How to Calculate Your Macros For Fat Loss or Muscle Gain

How much protein do you need to build muscleFollowing a workout plan, taking the best supplements and eating ‘healthy’ food options are all sure fire ways to making gains. Whether you want to lose fat, or gain muscle. Right?

Well that’s just part of the job.

In order to make real progress, it doesn’t just come down to taking the best supplements. It’s not just about busting your ass in the gym. To make gains, you need to control your diet, and eat for your goal.

Whether your goal is fat loss, or to build muscle, you need to know how much to eat.

Calculating Macro Intake

Lets have a look how we set your macronutrients depending on out assessments of weight, body measurements, performance, image etc etc.

Though there will clearly be individual differences, everyone’s protein intake is going to be set pretty much identical, for muscle prevention, and fat intake will be set within a range for health reasons.

For fat loss you’ll want to decrease your overall energy intake and for muscle gain, increase this your overall intake.

How To Calculate Your Total Calorie Requirements

Determining your calories will be your first step. Alan Aragon advises that you use your target bodyweight in pounds x (9-11 + your average weekly training hours.)

Now remember this is just an estimate and so might need changing amongst individuals. The 9-11 range is used to create a range so that the formula can be used by everyone. If your a rather large structured individuals choose 11, compared to a petite person who might use 9.

Method 2:

I would also recommend this website to calculate your BMR –

Follow the steps to get your total caloric intake to maintain your body weight. If you want to gain mass or bulk – i would add 200 calories per day as a starting point. If after a weight you’re still not gaining, add another 200. I’d personally always recommend that you up carbs.

Macro Split

I’m going to talk about how to calculate each macro in a bit more detail but as a rough guide i’d always recommend these rough macro splits.

50-55% carbs
30-35% protein
15-20% fat

How To Calculate Your Protein Requirements

Unless calories are dropping very low protein will remain constant throughout your dieting/gaining phase and should stay in the range of 1-1.5g/lb of lean mass body weight. It’s the macronutrient that gives the most satiety, and is also muscle sparing, so this is a no brainer. For those who struggle to hit their protein intake, I would recommend the use of a protein supplement.

The rest of your calories will be made up from fats and carbs and your energy intake primarily changes via changes in fat and carb macros.

How To Calculate Your Fat Requirements

There is scope for personal preference here as long as, fat stays above 0.4g/lb of lean body mass for health and hormonal reasons and for most people you do not need to go above 0.6g/lb of fat.

To determine what your ideal intake should be, ask yourself what your favourite types of foods are and if you function well of higher fat foods.

How To Calculate Your Carbohydrate Requirements

From here carb intake will be determined using the remaining calories. 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.

Next, 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, as carbs have 4 calories per gram, and that’s how many carbs you need each day.

I would not advise the majority of you going below 150g per day (unless it is essential for an individual competing) as this could have implications of sustainability and enjoyment.

Carbs and fat can then vary every week or when progress stalls, depending of goals, tolerances, and preferences. If fat loss has stalled and your calories are very low and cardio is already bring performed at a ridiculous frequency then look to a diet break and improve your metabolism first and foremost before anything else!!!

For fibre I would advise 10% of your daily carb intake but a minimum of 25g. For example is your carb intake is 400g then fibre should be 40g, or 175g then fibre should be 25g.

Very low calorie diets don’t work

Jar JarWatching my mother eat and always hearing ‘no I cant eat that I am too fat/get fat’ makes me want to talk about low calorie diets as I am constantly having to monitor her diet along with mine.

Let’s say the average chicken breast is around 125 grams, this is about 200 calories. So someone eating 3 small meals, with vegetables and salad would be eating around 600 – 700 calories per day.

Now this is ridiculously low and you are seriously putting your health at risk. Your BMR (base metabolic rate) is the amount of energy you use not doing anything at all.

So this is the amount of energy you use before adding in any exercise, non exercise thermogenesis or thermic effect of the food, you have consumed or thermogenic fat burners you have taken.

Making sure you eat your BMR in calories per day is essential for optimal health and day to day function.

There are many BMR calculators around, even on line, that can give you a approximate value. I have just done mine and it has come out at 1700 Kcals per day. Bare in mind this is a rough figure, and should be used as a starting point. Refer to the above section about establishing macros for more information.

Now lets compare that to 700 calories. Sure this person will lose weight for the first few weeks if that is your goal, but long periods of very low calorie dieting will ultimately see this person coming to a dramatic stall.

Long periods of very low calorie dieting will cause your metabolism to drop, your energy levels to plummet and a huge loss in muscle. This isn’t sustainable, and certainly isn’t smart if you’re going to be adding exercise on top.

Can you diet and eat 3 meals and hit your BMR whilst losing body fat, sure you can. It just means balancing the correct macronutrient ratios, specific to you.

Do not starve yourself!!!

Likewise you don’t want too eat too much otherwise otherwise you’ll add be adding excess body fat.

1 year nabba transformationDon’t Get TOO Fat While ‘Bulking’

‘Bulking’ up means you are going to want to gain mainly muscle, and as little fat as possible.

Many individuals get fat on a ‘bulk’ mainly due to not tracking their food intake so they end up with more calories than they really need. Eating easy calories, such as desserts. Not planning meals ahead when travelling, which leads to poor nutritional choices, and finally not training hard enough to stimulate muscle growth.

You have to find the balance between eating more than you actually need to maintain your weight, and eating everything in sight. Many ‘bro’s’ believe there is no such thing as too much protein. As such they’ll neck countless protein bars, impact whey protein before a workout. A carb loaded, all in one post workout shake, and then a ton of natural peanut butter before bed.

Protein Works. No doubts about it. However too much just leads to excess calories, and unwanted body fat.

Counting your macros is not necessary if you know how much you are eating and good at judging portion sizes, but the problem with guessing is that it can backfire.

Remember fibre, micronutrients, and essential fats have to be there along with water. Once you have met the dietary requirements for these nutrients, you can indulge on a few ‘unclean’ foods, in moderation, to meet your calorie goal.

When training, your muscles won’t grow if you don’t provide the right stimulus in the gym. Your diet creates the environment, working out creates the stimulus!!! Too often, natural athletes work a body part only once a week, which in most cases is not optimal. So look to train your body as much as needed, but allowing your recovery to be best as well.

So now, if your goal is to bulk up and build some muscle, make sure you have BOTH, sound nutrition and training protocols.

Start Gaining

Whether you want to gain muscle or lose fat, you now have a good idea of what to do with your diet to achieve the results you want.

Quite often people make the mistake of eating too few calories when trying to lose fat, or eating too many calories when trying to gain muscle.

With this guide showing how to calculate your macros for fat loss or muscle gain, you should be able to find the ‘sweet spot’ you need in order to make some serious progress.

Follow Scott over on Twitter & Facebook for more fitness tips, and let us know what your macro intake is down in the comments section below.

Adam Foster is an aspiring bodybuilder, and has been training since a teenager. As the founder of the website & youtube channel 'Shreddybrek' he shares his experiences and knowledge via informative videos and articles. Get in touch if you have any questions!

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