How to guide to calculate calorie deficit, maintenance & macros

How to create a calorie deficit, calculate maintenance calories and macros

Nutrition plays an important role in improving performance, efficient recovery, and body composition. As a coach specialising in powerlifting, I understand the importance of calorie intake and macronutrient distribution for optimal results. This guide will provide a step-by-step approach to calculating calorie requirements and macro distributions to create an efficient calorie deficit. 

Below are summary notes from the video, watch the video for the full details.

As a personal trainer specialising in powerlifting, I bring expertise in addressing such issues both online and in-person. This is an example of the evidence based coaching and training that I provide either face to face in our gym in Taren Point or online.

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Understanding Maintenance Calories

What Are Maintenance Calories?
Maintenance calories are the amount of food required to maintain your current body weight. If your weight fluctuates around a specific number without significant gain or loss, you’re likely consuming maintenance calories. Calculating this is the first step in creating a calorie deficit.

Calculating Maintenance Calories
To find your maintenance calories, weigh yourself daily under consistent conditions (fasted, in the morning, minimal clothing) and track your calorie intake using apps like MyFitnessPal. After collecting two weeks’ worth of data, calculate the average body weight and calorie intake for each week. If your average body weight remains stable within 100 grams between week one and two, the average calorie intake you consumed over the 2 weeks is likely your maintenance calories or very close to it.


Creating a Calorie Deficit

Establishing a Deficit for Weight Loss
A general rule for weight loss in powerlifting is to aim for a loss of 0.5% to 1% of your body weight per week. Losing more than 1% per week could risk muscle mass loss and performance reduction, while less than half a percent might be too slow.

How much should I reduce my calories by?
Implementing somewhere around a 15-20% deficit relative to your maintenance calories is generally a good starting point. Then you can adjust calories as the week’s progress according to your weight loss rate.


Setting Up Your Macros

Protein Intake
Protein is required for muscle recovery and growth in powerlifting. Aiming for around 1.8 to 2.6 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, depending on your body composition and age. For those who are younger and have a higher starting body fat, you can opt for the lower end of the protein range. For those who are older and leaner, you can opt for the higher end of the range.

1 gram of protein equals 4 calories.

Fat Intake
Fats should comprise 15-25% of your total calorie intake. Each gram of fat equals 9 calories.

Carbohydrate Intake
After allocating calories for proteins and fats, the remainder can go towards carbohydrates. Carbs supply energy for intense training sessions. Yes, energy can be derived from body fat. However, the process is inefficient at breaking down fat and converting it into usable energy. As lifting weight mostly relies on glycolysis (the process of breaking down carbohydrates into usable energy), eating carbohydrates is ideal for maximising performance in the gym, particularly when in a deficit and energy availability is less than that of being in a surplus.

Example Calculation
For a 70 kg individual targeting 2000 calories per day:

  • Protein: 2.3 grams per kg (161 grams total) equals 644 calories.
  • Fat: 20% of total calories (400 calories).
  • Carbohydrates: Remainder of the calories (956 calories).

644 + 400 + 956 cals = 2000 calories


Adjusting Macros for Continued Weight Loss
As weight loss progresses, metabolic adaptations may occur, necessitating further calorie reductions. 

Distribute these reductions between fats and carbs. Do not reduce protein intake during a deficit to reduce calories. Generally somewhere around a 5-10% calorie reduction will be enough to get weight dropping again after it stalls.

I’d suggest waiting for at least 2-3 weeks before making a calorie drop. Look at your weekly calorie averages and see if it looks like your body weight has stalled between averages (not daily fluctuations). Do not drop calories too fast as there may be a weight drop coming, sometimes you just need to be patient as weight drops can be delayed or intermittent.


Mastering Your Nutrition for Powerlifting

Calculating and adjusting your calorie deficit, maintenance calories, and macros is a science that can significantly impact your powerlifting progress. While these calculations provide a starting point, individual adjustments are required for each person. 

For personalised guidance, consider reaching out for coaching to tailor your nutrition plan to your specific goals, whether it’s shedding body fat, building muscle mass and/or increasing your powerlifting total.

Paul Attard
Paul Attard

Paul is the founder and head coach of SPC Performance Lab. Paul has been coaching since 2014 and has worked with all different types of people. From first timers learning the basics, all the way up to the experienced power-lifting competitors.

He tailors his approach depending on the needs, goals and experience of the individual. Paul has extensive theoretical and practical coaching experience.

- Masters of Sports & Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning)
- Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science with First Class Honours
- Competed and won multiple natural body-building shows & power-lifting competitions.
- Held an Australian power-lifting record.

Free advice

SPC Performance Lab is a gym in Taren Point in the Sutherland Shire, Sydney NSW. It is a private gym that offers strength training, powerlifting and body building training. The gym is open 24 hours, 7 days a week with membership options that include casual or regular visits.

Paul also provides a choice of personal training one on one or the option of online coaching.

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