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#1
06-17-2019, 09:14 AM
 2018 Midterm Prediction Winner Join Date: Aug 2003 Posts: 22,025

## What's the most amount of calories per day you can eat without gaining weight

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=877099

The average sedentary person can eat about 10-12 calories per pound each day without gaining weight.

A physically active person may need 15 calories per pound.

But gender and muscle also factor into the equation.

World's strongest man competitions are male, extremely muscular and engage in several hours a day of intense physical activity. They eat roughly 30 calories per pound of body weight per day just to maintain bodyweight and avoid losing size. A 300 lb competitor may eat 10k calories a day.

My impression and assumption is that NFL players may eat the same amount when in heavy training, maybe 30 calories per pound per day (I forget where I read this though).

However when I started reading about endurance athletes they can eat even more.

Michael Phelps or tour de France athletes may eat 40-50 calories per pound per day.

Joe 'stringbean' McConaughy speed ran several multi thousand mile trails. This involves running or speed walking 14-18 hours a day. I have no idea how much stringbean weights but based on photos I'd guess about 160 pounds. He claimed he'd eat 8-10k calories a day, sometimes 10-12k on heavy days and he still lost some weight. So he was eating up to 70-80 calories per pound of bodyweight per day.

I'm wondering if that is near the max. For someone with a high metabolism who engages in heavy activity it may max out around that.

But again these endurance athletes are small and wiry. What happens if a 350 pound world's strongest man competitor decides to run 18 hours a day. I'm guessing they'd burn 100+ calories per pound per day.
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#2
06-17-2019, 11:45 AM
 Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2000 Location: My own private Nogero Posts: 6,876
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Wesley Clark But again these endurance athletes are small and wiry. What happens if a 350 pound world's strongest man competitor decides to run 18 hours a day. I'm guessing they'd burn 100+ calories per pound per day.
My guess is that the strongman will crap out long before he gets to 18 hours of running. Unless he engages in lots and lots of endurance training, at which point he's no longer going to weigh 350 lbs.
#3
06-17-2019, 11:58 AM
 Charter Member Join Date: Nov 2001 Location: Stockton Posts: 10,826
My sister was a dietary assistant for the Los Angeles Olympics, back in the day. She didn't give numbers, but she said that the highest calorie meals they provided went to the heavy weight lifters.

The lowest calorie meals went to the women's gymnastics teams.
#4
06-17-2019, 01:08 PM
 Guest Join Date: Nov 2015 Location: Santa Fe, NM, USA Posts: 7,423
One of the constraints for extreme endurance athletes who compete over weeks (cycling Grand Tours, long distance hiking speed records) is simply the ability to metabolize enough calories, especially when you need to eat while on the move. There's nothing similar to a 3-week Grand Tour at the junior or lower levels of cycling, so the pros generally don't know how their body will cope until they try it. The ability to metabolize calories and recover well enough is somewhat uncorrelated to a cyclist's other talents, so some world class riders just find that they are not competitive over 3 weeks, and specialize in 1-day classics or 1 week stage races instead.
#5
06-18-2019, 12:23 AM
 Guest Join Date: Sep 2015 Posts: 70
If it's just calories we're counting, what about competitive/speed eaters? Assuming they don't just throw it all up afterwards, that is, I'm not really familiar with the digestive aftermath of 79 hot dogs in three minutes or whatever but these guys don't seem to gain weight year on year and a couple of them are rakes.
#6
06-18-2019, 06:24 AM
 Charter Member Join Date: Mar 2001 Location: NW Indiana Posts: 28,547
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Wesley Clark Inspired by this thread. https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=877099 The average sedentary person can eat about 10-12 calories per pound each day without gaining weight. A physically active person may need 15 calories per pound. But gender and muscle also factor into the equation.
Hmm.... wondering where you're getting your numbers.

At one point I analyzed my diet, when I was working stocking shelves 8 hours a day 5 days a week, and it worked out to 20 calories per pound to maintain my bodyweight of 150 pounds. I ate even more when I was working in construction. That's for an active woman, not an active man. Arguably, I was heavily active and not moderately active. Eating 3000 calories a day was no problem (indeed, now that I'm not so active I've had to cut back considerably so as not to gain weight). I'd expect 6000 is not that hard, either.

When you get up around 10,000-12,000 I think you'd have to spend some thought on preparation and content. Not all foods are equal. Calorie density would become important, as the sheer bulk of the food involved becomes more and more a factor - 5000 calories of rice is a very different volume than 5000 calories of, say, butter or olive oil.
#7
06-18-2019, 09:56 AM
 2018 Midterm Prediction Winner Join Date: Aug 2003 Posts: 22,025
Those are the numbers I'd always heard as rough guidelines. People are different though and those are rough numbers.

But for you even if you assume you'd need 1800 a day when sedentary that means you were burning 1200 calories a day at work, or about 150 an hour. For activity that involves a lot of walking, lifting and moving that sounds reasonable.

There are videos on YouTube of powerlifters going over their daily diets. Usually they eat meals worth 1-3k calories every three hours or so. One I saw probably had over a thousand grams of protein a day.

On another note there is a theory I heard about thin and wiry people. Many endurance athletes are thin and wiry so people look at them and say 'they are thin because they exercise a lot' but it could be the opposite. They exercise a lot because they are thin. The argument is that their body types and metabolism aren't good at storing bodyfat so if they eat too much the calories go to their muscles rather than fat cells. That make them feel compelled to engage in activity to burn the excess off while if the rest of us eat too much we just sit down and watch TV while the calories go to our fat cells.

I know identical twin studies on overfeeding have found some people become extremely fidgety after overfeeding. Their bodies don't store the excess as well, they try to burn it off instead.

Kind of a tangent but for some people if you overfeed them their bodies just work to burn it off rather than store it.
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Sometimes I doubt your commitment to sparkle motion

Last edited by Wesley Clark; 06-18-2019 at 09:57 AM.
#8
06-19-2019, 08:30 AM
 Guest Join Date: Mar 2003 Location: Toronto Posts: 252
Your question seems more theoretical, but from a practical individual perspective, it's pretty easy to get an accurate number these days.

I've been working to lose weight and I use a combination of two things: an app called "My Net Diary" plus my Apple Watch.

I track all my food intake on the app (BTW - there are lots of apps that do this, I just happen to have picked this one.) When you start using it, you enter your current weight & your goal weight and your "activity level". It gives you an estimate of the calorie intake required to meet your goal. The app calculates the calories throughout the day throughout the day based on what I enter.

The Apple watch calculates (estimates) my caloric burn throughout the day based on periodically checking my heart rate (every few minutes). If I'm doing a workout, it continuous monitors my heart rate to give a more accurate estimate.

The app then incorporates the watch data to let me know what my ongoing caloric burn means to my daily target, i.e.: how many calories I have left to consume or how much many calories I need to burn.

From a practical perspective it works really well.

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