien 65 g fat. Since I started working with her, I initially lost weight (5 lbs) and in the past 3 months, I have gained 12 lbs. I am not up to 180. I am gaining muscle too which is great, but I don't want to gain weight. I am looking to lose weight. I have expressed my concern to her and she tells me that I can not reduce my calories below the 1900 because of the amount of training that I do. But ideally I would like to lose 30 lbs. 180 is not an acceptable weight for me. Can you plese advise?

    December 13, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Reply to this comment

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