The term maintenance calories is thrown around a lot. For those that don’t know, your maintenance calories are the amount of calories that you shouldn’t lose or gain weight on. But exactly how much is that?

There are theoretical maintenance and practical maintenance calories. They aren’t always equal because of variations in people’s metabolisms.

Theoretical maintenance calculation:

BMR x Harris-Benedict multiplier (Here is an easy calculator to figure it out for you

For example, if you are a 6’ 200lb 25 year old male, your BMR is 1931 calories and, if you work out 3-5 times per week, your theoretical maintenance calories are 2993 calories per day.

On the other hand, your practical maintenance calories, based on your current individual metabolic rate may be lower than that calculated number or above. The concept that many people don’t get is that your metabolic rate is not static. You can speed up (or slow down) your metabolism.

For example, if you are a 6’ 200lb 25 year old male, and you’re working out 3-5 times per week and you are gaining weight eating 2500 calories per day, then your practical maintenance calories are actually lower than your theoretical calories, meaning your metabolism is running slow.

So how can you speed up your metabolism?

Limiting stress, adequate and high quality sleep, increased water intake, increased gut health by eating enough fiber, making sure you’re getting enough of each vitamin, and performing cardio regularly. All of the miscellaneous things that you might not consider.

By taking each of those into consideration, and optimizing them, your theoretical maintenance calories and practical maintenance calories should approximate each other.

The actual macronutrient breakdown is controversial, but a safe breakdown to promote lean body mass and minimize fat mass is: 1g protein/lb lean body mass and splitting carbs and fats evenly or based on food preference. For example, if you are a 6’ 200lb 10% body fat 25 year old male with a theoretical and practical maintenance calorie count of 3000, your macro breakdown should look similar to 180g protein, 280g carbs, 130g fat.

Numbers to remember:

1g protein = 4 calories, 1g carbs = 4 calories, and 1g fat = 9 calories

3500 calories = 1lb. If you lose/gain 1lb per week, you’re in about a 3500 calorie deficit/surplus.