This post came about as a result of people asking me almost on a daily basis how to calculate their macros for a successful diet or cut. I found myself either basically writing them out a whole plan, or directing them to other sites or calculators, none of which were particularly personalised or even 100% trustworthy.
If you’re here, it’s either because I’ve sent you this way (hey, thanks for listening) or because you’re trying to figure out what macros you need to cut. Either way, welcome.
I’m guessing if you’ve got this far, you probably know the answers to both these questions, but here’s a quick rundown…..
Macros are protein, carbs and fat. They are what your body needs for energy, recovery and day to day function, and each has a certain calorie value. Protein and carbohydrate have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9 calories per gram. Alcohol is a fourth macronutrient and has 7 calories per gram, but for now we’re not overly concerned with this.
Cutting essentially means losing body fat.
So there you have it – “How to Calculate Macros for Cutting” translates to “How much protein, carbohydrate and fat do I need to get lean?”
Oh, and if you’re wondering just how effective this method of eating can be?
The picture on the left is me following a traditional ‘clean diet’ and on the right is around a year later after discovering how to count macros:
Before looking at macros, we need to work out how many calories you need each day.
Now, I could send you off to do some crazily complicated calculation to determine exactly how many calories you need, so difficult you’d end up hiring your local university maths professor to do it for you. Would this work? Probably, but so does my much simpler method…..
Take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 11 to 14.
Here’s how to work out what you should multiply by –
Multiply by 11 if you have a sedentary job and do little to no exercise
Multiply by 12 if you have a relatively active job (think postman, bin/garbage man, etc.) or you have a sedentary job but train 2 to 3 times per week
Multiply by 13 if you have an active job and train 2 to 3 times per week, or have a sedentary job and train at an intense level (ie. weight training, or high level aerobics) 4 to 6 times per week.
Multiply by 14 if you have an active job and train at an intense level (ie. weight training, or high level aerobics) 4 to 6 times per week, or you’re an athlete training every day or multiple times per day.
* Note – Be honest with your number here. Don’t think that by picking multiplying by 11 when you’re really a 14 will lead to you getting shredded sooner. You will probably drop weight quicker, but you’ll also lose muscle mass, look like crap and performance will suffer. Likewise, if you occasionally, sometimes, when you feel like it and when your friends are also up for it, go to an aerobics class a couple of times per week, you can’t justify this moderate activity by putting yourself at 13 or 14.*
Done that? Good, remember that number.
Take your bodyweight in pounds. This is the number of grams of protein you’ll eat per day.
Super easy. Weigh 130 pounds? That’s 130 grams per day. Weigh 200 pounds? That’s 200 grams of protein.
You need between 0.3 and 0.6 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight.
This should be largely based off personal preference, as provided you’re hitting a minimum of 0.3 and not exceeding 0.6, you’re okay. To determine what your ideal intake should be, ask yourself what your favourite types of foods are.
If you tend to err towards fattier foods, such as cheese, bacon, nuts and fatty desserts, then aim for 0.5 or 0.6 grams of fat per pound. You’ll likely enjoy a diet far more (and therefore be much more likely to stick to it) if you have more room for your preferred higher-fat foods in your diet.
If, on the other hand, you’re more of a carb-o-holic, and crave bread, pasta, crisps and pretzels, aim for 0.3 to 0.4 grams per pound. Your carb and fat intake will be inversely proportional, so the higher one is, the lower the other. Therefore, you can go lower with your fat intake in order to consume more carbs.
The only caveats to the above (though these are really minor details) is that athletes focused on performance and needing to recover quickly should keep their carbs high to moderate, while if you rarely train, or only ever partake in gentle exercise, your carb tolerance is likely lower, so set fat towards the higher end of the scale.
This is where you’ll need a calculator. Grab one, I’ll wait…..
First up, take your daily protein intake and multiply it by 4. There are 4 calories in a gram of protein, so this will give you how many calories you’re consuming from protein each day.
Then multiply your fat intake in grams by 9 to give your fat calories.
Add these two numbers together, and subtract the result from the total number of calories you’re aiming for each day.
This will give you how many calories you need from carbs each day. Divide this by 4 (remember – carbs have 4 calories per gram) and that’s how many carbs you need each day.
If you’re struggling, check out these two examples.
Case Study 1: 140 pound female with a sedentary job who trains twice per week and prefers higher-fat foods –
Calories needed = (140×12) = 1,680
Protein = 140 x 1 = 140g
Fat = 140 x 0.5 = 70g
Protein and fat calories = (140 x 4) + (70 x 9) = 1,190
Carbs = (1,680 – 1,190) ÷ 4 = 122.5g
Daily Macros = 140g protein, 70g fat, 122.5g carbs
Case Study 2: 190 pound male semi-professional athlete, training multiple times per week at high intensities.
Calories needed = (190×14) = 2,660
Protein = 190 x 1 = 190g
Fat = 190 x 0.4 = 76g
Protein and fat calories = (190 x 4) + (76 x 9) = 1,444
Carbs = (2,660 – 1,444) ÷ 4 = 304g
Daily Macros = 190g protein, 76g fat, 304g carbs
I am 100% confident that were you to follow the numbers generated by these calculations, you would have no issues whatsoever in shedding body fat. You will however need to make certain adjustments as you progress.
Fat loss is almost never linear, so as you get leaner and your body weight drops, you’ll need to continue to create an energy deficit, either by increasing energy expenditure by training more, or by decreasing your food intake. The most effective way I’ve found to judge progress is to weigh yourself once every one to two weeks and take progress photos.
If you feel you’re not losing fat, lower your total calories by between 50 and 100 per day. (This should mainly come from carbs and fat, as protein is needed to preserve muscle mass.) Always aim for the smallest drop possible, unless you have a specific deadline to make, such as a bodybuilding contest or a photo shoot.
These macros are also only a guide, and may need slight tweaking from the outset. If you’re losing more than a couple of pounds per week after the first three or four weeks and are not obese, it may be the case you can tolerate a higher calorie intake, so go back to step 1, and re-work your macros using a higher energy factor. Genetically-gifted individuals who already carry a large amount of muscle mass may be able to diet on 15 or 16 calories per pound, or possibly even higher.
The macros are also variable — there’s no need to hit each one exactly, provided you’re consistent. Aim to be within 5 to 10 grams of each on a daily basis, and don’t sweat it if you’re a little over or under.
One of the most common questions I’m asked is –
“Mike, I just can’t figure out how to stay on track with my macros, what should I do?”
I hear you.
It can be confusing, but I’m here to help.
I sincerely hope that this free article is enough to get you started, and losing fat on track to your dream body.
But if it’s not, and you’re worried you might be doing things wrong, that you’ve not got the right calculations, or you simply don’t understand tracking, and are stressed that all your efforts will be in vain, I urge you to check out:
This is the exact system I use with my one to one clients, and that so far has helped over 4,600 people lose fat faster than ever without giving up their favourite foods.
I’d love for you to check it out.
Not only does it ensure that you simply can’t fail with your fat loss macros, but it also introduces concepts that make the process even faster:
Re-feeds, diet breaks, nutrient timing, supplements and a whole host of other methodologies and tools that are easy to implement, but get you to your perfect physique literally months quicker.
Click here to head over and take a look.Tags: cutting, fat loss, flexible dieting, IIFYM, macronutrients, macros, nutrition