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How to determine caloric intake on a diet
Setting a baseline and getting an accurate Idea of your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) or how many calories your body requires to maintain your current weight is always the place you want to start from. Otherwise you’re taking a wild guess which could lead you down one of two ill advised paths. You may loose too much weight too fast and this means you’re not losing the weight you want to loose. The scale will be moving but you’re loosing a higher proportion of muscle which won’t get your body composition where you you want it to be aesthetically speaking. Alternately you could be wasting time by not cutting enough calories and thus not losing the weight you set out to loose. When I start working with people who want to loose weight I go the route of having them start using a digital food scale and eating how they normally do but while journaling all of their food for the first week. I have them weigh themselves at the beginning and end of the week and then we can make a more reasonable guess about their BMR based on their weight and what their daily caloric intake was.

In my case I have a Bodybuilding contest to prep for so I have no time to loose and as a result, very little room for error. I posted a picture last week from my Bod Pod Fit test. This is an air displacement test that gives you a really accurate idea of what your mass, body composition, and BMR are. It’s accuracy is second only to the elusive Dexascan, which can be pretty expensive and isn’t widely available to most people. This test helped me determine that my BMR is about 3900 cals/day, which is pretty in keeping with what I had been eating the last couple of weeks and maintaining that weight. So now we know what caloric intake it takes for me to maintain the same body weight, but we've yet to take the next step and decide how many calories I need to cut in order to loose the exact 1-2lbs of weight per week which is optimal for retaining muscle mass.

;Now we go back to the science. We know that there are roughly 3500 calories in a pound of fat (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/6/5/542.short). While I know that it’s nearly impossible to loose only fat that’s what I’m shooting for so this calculus is based around this Utopian goal. Since I’m looking to loose 1-2lbs/week I’ve cut 600 calories from my daily caloric intake. This will net me a 4200 caloric deficit for the week and with the addition of a little cardio should keep me on schedule and pace to hit my goals. I can’t wait to see what I look like in about 18 weeks!

Keeping your weight loss to this 1-2lbs/week rate is paramount for a bodybuilder.  If you cut too much weight too fast you run the risk of losing the majority of it from muscle through a process called muscular catabolism.   Losing weight at this slower rate favors a more beneficial ratio of fat to muscle loss.  This is also why it's more important than ever for a dieting athlete to rely on Whey Protein!  Since whey has such a rich amino acid profile helps your body retain more muscle through your diet.   In between meals I also highly recommend using BCAA's to replace any oxidized muscle tissue and preserve your lean mass.

Here’s the macro nutritional and caloric profile of Day one for my precontest Diet:

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