Easy Way to Calculate Your Calorie Needs

by Brandon DiNovi

10X calorie calculation and implementation protocol is a simple 4 step process for determining caloric needs. The 10X method is for people looking to develop a leaner, stronger physique while still enjoying great tasting foods!

Dear Fellow ALPHA,

One of the most desirable things in the world is a fit and in-shape body, specifically a muscular physique. However, to actually put on lean body mass can be an elusive goal for many people. I have been in gyms for over 25 years and I can tell you that a lot has changed over that time. Today, most gyms have fancy televisions, Wi-Fi, tons of cardio machines and better weights. Although a lot has changed, one thing that hasn’t changed much is the approach to building lean body mass.

Sure there are new fancy ropes, kettle bells, machines that isolate a specific muscle and kick back machines that promise to sculpt your gluteus into perfection. They even rubber coated all the weights, which sadly removed that motivating sound of steel weights clanging against each other. However, one of the most important aspects of building a lean muscular body is still confusing people today just as much as it did 25 years ago and that is… caloric needs!

It seems like today it is all about extreme diet habits such as keto, paleo or some offshoot of a semi-vegan lifestyle. In my opinion, these diets have a place and can provide wonderful benefits for a season or a reason but they are very difficult to adhere to as a lifestyle.

Over the years, I have found that a lot of people have a “hope for the best” approach when it comes to either adding lean body mass or reducing body fat. The approach usually goes something like this… a person wanting to add lean body mass significantly increases their calorie content, usually by adding more protein and carbohydrates to their daily regimen. This increase in caloric intake frequently goes hand in hand with an increase in resistance training. Often, the individual will tell everyone that they are going to start “lifting heavy” or they are going to “bulk up.”

This idea will inevitably lead to more strength and size, simply because the body is responding to an increased stimulus from the poundage and workout frequency. The “gains” are usually accompanied with a large amount of body fat also know as “bulk” which will need to be shed later on during a “cutting” phase.

On the flip side, when an individual has a goal of losing weight they will generally cut their dietary intake. Many times this caloric deficit is met with increased energy expenditure, usually in the form of cardiovascular exercise. This practice will most likely lead to weight loss, but sacrifices muscle. The result? The person looks like a smaller, weaker version of him or herself.

Both of these scenarios are just as common today as they were two and a half decades ago, the results are the same as well. People are making changes to their physique, which they find unsatisfying and ultimately lead to burnout. That is until the next year when they promise to “stick to their diet” and the “hope for the best” cycle starts again.

If only there was a simple way to make lean body mass gains and reduce fat at the same time. A clear way to calculate the amount of calories that our body needs and have more precision with our dietary habits that can lead to less body fat and more lean body mass. Well, I am happy to tell you… there is!

10X Calorie Calculation and Implementation

I learned a simple, 4-step method for determining caloric needs in the early 1990’s. Back then I was an aspiring natural bodybuilder living in Venice Beach looking for different tricks to get in great shape. I tried all of the “diets” out there. What I ended up finding is my metabolism was never in “rhythm.” Within a few weeks of a new diet plan, I usually ended up fluctuating between feeling lethargic from over feeding myself or because I was under feeding!

What I learned has helped me remain within 5-10 pounds of my current weight for over two decades. The only time I fluctuate is when I am consciously  trying to add more lean body mass. Plus, I don’t have to “bulk-up” or go on some extreme “cutting” phase.

The following 4-steps are a close estimate of our caloric needs. Steps that I have found to be a great starting point. I have read hundreds of books, articles and spoke with experts about dietary needs. The following is a “quick” way to calculate dietary needs for the average individual. Please note, if you are a competitive athlete these numbers might not get you into “show ready” shape. As physique competitions are an extreme representation of the human physique, as such, they usually require drastic changes in dietary habits by the participants.

The calculations below will give you numbers which fall pretty close to all of the “complex calculations” the diet gurus provide. The following is for people looking to make healthy changes to their physique over the long term. As with all dietary and exercise programs, speak with a healthcare professional before implementing the following information.

