If you’re not getting the weight loss or muscle building results you desire, the answer might be as simple as you’re not eating enough!

Whether it's not eating enough calories or not consuming the right proportion of macronutrients, your diet could be doing more harm than good.

Knowing more about your personalized calorie needs for weight loss or muscle building is the key to achieving the physique you’ve been striving for.

If hearing that you're not eating enough when you're trying to lose weight has piqued your interest, keep reading!

How to Determine if You're Not Eating Enough

Your personalized calorie requirements are based on your weight and body composition goals and how many calories you burn off each day.

There are a few general guidelines you can use to determine your caloric needs for weight loss, weight maintenance, and muscle building/weight gain.

Use the following energy intake recommendations to maintain your current weight:

1. USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides the following weight maintenance calorie guidelines for men based on age and activity level:

  • Age 18: 2,400-3,200 calories
  • Age 19-20: 2,600-3,000 calories
  • Age 21-35: 2,400-3,000 calories
  • Age 36-40: 2,400-2,800 calories
  • Age 41-55: 2,200-2,800 calories
  • Age 56-60: 2,200-2,600 calories
  • Age 61-75: 2,000-2,600 calories
  • Age 76 and up: 2,000-2,400 calories

If you’re sedentary, aim for the lower end of your calorie range and if you’re very active, aim for the higher end.

2. Calories Per Pound Method

Another way you can estimate your weight maintenance calorie needs is to use your body weight and an activity factor.

The following guidelines provided by Harvard Medical School help determine your calorie requirements for maintaining your current body weight:

  • 13 calories per pound of bodyweight if you’re sedentary
  • 15-16 calories per pound if you’re moderately active
  • 18 calories per pound of bodyweight if you are active

Based on these recommendations, if you weigh 175 pounds and are moderately active, your weight maintenance energy needs are roughly 2,600-2,800 calories per day.

Calorie Requirements for Your Goal

There are various ways to determine how many calories your body requires daily to lose weight and body fat.

Weight loss calorie guidelines for men set by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) are 1,500-1,800 calories per day for weight loss in men.

This is a general recommendation and may not apply to every overweight man, but it gives you a good idea about where to begin your weight loss journey.

Adjust your weight loss calorie goals as needed to drop about 1-2 pounds weekly.

Another way to estimate weight loss calorie requirements is to find your weight maintenance calorie allotment (current energy intake) and subtract 500-1,000 calories from that number.

For example, if your weight maintenance energy requirement or your current intake is 2,500 calories daily, aim to eat 1,500-2,000 calories per day for safe and effective weight loss.

The NHLBI suggests you avoid dropping below 800 calories per day unless you’re supervised by a doctor.

If muscle building and weight gain are your goals, slightly increase your current energy intake by 300-500 calories per day.

Choose nutrient-dense foods, such as a protein shake or bar, dried or fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, hummus, and dairy foods.

Use extra olive oil or other plant-based oils when you prepare meals.

Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat Requirements

After you estimate your calorie requirements for weight loss, weight maintenance, or muscle building, determine your macronutrient needs using the following guidelines:

  • Protein (4 calories per gram): 20-25% of your total calorie intake
  • Fat (9 calories per gram): 25-30% of your daily calorie allotment
  • Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram): 45-55% of your daily calorie requirements

Weight Loss

If your weight loss calorie needs are 1,800 calories daily, consider the following macronutrient recommendations:

  • Protein: 20-25% of 1,800 = 360-450 calories = 90-113 grams of protein
  • Fat: 25-30% of 1,800 = 450-540 calories = 50-60 grams of fat
  • Carbohydrates: 45-50% of 1,800 = 810-900 = 203-225 grams of carbohydrates

To reach your weight and fat loss goals, sign up for the Fit Father Project 30X (FF30X) weight loss program designed for busy men over 40 to help you lean out and get the physique you’ve been striving for.

Weight Maintenance

If you require 2,500 calories daily to maintain your current weight, use the following macronutrient guidelines:

  • Protein: 20-25% of 2,500 = 500-625 calories = 125-157 grams of protein
  • Fat: 25-30% of 2,500 = 625-750 calories = 69-84 grams of fat
  • Carbohydrates: 45-55% of 2,500 = 1,125-1,375 = 281-344 grams of carbohydrates

If you’ve already achieved your desired body weight, aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily to keep your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, low.

Weight Gain/Muscle Building

If your muscle-building calorie requirements are 2,800 calories daily, use the following macronutrient guidelines when planning menus:

  • Protein: 20-25% of 2,800 = 560-700 calories = 140-175 grams of protein
  • Fat: 25-30% of 2,800 = 700-840 calories = 78-93 grams of fat
  • Carbohydrates: 45-55% of 2,800 = 1,260-1,400 = 315-350 grams of carbohydrates

Try the Fit Father Project Old School Muscle program to enhance muscle building.

Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat (Macros) Food Lists

Below is a list of food groups and corresponding carbohydrate, protein, and fat content.

Non-Starchy Vegetables (5 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein)

The following non-starchy vegetables contain about 5 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and approximately 25 calories in each 1-cup portion (source: University of Michigan):

  • Lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Zucchini
  • Water chestnuts
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans

Starches (15 grams of carbohydrates, 2-8 grams of protein)

The fiber-rich starches below provide about 15 grams of carbohydrates, 2-8 grams of protein, and 0 grams of fat per serving (source: Michigan Medicine):

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cream of wheat
  • 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup of cooked pasta
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 of cooked brown or wild rice
  • 1/3 cup of cooked black beans or pinto beans
  • 1/3 cup of cooked lentils
  • 1/2 cup of cooked corn
  • 1/2 cup of cooked peas
  • 1/2 cup of cooked squash
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized baked sweet potato

Fruits (15 grams of carbohydrates)

The following fruits provide about 15 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of fat in one small piece of fruit, 1/2 large piece of fruit, 1 cup of berries, melon, or citrus fruit, 1/2 cup of other fruits, 1/2 cup of applesauce, or 1/8th cup of dried fruit (source: Michigan Medicine):

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Oranges and grapefruit
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon
  • Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries
  • Applesauce with no sugar added
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Raisins and other dried fruit

Lean Protein Foods (7 grams of protein and 0-4 grams of fat per ounce)

The protein foods below contain about 7 grams of protein and 0-4 grams of fat in each 1-ounce portion:

  • Skinless chicken, turkey, and duck
  • Very lean ground turkey
  • Lean cuts of beef
  • Lean pork
  • Bison
  • Venison
  • Lamb
  • Eggs, egg whites, and egg substitutes
  • Grilled or baked fish
  • Shrimp, crab, scallops, and other seafood
  • Tofu, tempeh, and seitan

Dairy and Calcium-Rich Equivalents (8-20 grams of protein, 1-4 grams of fat, 3-12 grams of carbohydrates)

The protein, carbohydrate, and fat content of dairy foods and calcium-rich plant alternatives vary significantly based on the type of product you choose.

Opt for low-fat options whenever possible and check nutrition facts labels.

The following foods provide 8-20 grams of protein, 1-4 grams of fat, and 3-12 grams of carbs:

  • 1 cup of low-fat cow’s milk
  • 1 cup of protein-fortified plant milk
  • 1 cup of a whey-based protein shake
  • 1 container of low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 slice of reduced-fat cheese
  • 1 cup of plain kefir

Fats/Oils (5 grams of fat)

The foods below contain about 5 grams of heart-healthy fat. Some, such as nuts, seeds, nut butters, and hummus, are also a source of protein and carbohydrates.

  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of other plant-based oils
  • 1/2 tablespoon of nut butter
  • 1/3 ounce of nuts
  • 1/3 ounce of seeds
  • 1/6th of an avocado
  • 2 tablespoons of hummus
  • 1 tablespoon of Italian salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil mayonnaise

Sample Healthy Menus for Men

If you're not eating enough you can adjust any healthy eating plan to fit your weight management goals, as your total calorie intake is what matters most.

Whether your goal is weight loss, fat loss, weight maintenance, or muscle building, add or subtract calories but keep your menus the same.

As a general rule, fill about half of each plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth of your plate with protein foods, and one-fourth of each plate with fiber-rich starches when planning healthy meals.

Weight loss (1,800 calories), weight maintenance (2,500 calories), and muscle building/weight gain (2,800 calories) sample menus for men are as follows:

Breakfast

Weight Loss Breakfast (about 350 calories)

  • A 2-egg omelet with vegetables: 210 calories
  • 1 slice of whole-grain toast: 80 calories
  • 1/6th of an avocado: 54 calories
  • 1 cup of coffee or tea: 5 calories

Weight Maintenance Breakfast (about 450 calories)

  • A 3-egg omelet with vegetables: 300 calories
  • 1 slice of whole-grain toast: 80 calories
  • 1/5th of an avocado: 64 calories
  • 1 cup of coffee or tea: 5 calories

Weight Gain/Muscle Building Breakfast (about 500 calories)

  • A 3-egg omelet with vegetables: 300 calories
  • 1 1/2 slices of whole-grain toast: 120 calories
  • 1/4th of an avocado: 80 calories
  • 1 cup of coffee or tea: 5 calories

Morning Snack

Weight Loss Morning Snack (about 250 calories)

  • 1 1/2 cups of low-fat milk: 165 calories
  • 1/2 scoop of protein powder: 55 calories
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries: 27 calories

*Blend all ingredients together with ice in a blender until smooth.

