One of the most exciting things about nutrition science is that we have developed a lot of powerful tools to help people with weight loss over the last few decades. This includes tools that are built for calculating macros.
There are many free macro calculators to help you calculate macros. These will all give you a good starting point. It’s important to remember that all calculations are just estimates. The only way to actually find the macros you need to be at is to track your intake and adjust based on your results.
Learning to Calculate Macros by Hand
Learning to calculate macros by hand is the most common way people calculate their intake. There are several recommendations for macronutrient intake. This page displays the most common and general recommendations.
These recommendations are for those who are lean, have an average body fat percentage, or are slightly over weight. Special considerations are needed for those who are obese (our macro calculator works for those who are obese).
Calories are THE most important factor in determining changes in body composition. Generally speaking, no calorie deficit = no fat loss. There are several different formulas that can estimate your calorie requirements (Harris- Benedict, Mifflin-St. Jeor, etc.). Any of them will provide a decent starting point for you.
Thankfully, there are shortcuts that we can use that will get you around the same results. Simply multiply your bodyweight (in pounds) by the numbers below. The lower values are generally recommended for women and/or less active individuals.
More active individuals may be able to get away with the higher recommendations. Some individuals may have lower or higher calorie requirements than these recommendations, but for the majority of people, these ranges represent a decent starting point.
|Goal||Bodyweight (lbs) Multiplied By|
As a final note, no matter where you get your estimates from, these calorie estimates are just that – ESTIMATES. You always have to adjust your calories upwards/downwards according to actual results. This is why stressing over getting your initial calories “just right” when starting out is pointless – you’ll more than likely have to change them anyway.
Example: A 200 pound male who resistance trains 5 days a week & hikes ~3 miles/week who is dieting: 200 x 11 = 2200 Calories (2200kcal).
Protein intake should be set at 1g/pound (2.2g/kg) of bodyweight. This will vary based on being in a caloric deficit or caloric surplus. There are also various opinions on this issue, such as setting per pound of lean body mass. While you can set protein based on LBM (0.8 – 1.5g/lb, or 2 – 3.3g/kg), research on protein per LBM is scarce.
Estimating body fat percentage is also something that most people are not very good at doing. Therefore, the recommendation is made to set protein based on total body weight for most people.
|Goal||Grams Per Pound|
|Lose Weight||1.0 – 1.5 grams|
|Maintenance||0.8 – 1.0 grams|
|Gain Weight||0.8 – 1.0 grams|
Protein has a caloric value of 4 calories / gram.
Continuing our example from the previous section: 200 x 1 = 200 grams of protein (800kcal)
Outside of essential fatty acids, there is no physiological requirement for dietary fat. However, we do need a minimum amount of EPA & DHA, hence fish oil supplementation is common. While there is no established required dietary fat minimum, a good rule to follow is to set dietary fat between 15-25% of total calories while dieting, with a minimum of 0.25g/pound (0.55g/kg).
Fat has a caloric value of 9 calories / gram.
Continuing our example from the previous section: 2200 x 25% = 550kcal. 550/9 = 61 grams of fat
Carbohydrate intake should be set with the remaining calories after protein & fats have been set.
Carbohydrates have a caloric value of 4 calories / gram.
While there is no physiological requirement for carbohydrates, carbohydrate intake can help the sustainability of a diet & performance during exercise.
Continuing our example from the previous section: 550kcal from fat + 800kcal = 1350kcal. 2200-1350 = 850kcal / 4 = 212 grams of carbs.
Fiber keeps your digestive system happy and goes a long way towards helping with satiety. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends approximately 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories consumed. Fiber can either be digestible (soluble) or indigestible (insoluble).
While soluble fiber has a calorie value of ~2 calories/gram, it should still be taken out of your daily carbohydrate intake at 4 calories/gram.
Continuing our example from the previous section: 2200 / 1000 = 2.2. 2.2 x 14 =31 grams of fiber
This puts our calculated macros at:
- 2200 Calories
- 200 grams of protein
- 61 grams of fat
- 212 grams of carbohydrates of which 31g should be from fiber
Understanding how to calculate macros and incorporating them into your weight loss journey can greatly enhance your success. By adjusting your calorie intake based on estimates and tracking your progress, you can find the right balance for your body.
Setting protein and fat levels appropriately, along with determining carbohydrate intake and including fiber in your diet, helps ensure you meet your nutritional needs.
Remember that these calculations are just starting points and may need to be adjusted based on your individual results. By taking the time to calculate macros and make adjustments as needed, you can optimize your nutrition plan and move closer to achieving your weight loss goals.