  1. The first step in figuring out how many calories you need is by stepping on a scale and finding your current bodyweight. Now, take your current body weight and times it by 10 (example: 200lbs (current body weight) x 10 = 2,000 calories per day) this will be your “maintenance” (M) number.
  1. Determine if have a fast or slow metabolism. This is easier than you think. If you have a six-pack year round without trying, you have a “fast” metabolism. If you don’t have a six-pack or you have to work really hard to have one, you probably have a “slower” metabolism.
  1. If you have a “fast” metabolism calculate your “maintenance” calories by 125% (using the number above that would equal 2,500 calories). If you have a “slower” metabolism calculate your “maintenance” calories by 75% (using the equation above that would equal 1,500 calories). This number will represent a “variable maintenance” (VM) number.
  1. You should have 2 numbers a “maintenance” (M) and “variable maintenance” (VM) figured out. Over the course of the week vary your caloric intake between the two. For example:

Monday: M

Tuesday: M

Wednesday: VM

Thursday: M

Friday: M

Saturday: VM

Sunday: VM

Feel free to juggle the M and VM any way you like. The idea is to keep your body guessing. By varying back and forth between M and VM caloric levels it should keep your metabolism from slowing down. Our metabolism can slow down if we eat too little or if we over feed ourselves.

Breaking Down Macros & Meals

The following break down of macronutrients is what I have found worked well for me as well as clients I have worked with. If you have food allergies, restrictions or other special dietary needs please adjust accordingly.

  1. It’s fairly common knowledge that eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day is a good idea. Having smaller, more frequent meals not only keeps our metabolism humming, but it can also help to keep blood sugar stable and makes it easier for the body to partition and assimilate food more efficiently. 
  1. Try and have about 30-40 grams of protein per meal. This will not only help provide the amino acids necessary for muscular regeneration, it will help slow down carbohydrate digestion.
  1. Try and have about 7-10 grams of fat per meal. Ideally these fats will come from healthy sources like nuts, avocados, monounsaturated and flax oils as well as trace amounts found in foods. Healthy fats are essential for cellular health, hormone function and may even aid in fat loss.
  1. The remaining calorie consumption comes from carbohydrates. Items like rice, oatmeal, potatoes, quinoa and green leafy vegetables. Due to the large amount of fructose in fruit, I recommend people try and keep fruit intake to a minimum. The best time to eat fruit is in the morning or immediately post workout.

You might be wondering if on VM days you should adjust each macro up or down by 25%. I recommend people keep their protein and fat consumption the same regardless if they are eating M or VM calories. The fluctuation should come in the amount of carbohydrate consumption.

Using the example from above, a person with a fast metabolism weighing 200lbs has an M of 2,000 calories and VM of 2,500 calories. This means on their VM days they would add about 125 grams of carbohydrates to their diet. This would represent a small amount of extra carbs (about 20 grams) to each of their 6 meals. On the flip side, a person with a slower metabolism will cut back their carbohydrate consumption on VM days.

Try these numbers for a few weeks and see how you feel, how you look and how you perform. If you feel like you need to make changes go ahead and make them. Again, these numbers are a close estimate for daily needs. They are a starting point to spring forward from. 

As for training, the best way to add lean body mass is through frequent and consistent resistance training. So, if you are short on time and have to choose between cardio and weight training, pick up the weight.

In conclusion, the above numbers have helped me as well as many of my clients develop a healthy relationship with food and with the gym. These numbers provide a solid reference point to work within while still enjoying some of the delicious foods life has to offer.

Until Next Time,

Attack Your Life With Passion!

Brandon DiNovi

Brandon DiNovi, CEO RAM Advantage

Brandon DiNovi
Brandon DiNovi

Brandon DiNovi is the Co-Founder and CEO of RAM Advantage. He holds a doctorate degree as well as two bachelors in the field of human performance. He is also the author of American Strength: The Ultimate Guide To Health, Happiness and Success.

Disclaimer: The information, suggestions, and techniques offered in this blog are the result of the author’s experiences and are not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Some articles are intended to influence the reader to purchase products or services. Before making a purchase, financial, medical or health decision the reader should contact a qualified professional. If you have questions or concerns, seek the advice of a financial consultant, physician or other qualified professional before practicing the techniques presented here.

In fact, you should always consult a qualified healthcare professional before beginning a new nutritional or exercise program. If you fail to do so, it is the same as self-prescribing, and neither the author nor RAM Advantage assumes responsibility. *This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.