Weight Maintenance Morning Snack (about 385 calories)

  • 2 cups of low-fat milk: 220 calories
  • 1 scoop of protein powder: 110 calories
  • 1 cup of strawberries: 53 calories

*Blend all ingredients together with ice in a blender until smooth.

Weight Gain/Muscle Building Morning Snack (about 435)

  • 2 cups of low-fat milk: 220 calories
  • 1 1/2 scoops of protein powder: 165 calories
  • 1 cup of strawberries: 53 calories

*Blend all ingredients together with ice in a blender until smooth.

Lunch

Weight Loss Lunch (about 350 calories)

  • 3 cups of leafy greens: 24 calories
  • 3 ounces of grilled chicken: 125 calories
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes: 27 calories
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian dressing: 70 calories
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa: 111 calories

Weight Maintenance Lunch (about 450 calories)

  • 3 cups of leafy greens: 24 calories
  • 3 ounces of grilled chicken: 125 calories
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes: 27 calories
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian dressing: 70 calories
  • 1/7th of an avocado: 46 calories
  • 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa: 167 calories

Weight Gain/Muscle Building Lunch (about 500 calories)

  • 3 cups of leafy greens: 24 calories
  • 3 ounces of grilled chicken: 125 calories
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes: 27 calories
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian dressing: 70 calories
  • 1/4th of an avocado: 80 calories
  • 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa: 167 calories

Afternoon Snack

Weight Loss Afternoon Snack (about 250 calories)

  • 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese: 163 calories
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries: 42 calories
  • 1/3 ounce of pumpkin seeds: 52 calories

Weight Maintenance Afternoon Snack (about 385 calories)

  • 1 1/2 cups of low-fat cottage cheese: 245 calories
  • 1 cup of blueberries: 84 calories
  • 1/3 ounce of pumpkin seeds: 52 calories

Weight Gain/Muscle Building Afternoon Snack (about 435 calories)

  • 1 1/2 cups of low-fat cottage cheese: 245 calories
  • 1 cup of blueberries: 84 calories
  • 2/3 ounce of pumpkin seeds: 109 calories

Dinner

Weight Loss Dinner (about 350 calories)

  • 3 ounces of grilled salmon: 156 calories
  • 1 cup of cooked asparagus: 40 calories
  • 1/2 cup of cooked wild rice: 83 calories
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil: 80 calories

Weight Maintenance Dinner (about 450 calories)

  • 3 ounces of grilled salmon: 156 calories
  • 1 cup of cooked asparagus: 40 calories
  • 3/4 cup of cooked wild rice: 124 calories
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil: 120 calories

Weight Gain/Muscle Building Dinner (about 500 calories)

  • 3 1/2 ounces of grilled salmon: 182 calories
  • 1 cup of cooked asparagus: 40 calories
  • 1 cup of cooked wild rice: 166 calories
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil: 120 calories

Evening Snack

Weight Loss Evening Snack (about 250 calories)

Weight Maintenance Evening Snack (about 385 calories)

  • Protein bar: 250 calories
  • 1 small banana: 90 calories
  • 1/4 ounce of almonds: 41 calories

Weight Gain/Muscle Building Evening Snack (about 435 calories)

  • Whey protein bar: 250 calories
  • 1 medium banana: 105 calories
  • 1/2 ounce of almonds: 82 calories

How to Optimize Weight Loss or Muscle Building

If you suspect you're not eating enough and desire better weight loss or muscle building results, the Fit Father Project can help.

Our team of experts offers nutrition and fitness education, accountability, and custom menus and exercise plans personalized just for you based on your body weight, body type, physical activity level, and weight management goals.

The Fit Father Project provides various programs for busy dads seeking improved health, more energy, and a better overall quality of life:

  • Fit Father 30X (FF30X) is a weight loss plan designed for men over 40 with proven success.
  • Old School Muscle is a muscle-building, fat-burning diet and exercise plan for men seeking lean mass gains.

Regardless of your weight and body goals, the Fit Father Project has you covered.

If you think you're not eating enough or not getting the right proportion of macronutrients, sign up for the Fit Father Project's free 1-day meal plan to get started.

If you're unsure about which workouts for men give you the most aesthetically pleasing physique, try the FFP free muscle-building workout or free metabolism-boosting exercise plan to burn fat and build muscle quickly!

Erin Coleman
Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, Registered Dietician, Licenced Dietician

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

If you’re interested in a proven and completely laid out “done-for-you” weight loss meal plan & workout routine – designed for you as a busy man…

I’d recommend you read the program overview letter for our Fit Father 30-Day Program (FF30X).

Inside FF30X, you'll receive:

  • The simple & delicious Fit Father Meal Plan
  • The metabolism boosting Fit Father 30X Workout (under 90 min/week
  • VIP email coaching where I'll personally walk you through the program
Read the FF30X Program overview letter here to see how our plan can help you lose weight – without the complication & restriction of normal diets.
 

*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on not eating enough.