How Accurate is TDEE for Weight Management?

Millions of people struggle to lose weight. This may be due to individual differences between people’s eating habits, lifestyles, and physiology. However, there’s a science when it comes to weight loss, and it starts with TDEE.

What Is TDEE?

TDEE, or “total daily energy expenditure,” is a numeric figure that estimates the number of calories a person burns during a normal day, activities included. For example, a person with a TDEE of 2,000 calories should maintain their weight if they consume that amount of calories on a normal day. To lose weight, they would need to stay under 2,000 calories until they reach their goal weight. To gain weight, they would need to consume above 2,000 daily calories.


TDEE is related to BMR, or basal metabolic rate. Unlike TDEE, BMR is a figure that estimates calories burned when the body’s at rest. Even when it’s not engaged in the movement, the body continues to burn calories to digest food, pump blood, breathe, and think. Obviously, this means your BMR is much lower than your TDEE. Since most people don’t spend an entire day at rest, TDEE is the more accurate figure for calculating calories burned in a day.

To calculate TDEE, you must first calculate BMR, then add a multiplier that represents the amount of physical activity you engage in on a normal day, such as walking, standing, doing chores, or showering. Athletes and people who exercise often would use a higher multiplier to account for being more active on a normal day than someone who works out only once or twice a week.

How to Find Your TDEE

The formula for finding BMR and TDEE includes your height, weight, age, and body fat percentage, along with a few other variables. It’s possible to scratch this out with pencil and paper yourself, but using an online TDEE calculator is much faster. According to the experts at Legion Athletics, calculator TDEE values are accurate enough to “determine how many calories you should eat every day,” which is the first step of any good weight loss program.

How to Lose Weight Using TDEE

When it comes to weight management, it all boils down to caloric input versus output. In general, it takes a deficit of about 3,500 calories to burn a pound of fat. With that in mind, it should take a deficit of 500 calories a day to lose a pound in one week.

According to a 2015 study, aiming to consume 25% less than one’s TDEE is the “sweet spot” for consistent, sustained weight loss. By sticking to 75% of your TDEE, you are consuming enough calories to prevent hunger and fuel exercise while also losing weight.

Figuring out your personal TDEE is an important first step because it identifies the exact number of calories you need to maintain your weight. Along with a healthy diet, active lifestyle, and regular rest, TDEE can be an invaluable tool in your weight loss journey.

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