Tag Archives: Calories

Calorie Tracking: Add for muscle or subtract for fat?

Calorie Tracking: Add for muscle or subtract for fat?

I read The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler with Cassandra Forsythe, M.S. some time ago and forgot all about it, then something started happening with my wife’s weight that I found interesting. As she ate more calories she dropped weight.

Because I am weird, I needed a theory to account for this, which brought me to The New Rules for Lifting books and some interesting numbers.

The new numbers are 2800 and 3500.

2800 calories is the amount it takes to produce a pound of muscle. 3500 is roughly the amount of calories it takes to produce a pound of fat. The old logic was that if you removed 3500 calories from your diet over a weeks time that you would lose a pound of fat.

I really subscribed to this. It makes total sense. And who doesn’t want to get rid of a pound of fat in a week right?


The problem is that over the years this has never been my experience. Human are not just simple machines. We simply do not function by any Newtonian model of physics that I can think of.

I’ve been tracking calories for years now, my wife and I both( please add us on MyFitnessPal: MissTwinky and DharmaAddict) and what we are finding is that when we are working out to add muscle we do much better with higher calories.

We used to take our maintenance calories and subtract 500 (500 x 7 days a week = 3500 calories or a pound of fat). What we’ve been finding though, as the hunger beat down our will power, is that if we add 400 calories per day of mainly protein, we feel much better and we lose weight more consistently. Can’t beat that!

I looked to the New Rules book for an answer and they advocate the solution of adding for protein instead of subtracting for fat. But this turned out to be a trick of vague writing by Mr. Schuler or maybe I misunderstood him. No well informed sane person is subtracting 500 calories from their Basal Metabolic Rate or Resting Metabolic Rate for any extended time on for health reason. The BMR and RMR is (they are the same) the amount of calories the body needs to exist if it were doing nothing. Here’s what the New Rules are actually doing. They are prioritizing protein which is a good thing. Then they are adding 400 calories to the BMR to get daily intake as opposed to subtracting 500 calories from Total Daily Energy Expenditure. The TDEE takes into account the amount of calories your body uses through normal daily living and is much higher that the BMR or RMR (same thing). Both approaches work. You’re going to get a few more calories per day with adding for muscle as opposed to subtracting for fat, but I like the mind set.