Is it just experimenting, or are there any good methods to determine your optimal caloric needs?
Oops, sorry I am so late on this!!
I really only analyze my diet when I want to reach a particular goal. I have a good handle on my caloric needs from experimenting, dieting for comps and I have a metabolic test done every now and again. I had one done last year and it was 2250. It is important to me to make sure my body is getting what it needs.
I don't generally advocate using cookie-cutter formulas, but this one seems to be pretty close for me. Usually, the formulas have me eating around 1500 calories a day, which would never fly!! This puts my BMR at or near 2250, which jives with the last test I had.
= bodyweight in kgs x activity level x lean factor multiplier
(in bold below) x 24 hours
: 130% is very light activity: sitting, studying, talking, little walking. 155% is light activity; typing, teaching, lab/shop work, some walking throughout the day. 165% is moderate activity: walking, jogging, gardening, active job, training 1 to 2 hours per day. 200% is heavy activity level: manual labor such as digging, tree felling, construction work, and sports activities between 2 and 3 hours. 230% is very heavy activity: a combination of moderate and heavy activity 8 or more hours per day, plus sports activities 2 to 4 hours per day.
Description Lean Factor
Percent Body Fat Levels Multiplier
1 "Lean" Men 10% to <14% – Women 14% to <18% 100%(1.0)
2 "Normal" Men 14% to <20% – Women 18% to <28% 95%(0.95)
3 "Clinically Obese" Men 20% to 28% – Women 28% to 38% 90%(0.90)
4 "Chronically Obese" Men over 28% – Women over 38% 85%(0.85)
Everyone is different, so this is just a guideline. You may need more or less.