This is a question that everyone should have an answer to, but I am realizing more and more that most people have no idea.
Depending on what your goals are however, this number could be different things for the same person. For the purposes of this post, let's just focus on the goal of fat loss. Now before we get into this, I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, and I am not giving medical advice. I am simply showing you how I helped THESE PEOPLE achieve their goals.
I think by now most people know that you need to create a calorie deficit to drop body fat. Well in order to create a deficit you first need to know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. Makes sense right? You have to know the number that you are are creating a deficit from.
There are some very basic ways to determine this number, but without the use of some very high tech and expensive equipment, they are all just best guesses. THIS LINK will take you to a site will ask you some questions to determine your BMR (base metabolic rate) which is the number of calories that you would burn by just being alive and sitting in bed all day.
After you have that number you can add roughly 500 calories for your daily activity, and 3-500 more depending on your exercise for the day. The number that you are left with is your MAINTENANCE CALORIE TOTAL. This means that eating this amount of calories will keep you at the same body weight you currently are.
This is the mid point. From here we can assume that more calories will have you gaining weight, and less will have you losing. I think that most of you will be shocked by the numbers you get. I am willing to bet that the vast majority of you are barely eating your BMR.
Is this an exact science? No, but we have to have a starting point to work from. From here I would recommend dropping about 200 calories from your maintenance number, and giving it about 2 weeks to see what happens. This is by no means the end of this process, and there are other things that play into your success such as your macro nutrient totals, meal timing, and ultimately having someone monitor your progress and make adjustments as you progress. This is just meant to be a starting point for anyone that is completely lost on their fat loss journey.