500 Calories Less than BMR



I am a petite 44 year old women who is 5'1.5" tall and I weigh 107 pounds. I have had eating disorders for over 20 years.

I want to eat healthy and boost my metabolism without gaining weight. My goal is to lose fat and tone.

From what I have read; you are typically supposed to eat 500 calories less per day than your BMR.

The problem is, my BMR is 1193. That means I would be eating 700 cals a day.

I would assume that would put my body in starvation mode and I would not be able to gain muscle. I need to know how many cals I need to eat per day to achieve my goals. I am so that I will gain weight if I eat too many calories.

I have been down this road before and I know if I see myself gaining, I will go back to starvation. This is what I am trying to avoid.

Can you give me some words of wisdom?  I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question


"500 Calories Less than BMR"

You most likely misunderstood what you read. For someone to say and/or publish "you're typically supposed to eat 500 less than your BMR" is an utterance which represents complete hogwash to say the very least.

The number 500 is an arbitrary number used because of convenience.  Since there are 7 days in a week and 7 days of eating 500 calories less than your maintenance levels conveniently equals 3,500 calories. 3,500 Calories just so happens to be exactly how many calories a pound of fat represents.

An example using basic math will show you just how ridiculous that statement is. Say with your BMR you went on a hike that burned 1200 calories. Then you would have to eat 500 calories less than -7 for that day?

Maintenance Calories vs. BMR

Your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate is how many calories your body burns daily for bodily functions at rest (think as your lying in a bed w/out moving all day) such as breathing, organ function, brain function and digestion.

Any activity other than laying in bed adds calories to your daily calorie expenditure. This includes walking to the car, watering the lawn, exercising in the gym, etc.

You can calculate your activity calories which add to your total daily caloric expenditure when added to your BMR.

So for example, say your BMR is 1193 and your daily activity calories add 700 more extra calories to your BMR. This means your maintenance level of calories for that day would be 1893 calories. In this case, if your goal was to lose 1 pound of fat in a week, you would have to eat 1393 calories per day as long as you maintained the physical activity which created a daily caloric expenditure of 1893 calories.


Realistic Goals

At your height and weight, a daily deficit of 500 calories and 1 pound a week of fat loss will not last very long as you have very little weight to lose.

If this is the case you should maybe try a 300 calorie a day deficit which will also reduce the chance you enter "starvation mode" in case you underestimate your daily calories burned.

The best option for you is to have your body fat measured professionally so you don't have to play a pointless guessing game of whether you're gaining muscle, gaining fat, burning muscle or burning fat.

Once you have an accurate estimate of your body fat percentage you can really see how your body is responding to your training and nutrition and adjust your exercise and diet accordingly.

Final Words

Keep in mind that elevating your BMR is possible at any age by adding lean body mass to your body. Muscle is metabolically active and burns more calories than stored fat for daily maintenance.

Maintaining your muscle mass involves resistance training coupled with an adequate protein intake which also helps burn more calories because of protein's high thermic effect of food (cost body energy to digest).

Life is a long trip and you don't want to fuel your car with a 1/4 tank before a long trip. Make sure you eat quality foods in balance so your body will functional optimally and you will have more fun with most of life's activities.

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