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What Does TDEE Mean And How Do You Calculate It?


When trying to figure out how to approach your diet, knowing your TDEE can be very helpful.

TDEE stands for ‘Total Daily Energy Expenditure’, which is the total number of calories your body is burning each day – and, by extension, the number of calories that you’d need to eat each day to maintain your current weight.

This is also sometimes referred to as your ‘maintenance caloric intake’.

Knowing your TDEE can be very useful when you’re trying to determine how many calories you need to eat when you’re cutting (trying to lose fat) or when you’re bulking (trying to gain weight and build muscle).

The Factors That Make Up Your TDEE

The easiest way to think about it is that your TDEE is an estimate for the total amount of energy that you are expending each day in all respects.

This includes your BMR, which is the amount of energy your body needs to maintain its most basic functions (breathing, keeping your heart beating, etc).

Next up, your TDEE factors in your daily activity levels, which includes any exercise you do (such as weightlifting, cardio, walking, etc).

In addition to these 2 components, your TDEE also includes any energy costs that can be attributed to the thermic effect of food (or TEF), which is just the amount of energy your body requires to digest and process the different foods that you eat.

Finally, TDEE also includes something called NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is the energy that you expend fidgeting, pacing, etc, and can vary greatly from person to person.

How To Calculate Your TDEE

There are several methods that you can use to determine your TDEE, so I’ll quickly go through the two that I recommend using.

Method #1

The most basic way to get a rough sense of your TDEE is to just take your current bodyweight (in pounds) and multiply it by either 14 or 16.

In general, if you’re a man and/or have a faster metabolism, then you should use 16; if you’re a woman and/or have a slower metabolism, then you should use 14.

The result will be a rough approximation of your TDEE – or the number of calories you need to maintain your current body weight.

This method is very simple to do, and good for getting a rough sense of your maintenance caloric intake, but is also not the most accurate method to use – especially if you’re going to be using it to set specific calorie targets for yourself.

Method #2

A more accurate way to calculate your TDEE is by first determining your BMR, as I discussed in this previous article, and then using a multiplier based on how much exercise you do.

  • If you exercise between 1-3 hours per week, multiply your BMR by 1.2
  • If you exercise between 4-6 hours per week, multiply your BMR by 1.35
  • If you exercise 6+ hours per week, multiply your BMR by 1.5

For example, if you have an estimated BMR of 2000 calories, and exercise roughly 5 hours per week, then you would have an estimated TDEE of 2700 calories (2000 x 1.35).

This is a more accurate way to gauge your TDEE, since it takes an estimation of your BMR into account (also factoring in your body fat percentage, if you are using the Katch-McArdle method), and also uses a more representative exercise multiplier based on how much you work out.

In Summary

Using these methods, you should be able to get a reasonably accurate sense of your TDEE, which you can then use to create an appropriate caloric deficit or surplus for yourself to cut or bulk effectively.

However, there is a fair amount of individual variation as far as BMR and other factors like NEAT are concerned, so you should always bear in mind that this is just an estimate, and you may need to adjust upwards or downwards based on how much weight you’re gaining or losing.

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