This is done a few different ways. I like to take the average daily calories burned including exercise and adjust from there. This means that you would eat the same amount each day. Some days you burn more and some less, but taking the average is the easiest way to success. Adjusting your calories each day based on activity typically throws people off and unless you are an athlete, doing this just complicates things.
Use a formula online or a mobile app to figure this out. It works just fine for the average person.
The idea of taking a percentage of your maintenance calories was shown to me in a class some time ago. Now days, many people are using apps to help them with their weight loss goals. I like these apps and I personally use myfitnesspal. I have seen it help many people keep to a food diary and thus lose weight because many of us are now addicted to our phones. I’m no exception.
With these apps, it typically asks you how much weight you want to lose. Most people get overzealous and try to lose 2 or 3 lbs a week which results in the app giving you very little calories each day. I’ve had many people come up to me and ask “This seems like too little calories. Is that right??” It usually is too little and many people don’t realize the time it takes to lose 10, 20, or 30+ lbs.
I use a percentage of maintenance calories approach because it is based off of getting someone used to being on a caloric deficit and ensuring permanent results. Here’s a little guide I came up with on “dieting intensity”:
Starting around 75% is a good goal for someone who is serious about losing fat. In time, those who are more serious can gradually cut down to get faster results. It is really about how uncomfortable you are willing to be while on a diet. Going down to 60% may produce fast results, but it may not be worth feeling tired and irritable. Some people are willing to put up with this temporarily while others are not. Then there are those who don’t want to be on a diet what so ever, but still need to lose fat. For these stubborn people I usually start between 80-90%.
This is a general table of how people feel when on a diet based off of my clients, colleagues, and own personal experience. Many factors play into how intense a diet can feel including sleep, body fat percentage, previous weight lost, and individual appetite.
Pick a percentage that is right for you and stick to it. The best diet is the one you can follow to achieve results.
I am a numbers guy as you may have noticed. I like playing around and analyzing numbers when it comes to nutrition. If you are a numbers person, this approach will work for you. If not, then there are many other concept diets to follow that will work.