“Macros” is probably a term you’ve heard floating around in your local gym or health food store. Tracking your macros, or flexible dieting, is an eating lifestyle that is experiencing considerable popularity right now – but what is a “macro”, and how do you calculate it to help achieve your weight and fitness goals?
“Macro” is short for macronutrient, and defined as “a chemical element or substance that is essential in relatively large amounts to the growth and health of living organisms.” Macronutrients make up the biggest parts of diet that supply the body with energy, and consist of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.2 Each nutrient has an important function in the body, and by being aware of how much of each you consume, you can begin to tailor your eating habits to meet specific goals or needs.
How to Calculate Macros
Before you can determine your macros, you first need to figure out your TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure. You may have come across macros split into percentage of intake per day, but those percentages don’t mean anything if you don’t have a daily calorie intake to take them from. Many online calculators are available that take your information (age, height, weight, activity level and goals), and calculate your TDEE and determine your macro split all at once. However, you may not be aware of the percentage split of the calculator, so being able to figure out your macro needs yourself can help you to create a plan that better fits your needs, goals, or eating style.
To calculate your macros, begin by calculating your TDEE with the equation below3:
- Men = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) + 5
- Women = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) + 161
Then, multiply by your average activity level:
- Little to no exercise = x 1.2
- 1 – 3 days of exercise per week = x 1.375
- 6 – 7 days of exercise per week = x 1.55
- Exercise every day = x 1.725
- Exercise twice a day or more = x 1.9
This will give you your total TDEE, and the number of calories you can consume per day without changing any habits. From here, you can adjust your daily calorie intake by subtracting 20% for weight loss, or even adding 20% if you’re looking to build muscle.3 Using your daily calorie intake you can then split your calories between the three macro groups.
For example, if you’re going to split your macros by 40% carbs, 40% protein and 20% fats, a 2,000 calorie a day diet would look like this4:
- Calories from Carbs = 800
- Calories from Protein = 800
- Calories from Fat = 400
As quantity of these nutrients is measured in grams, take each calorie value and convert it to grams using the chart below4:
- 1g of protein = 4 calories (Ex. 800/4 = 200g)
- 1g of carbs = 4 calories (ex. 800/4 = 200g)
- 1g of fat = 9 calories (ex. 200/9 = 44g)
From here, you can start choosing foods and building meals around the value of their macros to hit your daily goals. Knowing your TDEE and how to find your macros in grams will help you create meal plans that suit your specific lifestyle.
Keto Macro Calculator
The ketogenic diet is based on high fat intake, moderate protein, and very low carbs. Obviously, the macro split in the example above will not work if you’re trying to adhere to a keto diet. The macros of a standard keto diet will be roughly 70 – 80% of daily calories from fat, 10 – 20 % from protein, and only 5 – 10% from carbs.5 Eating so much fat may seem like a huge undertaking, but remember that fat is high in calories, almost twice that of protein or carbs, so it may not be as challenging as you think. Carbs can sometimes be harder to control as many of us are used to eating vegetable without thinking about the carb value!
A standard keto diet split on a 2000 calorie a day diet would look like this:
- 70% fat = 1,400 calories = 155g of fat per day
- 20% protein = 400 calories = 100g of protein per day
- 10% carbs = 200 calories = 50g per day
The range for carbs per day to stay in ketosis is roughly 30 – 50g per day, making the above example the absolute limit for carbs.6 To adjust this for a weight loss goal, you could consider cutting the carbs down even lower.
Macros for Weight Loss Calculator
To calculate your macros for weight loss, first take your TDEE and subtract roughly 20%. Be careful that your daily calorie intake does not fall below 1,200 for women and 1,800 for men, which are unhealthy levels of calorie intake.7 If subtracting 20% brings you below these thresholds, don’t cut as many calories.7 With your weight loss calorie intake calculated, try splitting your macros to include more protein and fat, and less carbs.8 A suitable split could be 40% protein, 20% carbs, and 40% fats.
Macro Calculator for Bodybuilding
Macros for bodybuilding will rely heavily on protein and carbs, but will also keep the fat threshold above 15%. Protein is well known by most to be essential for muscle building, but carbs are also extremely important for providing the energy needed to lift heavy.9 This is why bodybuilders that follow a keto plan usually modify it to include either carb cycling, or targeted carb intake around their workouts.10 To adjust your macros to fit a bodybuilder’s needs, you’ll also need to up your calorie intake – try increasing your calories by about 15%. With your new daily calorie goals, try splitting your macros by 50 – 60% carbs, 25 – 30% protein, and 15 – 20% fat. Keeping your fat intake adequate is just as important as your other macros, as too little fat can cause a decrease in testosterone, a key hormone in the muscle building process.9 To further support your testo, try pairing your body building efforts with HexoFire Labs Delta Prime.
Macro Calculator for Cutting
Since cutting is essentially a process for losing fat, it may make sense to use a similar macro split as for weight loss. However, what’s important to keep in mind is that you’re still trying to maintain all the muscle you’ve spent so much time building up. To maintain muscle while still cutting fat, bring your daily calorie intake back down to a deficit (rather than a positive like we have for bodybuilding), but don’t cut your carbs too much in your macro split. For cutting try using the lower end of the macro split for bodybuilding: 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fats.
- 1Merriam-Webster. (2018, May 5). Macronutrient. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/macronutrient. View link.
- 2 Ferriera, M. (2018, April 25). 6 Essential Nutrients and Why Your Body Needs Them. Healthline. Retrieved May 10, 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/six-essential-nutrients. View link.
- 3 Kubala, J. (2018, January 30). Flexible Dieting: A Simple Macro Diet Plan That Works. Healthline. Retrieved May 10, 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/flexible-dieting. View link.
- 4 Del Monte, V. (2018, January 16). From Here to Macros: 4 Steps to Better Nutrition. Bodybuilding.com. Retrieved from https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/from-here-to-macros-4-steps-to-better-nutrition.html. View link.
- 5 Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss. Retrieved on May 10, 2018 from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/. View link.
- 6 Palsdottir, H. (2017, June 3). What is Ketosis, and Is It Healthy? Healthline. Retreived May 10, 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-ketosis. View link.
- 7 Corleone, J. (2017, July 18). How to Use Your BMR to Lose Weight. LiveStrong.com. Retrieved May 10, 2018 from https://www.livestrong.com/article/266994-how-to-lose-weight-with-bmr/. View link.
- 8 Hession, M., Rolland, C., Kulkarni, U., Wise, A., & Broom, J. (2009). Systematic review of randomized controlled trials of low‐carbohydrate vs. low‐fat/low‐calorie diets in the management of obesity and its comorbidities. Obesity reviews, 10(1), 36-50. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00518.x
- 9 Lambert, C. P., Frank, L. L., & Evans, W. J. (2004). Macronutrient considerations for the sport of bodybuilding. Sports Medicine, 34(5), 317-327. PMID: 15107010
- 10 Mawer, R. (2017, June 17). The Ketogenic Diet 101: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide. Healthline. Retrieved May 9, 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101. View link.