Want a Simple Guide to Calories?

Calories are key when it comes to losing fat or building muscle, yet most people get confused and make mistakes.

I think the confusion arises because we expect what we eat to have a direct effect on how we look.

Eat less, lose fat, right?

Eat more, gain muscle, right?

This level of thinking is flawed because losing fat & building muscle are not direct effects of eating.

For example, let's say you try to eat 'less calories'

One of three scenarios will play out:

1) If you don't eat enough your body will burn muscle (and fat) for energy.

2) If you eat less than you normally eat, you might still be eating too much.

3) If you eat the right amount of calories you will maintain muscle mass and burn fat for fuel.

Basically, there is a 'goldilocks zone' where everything is just right!

TOO COLD = eating under your daily energy requirement

TOO HOT = eating over your daily energy requirement (this is how we get fat)

JUST RIGHT = eating enough to fuel your training & daily life

Make sense?

The way you determine your goldilocks zone is through a calorie calculator.

Just google around to find a good one (*see footnotes)

A calorie calculation figures out:

1) Your "too cold" zone, which is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

2) Energy required for daily activity (eating, moving, working, thinking etc.)

3) Energy required for physical training (running, lifting weights, sports etc.)

Let's say your BMR is 1200, 200 cals is then added for daily activity, then another 400 for physical training (I'm plucking these numbers out of thin air by the way)...

1200 + 200 + 400 = 1800 calories (your goldilocks zone)

If you eat in this zone, you WILL lose fat and fuel your muscle mass.

Basically, this is DEFAULT mode for our bodies, this is how we work best.

Your muscle mass IS your health, it is what drives your workouts, carries you about every day, and it will diminish as you age. Build and preserve muscle mass to get the body you want.

DO NOT BURN MUSCLE MASS!! Losing muscle mass is the complete OPPOSITE of a health goal.

Most people fail to understand calories, choosing to starve themselves in the classic "fad diet cycle"...

....drop calories, burn muscle mass, crave junk food, binge out, store fat, then wonder why they look worse year after year.

Wise up

If you want to gain muscle mass, simply add 100-300 daily calories to the goldilocks amount.

Keep checking to see if you've added muscle too, gaining one pound per month is a great rate of progress. So don't expect fast results. But you gotta know whether your diet is working.

Now, there will still be a few of you wanting to burn fat faster. Wanting to defy science and nature and lose 4 stone in 2 weeks!!

Firstly, forget that nonsense. It's all marketing hype.

Second, if you want to lose fat faster: train harder, reduce stress, sleep longer, drink more water.

Do anything BUT dropping calories, because you will burn muscle

To sum up:

1. Find your 'goldilocks' amount of daily calories using a coach or an online calculator

2. Create a healthy, fun diet which gets you to your daily calorie target

3. Repeat for the rest of your life AKA a consistent healthy lifestyle

Do not:

1. Think eating less somehow speeds up fat loss. It speeds up muscle loss.

2. Overeat to gain muscle quicker. You will get fat.

3. Eat on target for 5 days then overeat for 2 days. You are overeating.

Rise Above


Anthony Shaw

Head Coach

Raw Strength Gym


The best calculations include an estimate of your body fat percentage/amount of muscle mass.

We use an InBody scanning machine at the gym which accurately scans muscle and fat mass, and gives an accurate, personalised calorie target for each member.