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How Many Calories Should I Be Eating?

How many calories should I be eating?  I get this question all the time and it’s somewhat difficult to answer. It’s a lot like asking, “how long is a piece of rope?” It depends.  It depends on variables such as your goals, your program, age, your current weight, and your lifestyle just to name a few.


Luckily for you, every single Beachbody program comes with a nutrition plan and some sort of guide as to how much you should be eating and since not all calories are created equal, these guides also contain a breakdown of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbs). Most of the newer Beachbody programs also include guidelines using the simpler (for most) “portion approach”. Of course, 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme take this simple eating approach to a new level with the use of individual food containers for different food types.

Use Your Program Nutrition Guide First

If you are using a Beachbody program, I highly recommend that you check out the specific nutrition guide that came with the program you are doing! You will find a caloric needs calculator in there designed specifically for that program and it will tell you how to tailor it specifically for your own goals and your body.  Remember, Beachbody Premier Club members have access to hundreds of streaming Beachbody workout videos AND the nutrition guides for 44 cents per day!  Free and Premier Club members also have access to an interactive caloric needs calculator under the “fit tools” tab within their Team Beachbody account.

Still, I know many of you came here looking for a quick and dirty answer to how many calories should I be eating?  So here’s a super basic calculator to figure out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

  • Sedentary lifestyle (desk job): Current weight in pounds x 12 = Maintenance Caloric Needs.
  • Moderately active lifestyle (server in a restaurant and/or doing one of our entry level programs, like P90 or Hip Hop Abs: Current weight in pounds x 13 = Maintenance Caloric Needs.
  • Highly active lifestyle (construction worker and/or doing one of our elite programs, like P90X, 21 Day Fix Extreme or INSANITY): Current weight in pounds x 14 = Maintenance Caloric Needs.

From there you can adjust your needs based on your goals. For example, subtract 500 calories for weight loss, just be sure that number stays at or above 1,200 calories. If you are trying to gain muscle, with say a program like Body Beast, start by adding 300 calories – just make sure you are lifting hard so those calories have a “good” place to go!

Don’t Micromanage

You might hear of people increasing or decreasing daily calorie intake based on the activities for the day. Unless you have a lot of experience with this, I wouldn’t recommend it. Your best bet is probably just to account for exercise in broad strokes and start with the numbers above.

Noting is Set in Stone

Whatever calculation you follow; don’t get married to those numbers. They will most likely change. There are so many factors at play that vary so much form person to person and it will take you awhile to find your “sweet spot”. Experiment and be patient. If you are not seeing the results you are looking for, try adding or subtracting (depending on goals) approximately 300 calories for 7-10 days and adjust accordingly.

Eat Often

Regardless of  what the answer to “how many calories should I be eating?” is for you, it is important that you spread your nutritional intake throughout the day.  Yes there are more in-depth tips when it comes to when to eat and when to stop eating but for now just know that you need to eat often.  There are also a wide variety of philosophies and techniques out there that include intermittent fasting, carb-cycling and countless other plans.  Maybe someday you progress to point of trying them out but for now stick to the basics.  Eat at least 5 times per day.  I actually get my best results when I eat 7 times per day!

Eat Healthy Foods!

This seems like a no-brainer but it’s important to mention. Your body craves nutrients, not calories. That is why a great Shakeology recipe with 220 calories will keep you satisfied for hours while 220 calories of Doritos just makes you want to eat more Doritos. All calories are NOT created equal. If you diet is packed with refined sugars, flours and saturated fat, it doesn’t matter how many calories you are consuming, you are creating a recipe for disappointment (and for being lethargic). While it’s possible to overeat with healthy foods, it’s considerably harder to do than it is at a fast food drive-thru.

A super-simple way to stick to healthy foods is to use Michis’s Ladder!

Don’t Overthink This!

Hopefully I have helped you answer the question of “how many calories should I be eating?”  Some people suffer from paralysis by analysis when it comes to nutrition. Don’t! Set aside some time to get familiar with your program’s nutrition guide. Make simple notes. Use the calculator above if it’s easier for you. Do whatever works for you but don’t make it complicated.