How to Calculate Macros

Most of us have heard about macros and how they’re important.  Most exercisers have had some sort of question like “What should my macros be?”  Here’s why it’s important and here’s how to figure out your own macros.  

BEWARE!  Math involved.  Protip: do the math and legwork now to get the most out of your nutrition.  Remember, abs are made in the kitchen but nobody ever told you that you need the CORRECT macros to make it happen!

First off, “macro” stands for macronutrient.  A macronutrient is what makes up food.  It is either a protein, a fat, or a carb.  When someone asks “What are your macros?” they are asking “How much protein, fat, and carbs are you eating and in what ratios?”  Grams per pound, percentages, formulas.  It can all be very confusing.  Let’s walk through it and figure out YOUR “macros.”

The Formula

The Mifflin, M. D., St Jeor formula is one of the most popular and one of the most respected methods used to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).  First we need to find our Resting Energy Expenditure, or REE.

  • For males: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 = Resting Energy Expenditure (REE)

  • For females: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161 = REE

Now that we have our REE we need to multiply that by an activity level factor.

Activity Level Factors

Sedentary

  • Just normal everyday activity like a little walking, a couple flights of stairs, eating, talking etc. (REE X 1.2)

Light activity

  • Any activity that burns an additional 200-400 calories for females or 250-500 calories for a males more than your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.375)

Moderate activity

  • Any activity that burns an additional 400-650 calories for females or 500-800 calories for males more than your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.55)

Very Active

  • Any activity that burns more than about 650 calories for females or more than 800 calories for males in addition to your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.725)

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

So, we have our REE and our acitvity level, now multiply them.  REE X Activity Level = TDEE.

Now that we have our TDEE we determine waht our overall goal is:

  • lose weight: subtract 10-20 percent total calories

  • maintain: no alterations

  • gain weight: add 10-20 percent total calories

Splitting Macros

Now for the fun part: How to split up the calories.  Remember these three points when splitting your calories between the macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats).

Protein

  • Protein

    • Main building blocks for muscle

    • Helps repair damage and used muscle

    • 4 calories per gram

If you’re in a exercise regimen that frequently engages in resistance training, then I suggest getting .825 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  So, if you’re 160 pounds, multiply 160 by .825 and THEN divide that number by 4 (4 calories per gram of protein) that’s how many GRAMS of protein you get per day on average.  

If you’re lifting heavy weight 5x per week, up your protein to 1 gram per pound of body weight.  There’s many opinions on how much protein to eat when lifting weight, my opinion is 1 gram per pound.

If you want to go lighter on protein, get .65 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Fats

  • Fat

    • Necessary in order to regulate normal hormone levels

    • 9 calories per gram

Fats are completely necessary and should NEVER under any circumstance be totally cut out of the diet!  Begin with 25% of total calories from fat then go from there.  Pay attention to emotions, mood, irritability, and stubborn weight gain or loss when playing with low fat intake (~10 percent).  For a 160 pound man, multiply 160 by .25 then divide that number by 9 (for calories per gram of fat).  That’s how many grams of fat should be eaten per day.

Carbs

  • Carb

    • Body’s main source of fuel

    • Fiber is a healthy carb and one that you should track

    • 4 calories per gram

Carbohydrate is our flexible source of fuel.  Now that we know how much fat and protein we need, let’s allocate the rest of our calories towards carbs.  

Putting it All Together

So, a 29 year old 220 pound man who is 5’7” and moderately active that lifts heavy 5x per week and wants to maintain weight  would eat:

  • 2982 Calories per day

    • 220 grams of protein

    • 83 grams of fat

    • 339 grams of carbs

This is just the starting point.  After beginning this caloric intake, it’s important to continually monitor changes quantitatively.  One way to do this is by utilizing body measurements.  Before beginning, take measurements (body tape measure, skin fold calipers, body fat percentage).  Notice how I didn’t put in “body weight.”  Body weight can be one of the most misleading metrics in fitness.  Heavy does NOT equal out of shape, just like being thin doesn't equal fit or healthy.  (More on this later).

The big question you should have after doing all this math and figuring out YOUR macro starting point is “how do I track my macros?”  Let me show you… later.  

MIKE WALSH PERSONAL TRAINER SALEM, OREGON

Mike Walsh is a Marine Veteran and Personal Trainer in Salem Oregon who currently operates at his gym Northwest Forge. He has experience training athletes, expecting mothers, actors preparing for a role, those trying to lose weight, and weight lifters.  He has been coaching individuals who seek to live a healthier lifestyle for over eight years. In addition to personal training, Mike offers clients dietary plans to help achieve goals and leads a Boot Camp Thursday and Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings at the Forge. If you would like a consultation, feel free to contact Mike and be sure to visit the Northwest Forge Facebook to keep up to date with special events and news.  Stay motivated!

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