How to Set Maintenance Calories

The first Step of your Fitness Journey

Lets talk calories….

Maintenance is a term for the number of calories required to retain your weight.

In other words is the amount of food you can eat everyday and your body weight will remain the same.

There are various ways to calculate it, and knowing it is essential for altering your body composition, be it fat loss or muscle gain.

Everything starts with maintenance, which is why it’s the first thing I go over with a new client.

Once you know how many calories you burn at your current weight and activity level, then you can adjust that number up or down for lean bulking or cutting.

There are a lot of formulas out there that give you a good estimation for the number of calories a person needs to eat at a given weight based on sex, age, height, and activity level.

In my experience, traditional models complicate and overestimate actual needs- see below

Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) is composed of:

BMR-Basal Metabolic Rate. When you’re at rest, not digesting any food and at a comfortable temperature, BMR is the amount of energy it takes for your body to maintain life.

TEA – Thermic effect of activity. The amount of energy expended through all voluntary and involuntary movements.

TEF – Thermic effect of food. The amount of energy expended for the digestion and absorption of food.

In order to find your maintenance calories the classic models will have you add BMR together with TEA

Common maintenance Equations 

Harris Benedict

  • Men: 66 + (13.75 x weight in kilograms) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.76 x age in years) = BMR
  • Women: 655 + (9.56 x weight in kilograms) + (1.85 x height in cm) – (4.68 x age in years) = BMR


  • Men: 30-59 Years BMR = 11.5 x W + 873
  • Women: 30-59 Years BMR = 8.3 x W + 846

Mifflin St. Jeor

  • Men: BMR = 10 × weight(kg) + 6.25 × height(cm) – 5 × age(y) + 5
  • Women: BMR = 10 × weight(kg) + 6.25 × height(cm) – 5 × age(y) – 161

Now that we know who to get our Basal Metabolic Rate, all we need to do is add the energy expended through activity.

Adding TEA to BMR

  • sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
  • lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
  • moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
  • very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
  • extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9

Each of these equations  will give your a different calculation for your maintenance intake.

Quit Doing It The Hard Way. Here’s How To Finally Get Lean And Build Your Best Body Ever:

Tired of trying to “figure it all out”? Struggling to Put together a workout plan that actually works? Use this exact guide for more effective fat loss  efforts & lean muscle gains, and see results in just 8 weeks.

No wonder people don’t know where to start for their estimated energy needs!

The Easy Way

In the beginning we’re estimating our maintenance.

Overthinking and stressing about being precise right at the start of your diet is only going to set yourself up for failure.

The easy way to estimate maintenance calories is to multiply your body weight in pounds with a number between 13 and 16:

  • Very active use 16
  • Active use 15
  • Moderately active use 14
  • Low active level use 13

That’s all there really is to it!

If you need to set calories for weight gain check out my article on Setting calories for Lean Bulk.

For and in depth review on calories for weight loss check out my article on Setting Calories for Weight Loss.

Feel free to use the more complicated equations if you choose but I’m a simple person and I like simple steps.



For Comprehensive Programs on setting a calorie target goals and eating the foods you love while building a lean and fit body, check out True Will Programs.






Latest posts by Michael Worley (see all)
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.