Hi Georgie! I’m hoping you can help me with a nagging question. I am trying to balance out an undereating / overexercising issue and trying a numbers approach. I am about 120 lbs, 5’5″ and burn 500-1000 calories per day (1 rest day / week). I run about 18-20 miles / week alternate with strength / classes the rest of the time. Is there any way you can tell me a ballpark number for daily calories? I have tried nailing down my own number online, but always get conflicting information. I have no interest in losing any weight, just want to make sure I’m properly feeding myself Thank you so much in advance!! -Susie
Hey Susie! Trying to pin down a number at all is going to be frustrating. It varies day to day of course, and what really matters is what you already pointed out – are you adequately fueling yourself? That’s not just a calorie question. You can eat enough calories but not be giving your body optimal fuel if you don’t get them in the right times or the right mix of macros. I bet you know that if you fasted all day and then ate a couple thousand calories of Oreos at night that wouldn’t be good fueling, even if it was 1. Tasty and 2. Enough calories. You can do better than just thinking calories. To best assist yourself with overcoming an overeating/exercising issue, I encourage you to adopt a mindset of listening to your body (in both eating and in training).
I would make your first priority getting adequate nutrition into your post-workout meal, since that is the prime time for replenishing fuel stores, rebuilding muscle, and helping you recover so you can perform well the next workout AND get the most beneficial adaptations in your body from the workout. The most important habit to get into is eating carbohydrates and protein as soon as possible after your workout. I’d recommend no less than 50 grams of carbohydrates and 25 grams of protein within an hour of finishing if possible (and of course rehydrating with water).
That leaves the rest of the day…. where I would say tune into your body. The wonderful thing about bodies is they let us know when they need more food, which is why when people exercise, on the whole they get hungrier! Let your hunger show up before each time you eat, eat until comfortable and you’ll probably maintain your weight effortlessly and save a whole ton of effort over counting up calories. If your weight is dropping you aren’t eating enough, so you might need to choose more calorie dense foods, eat a bit more at each meal, or add a snack. If your weight is climbing beyond the healthy range, look for a place to choose less calorie dense foods and practice slowing down to let your satisfaction cues develop in time.
And whether you want to lose weight or not, it’s always a good idea to avoid eating for emotional reasons. Aside from the fact that emotional eating equates to uneeded calories, it prevents happiness.
It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.