At some point during your athletic career or personal life, it's likely you will want a strategy to lose, maintain or gain weight. It may seem overwhelmingly complicated to determine what you need to do to achieve your goal, but it's actually quite simple. (Learn 10 nutrition rules to live by.)
Although it is an important component, strength training alone does not constitute a weight management strategy. Same goes for cardio. The key is how much food you eat. You can work out all you want to gain muscle or trim fat, but you will fail to achieve your weight goal if you are off your mark on the number of calories you consume.
Generally, in order to gain weight, you have to ingest more calories than you burn over time. (Gain weight the healthy way.) The opposite is true if you want to lose weight—you have to burn more calories than you ingest over time. However, once you throw physical activity into the mix, you have to adjust your caloric intake to account for the calories burned during exercise.
A Simple but Effective Formula
Here's a simple formula I learned several years ago for calculating the number of calories you need per day. Despite its simplicity, it's actually fairly accurate.
Target Weight (TW) x (10 + number of hours of moderate/vigorous physical activity per week) = Calories per day
Let's say your target weight is 150 pounds and you exercise five hours per week. When you plug the numbers into the equation, you get 2,250 calories per day. Whether you want to lose, maintain or gain weight, this formula should work for you.
Obviously, lots of other factors can affect your body composition and performance, but that's a discussion for another article. For now, use my simple equation to get an estimate of how many calories you need to eat each day to lose, maintain or gain weight.
Learn more ways you can burn fat.