Understanding why you’re tracking macros and how to track them is awesome, but how do you know what numbers to aim for?
The Macro Method
First of all, let’s get a few of the basics out of the way.
If you want to gain weight (build muscle, bulk up) = caloric surplus
If you want to lose weight (lean out, cut, shred) = caloric deficit
Maintenance = neutral or taking in exactly as much as you burn throughout the day
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbs = 4 calories
1 gram of fats = 9 calories
1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories
I want to start this by saying, give yourself ample time to progress in either direction. Set realistic expectations on your time frame and stay dedicated to the plan.
(Disclaimer: Information below is only used to serve as an example. Consult with your physician and/or certified health professional before making changes to your diet).
Macros for Weight-loss
Since most of our clients and followers main goal is weight loss. Let’s dive into it a little bit.
You must be in a caloric or macro deficit. Now, you can disregard macros and just LOSE WEIGHT, but don’t be surprised if you’re not happy with your physique.
Skinny fat in other words. One common misconception about dieting in a deficit is that you maintain the same deficit/same diet the whole time. As you lose weight, you have to adjust and create a new deficit.
Which means decreasing your food intake or an increase in you physical activity (think cardio). Without these adjustments your weight loss will stall and it can be frustrating.
In order to calculate your macros, you need to know your burn rate or TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).
There’s a long formula that I wont bore you with. And everyone’s burn rate varies immensely, especially between males and females.
Determine Your Daily Burn Rate
So how do you find it? Theres many options:
Online calculator – It may not be the most accurate but it is a great starting point. I’m sure you have seen them…it takes your height, age, physical activity etc. Here is one calculator example.
Personal tracker – It is trial and error!
Track everything you eat for 4-7 days, you’ll have a good list of your normal daily caloric intake and a guide as to what your weight did during that time.
Now, your daily weight fluctuates (water, sodium, digestion, etc.), but if the weight stays the same, then the average of your total daily calories will be YOUR starting point (or maintenance calories).
If you notice an increase in weight, you know you’re eating ABOVE your maintenance. Depending on your goal you can drop 200 calories a day, track another week and try to get it stabilized.
Honestly, you ideally want to start macro planning with maintenance calories, but if your goal is weight loss and you discover during tracking that you’re already moving in the right direction, use the average of your tracking period and get rolling!
Now we’ve got a solid maintenance calorie estimate and we’re ready to covert into macros.
We are going to use 1,500 calories
Lets start with Protein:
Your adequate protein intake should be based on your Lean Body Mass. This is the weight of your body if you removed ALL body fat, muscles, bones, organs and fluids. If you know your body fat %, you can look up a lean body mass calculator.
if you don’t know your body fat %, think of when you were the leanest you have ever been in your adult life and subtract by 10 lbs. Simple. Yes, it is an estimated value but it works for this purpose.
With that being said, let’s say our lean body mass is 130 lbs. Now, your total protein intake should be 1g-1.25g per pound of lean body mass.
Using our example above, our total protein intake could be between 130g and 163g. per day.
Why the sliding scale? This goes back to your goals. For example, in order for me to maintain my current muscle mass I HAVE to get 130g, but 163g would be unnecessary. When you’re wanting to lose weight, you will want to stick around the 130g mark in this instance.
Let’s say I set mine at 130g.
130g x 4 calories per gram = 520 calories or 35% of my diet
Which leaves us with 980 calories left in our 1,500-calorie diet
Let’s move onto carbs and fats.
No way around this part, but calculating fats and carbs is part guess and part personal preference. If you’re someone who prefers foods that are higher in fats, then you’re going to want a higher percentage of fats so you can eat the foods you love.
If you’re a die-hard carb lover, you might want to spare some of your calorie dense fats to allow more space on the carb side.
Performance plays a role in this as well. If you know you will feel better eating a higher percentage of carbs, go for it. Feeling better is the most important thing after all.
Let’s say we love carbs and we want them NOW! We’ll set our fats around 30% of our diet (the healthy fats), and balance!! We know we have 980 calories left to work with.
Let’s do some simple math.
980 x .30% = 294 calories / 9 = 33g of fat
That leaves us with 686 calories left for carbs.
686 / 4 = 170g of carbs
And now we have our macro count SET:
130g of protein / 33g of fat / 170g of carbs
Of course this can be tweaked and adjusted based off of how you feel, results, body comp, sex drive, mood, etc. Whatever you value as important! Remember these values will need to be adjusted as you head towards your goals.
Okay, so we have our goal, we have a solid starting macro breakdown…let’s talk about adjustments.
As you implement these macros, you will need to monitor your weight, but you MUST stay consistent with your plan. If you slip off of your macros, don’t adjust your macros to make up for it! Get back on track and wait until you are consistent to adjust.
If your goal is to lose weight, adjustments will need to be made to your carbs or fats or cardio. After tracking your intake according to your macros for a full week, if you don’t see a drop in weight, I recommend these adjustments:
Cut 20g from your daily carbs
Add 15 mins of steady state cardio
Add 5 minutes of HIIT cardio intervals
These moderate adjustments do NOT need to be doubled up. Give the recommended adjustments a full week (with consistency) before adjusting again.
That’s it in a nutshell! I hope this gives you a basic understanding of the role macronutrients have in body composition. And if you would like some personalized feedback on your macros and fitness program from myself or one of our fitness professionals, feel free to give us a shout!