If you’ve been around the fitness block (or the internet) you may have heard the concept of counting macros floating around. A number of social media influencers and fitness professionals swear by counting macros to achieve your fitness goals. If you are unsure of what macros are and why they’re so important then check out this handy dandy article I wrote that has all the juicy details (and if you came here from this article then you already know you smart little cookie)!
Macros are basically protein, fats, and carbs and by tracking your intake of these macros you can essentially reach particular fitness goals. The great thing about counting macros is that it’s not limited to simply weight loss. You can adjust your macro intake depending on your goals: weight loss, weight gain, or maintenance. Now, you may be thinking wow, this is amazing now how the heck do I actually figure out how many macros I need. Well, Cindy, keep your pants on because I am about to break it down for you. I hope you like Math.
Just kidding! Yes, there are formulas involved for calculating your macros and if you’re surprised, I’m not sure how you expected to figure them out. Unicorn glitter maybe? Not to fear, because in this day and age the internet is a beautiful place and there are many websites that will calculate this all for you if you just enter a bit of info about yourself (I will include links to these at the end of the post). For now, I will explain how the macros are actually calculated in case you are really pumped to do the math yourself.
Let’s Be Basic (The Formula)
First off, we have to calculate our TDEE. TDEE stands for total daily energy expenditure. Simply put, it’s the amount of calories you burn in a day. The Mifflin, M. D., St Jeor formula is probably the most used and respected version of calculating your TDEE, so we will use it. Now hold the phone, Susan, because before we even begin to calculate TDEE, we must figure out or REE (Resting Energy Expenditure). The formula is as follows:
10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 = REE
10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161 = REE
Now that you’ve got your REE, we have to factor in any sort of effort we put in to our daily lives. Assuming we aren’t couch potatoes all day (although sometimes I sincerely wish I was) we have to calculate our level of activity as it contributes to our TDEE. So just like a magic show, pick a card any card – er, I mean, activity level.
The very basic and minimal level of everyday activities such as a little walking, eating, talking etc. (Your REE X 1.2)
Any activity that burns an additional 200-400 calories for females or 250-500 calories for males more than your sedentary amount. (Your REE x 1.375)
Adding activities that burns about 400-650 calories for females or 500-800 calories for males on top of your sedentary amount. (Your REE x 1.55)
Damn, Joseph, you’re going in full force today with that activity. Any activity that burns more than about 650 calories for females or more than 800 calories for males in addition to your sedentary amount. (Your REE x 1.725)
Let me give you an example of what calculating your TDEE looks like and how that gets adjusted based on your fitness/weight goals.
Let’s say you’re a 25-year-old male who’s 6FT and weighs 194 lbs (88 kg) and is very active. We will call him Lancelot.
Here’s how the formula with results will look (*remember to convert lbs to kg for the formula and round to the nearest whole number)
(10 x weight (kgs) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 = REE) x 1.725 = TDEE
10 x 88 + 6.25 x 183 – 5 x 29 + 5 = REE
880 + 1144 – 145 + 5 = 1884 (REE)
1884 x 1.725 = 3250 (Very Active TDEE)
Now if Lancelot wanted to maintain his weight he would simply continue eating 3250 calories. If he wanted to lose weight, he’d eat less and if he wanted to gain more, he’d eat more. Pretty simple right? Good. Now that we have established our TDEE, it’s time to move onto actually calculating Macros.
Let’s start with the caloric values for each macro before we dive into any more math (seriously, anyone else need a break from that? Just me?). For these calculations, we will be speaking the language of grams.
1g Protein = 4 Calories
1g Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
1g Fat = 9 Calories
Protein, protein, and more protein! If you want to build muscle and size or even develop lean muscle, then protein is now your bff, your husband, your wife and your crazy uncle who shows up announced to all social gatherings despite you trying to keep it on the low. If you’re into heavy lifting or bodybuilding, then most would suggest using a ratio of 1g of protein per lb of body weight, but the average for most people is .825g per lb.
So let’s go back to Lancelot (he missed us). If we take his weight of 195 lbs and multiply that by .825g we will see that Lancelot needs to have 161 g of protein per day. You may think that is a hefty amount, but for comparison 4 oz of Chicken yields roughly 35g of protein.
I know that for a long time fat has kinda gotten a bad rep. Obviously, when we speak of losing weight we really mean we want to lose fat, so why on earth would we eat fat to lose fat? Well, please refer to my other post on macros for a refresher, but essentially there are good fats that our bodies need to consumer.
Still, we need to be careful when factoring fats into our diet because too much or too little can be bad. Fat in the diet is one of those things you have to consistently monitor and adjust accordingly. For the sake of this calculation I will attribute 25% of our total calories to fat because of previous research I’ve done and because I’ve actually used that percentage myself for my bikini prep. Alright, here comes the Math:
We take .25 of Lacenlot’s whopping 3250 caloric threshold and we get 812.5 calories. We then divide that by 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) and we get 90.27g which will be rounded to 90.
Carbs are essentially calculated using the remaining amount of calories we have once we subtract protein and fat. Therefore we take 3250 – (644 (Protein) + 813 (Fat)) and we are left with 1793 calories. We divide 1793 calories by 4 (4 calories per 1 gram of carbs) and BAM, we have 448g of carbs.
And with that our final results are…
Now with this information you have successfully calculating your macros! All you have to do is divide it up into the amount of meals you want to have per day and bam, there you go! For example if you want to only eat 3 meals a day the macros would look like this per meal:
You could also calculate for 6, 5, or 4 meals, just simply plug in the math and off you go to Neverland!
Now You Know, How Do You Track?
I am sure at this point you either are really excited for tracking or you hate me for making you read so much AND do math. Either way, I’m sure you are still dying to know how to actually keep track of your macros. GREAT QUESTION!
I have two suggestions on this matter.
1.) Use an app. MyFitnessPal is great for tracking your food intake and they have the option for you to track macros instead of just calories. This is the app I personally use and it has served me well. I’m sure there are many others out there and a quick google search or app store search will yield great results!
2.) Buy a food scale. If you are planning to prep your meals at home (which you should do as much as you can for accuracy’s sake) then you need to invest in a food scale to accurately track your caloric and macro intake. They are pretty inexpensive. I literally just bought mine off of Amazon for cheap and it works great.
I’m lazy and Hate Math, Do it For Me
Don’t worry, I promised that I would link you to some fancy macro calculators that will do the work for you and I’m delivering! Here’s some links to some great websites with macro calculators I have personally used:
Healthy Eater: https://healthyeater.com/flexible-dieting-calculator
If It Fits Your Macros: https://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/
If you have any other questions about macros please feel free to leave it in the comments below and share with any of your friends who have also wondered how the wonderful world of macro counting works. Also if you’ve seen success with counting macros please leave your experiences below and share your transformations, I’d love to see them!