How to calculate your Macros correctly

by William

Ever wondered how some people maintain their body size without doing too much? Well, perhaps you may have heard of the term Macros before, especially about dieting.

Now if you’ve heard of the term macros, it was probably from a friend or someone who’s really into food and nutrition. The good thing about macro dieting is that almost anyone wanting to make smart food choices, for example, losing weight, building muscle or maintaining a healthy lifestyle can benefit from it.

For sure, you must have heard the phrase “tracking your macros” — but what are macros, anyway? And can counting macros help someone lose weight, bulk up or achieve some other health goal?

What Are Macros?

Macros are the short form for macronutrients. Macronutrients are the three main categories of nutrients you eat the most which provide you with most of your energy. They include carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

These three categories that makeup macros are different from micronutrients. Micronutrients are the other aspects of your foods. They include vitamins, minerals and electrolytes your body needs in smaller amounts.

food containing carbohydrates, proteins and fats

Carbohydrates give you quick energy. Examples of carbs – leafy greens, whole grains, and root veggies. Such as; asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, dark leafy greens, squash, green beans, onions, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and quinoa.

Protein helps you grow, heal from injuries, build muscle and fight off infections, and many other functions. Examples of protein food –beef, eggs, fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), cod, and nuts.

Fat is important for healthy hormone levels, metabolism, vitamin absorption.  Examples of food containing healthy fat – almonds, avocado, Brazilian nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, and macadamia nuts.

How to calculate macros for bulking, cutting and maintenance?

Now that you know what macros are its time to learn how to calculate them.

When it concerns macronutrients, the amount of each you should be eating varies from person to person. The perfect amount of macronutrients is called “macronutrient ratio.” The macro ratio will depend on your age, height, weight, activity level, and your goal.

In general, for an adult female, the “normal” calorie intake is about 2000 Calories and for an adult male its 2500 calories. Still, this depends on your age, weight, and activity level.

Note! intake ratio is written in percentages but nutrition information is provided in grams.

To calculate your macros;

First, you need to determine how many calories you eat each day. Let’s say 2,561 calories. (more on how to determine your calorie requirements in the TDEE section below)

Next, determine your ideal ratio. I like to eat about 40 percent carbs, 40 percent protein, and 20 percent fat.

Next, multiply your total daily calories by your percentages.

Lastly, divide your calorie amounts by the calorie-per-gram number.

Here’s how to calculate calories for each macronutrient:

For a 2,561 calories diet with a macro ratio of 40:40:20 of carbs, protein, and fat, it would be calculated as follows:

Carbs:40% of 2561 calories= 1,024. Meaning I eat 1,024 calories worth of carbs daily

Protein: 40% of 2561 calories =1,024. So, I get 1,024 calories worth of protein.

Fats:20% of 2561 calories = 512.I also get 512 calories of fat.

How to calculate the actual gram amounts:

To calculate the calorie amounts in grams, you have to divide by how many calories there are per gram in each macronutrient.

There are 4 calories/g in carbs, 4 calories/g in protein, and 9 calories/g in fat).

For a 2,561 calories diet, your daily amounts in grams would be:

1024 calories from carbs / 4 = 256 g carbs

1024 calories from protein / 4 = 256 g Protein

512 calories from fat / 9 = 56.8 g fat

It may seem a tad bit complicated at first, but when you do it step-by-step, it’s quite easy to calculate how much carbs, protein, and fat you need in your diet.

For bulking, increase your TDEE by about 10%.

In this example its 10% of 2,561 calories = 256.1

2,561 + 256.1 = 2817.1 calories

This means if I want to build more muscle, I will have to calculate my macros based on the new TDEE amount (2,817.1) and not the normal TDEE (2,561)

For cutting reduce your TDEE by about 20%

Therefore, 20% of 2,561 = 512.2

2,561 – 512.2 = 2,048.8 calories.

Still don’t get it? No worries. You can use a macronutrient calculator.

An effective way for weight loss is to focus on protein and fat. A higher protein and fat diet will make you feel full and satisfied, keeping you from overeating.

How to calculate TDEE – your daily calorie requirements?

Remember how I used this amount 2,561 as the daily calorie amount? Well, here’s how to calculate your daily calorie requirement.

Put simply, Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the estimated amount of calories you burn daily including the periods when you are active.

TDEE is calculated by first determining the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and then multiplying the BMR value by an activity multiplier.

BMR is the amount of energy the body burns while doing nothing within 24 hours.

Use one of the following formulae to calculate your BMR:

Here is the Harris-Benedict equation formula;

Imperial formula (weight in lbs, height in inches)

Men: BMR = 66.5 + (6.2 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) − (6.76 × age in years)

Women: BMR = 655.1 + (4.35 × weight in pounds) + (4.7 × height in inches) − (4.7 × age in years)

Metric formula (weight in kg, height in cm)

Men: BMR = 66.5 + (13.75 x weight in kg) + (5.003 height in cm) – (6.755 X age in years)

Women: BMR = 655.1 + (9.563x weight in kg) + (1.85 X height in cm) – (4.676 X age in years)

Alternatively, you can use the Mifflin-St.Joer equation, which is considered to be more accurate than the Harris-Benedict equation.

Note: To calculate your BMR, you need to know your weight in kilograms and your height in centimeters.

Men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5

Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161

Example: BMR for a man who is 6 feet tall (72 inches), 30 years old, and weighs 175lbs (79.5Kg) will look like this:

Using Harris-Benedict equation (imperial)

66.5 + (6.2x 175) + (12.7x 72) – (6.76 x 30) = 1,863.1 calories

Once your BMR is calculated, you can easily work out your TDEE, based on the activities you do throughout the day like walking, exercising etc.

Simply multiply your BMR by your physical activity level (PAL) number that corresponds the most to your daily activities in the table below.

  Level of activity Average PAL Value (multiply this value by your BMR to get your TDEE)
Sedentary 1.2
lightly activity 1.375
Moderately active 1.55
Very active 1.725
Extremely active 1.9

Let’s say the man has a sales job and exercises twice a week. This can be classified as a lightly active lifestyle. Using the BMR of 1,863.1 calories and light activity, the TDEE calculation will be as follows:

TDEE = BMR x PAL

1,863.1 x 1.375 = 2,561

TDEE = 2,561 calories

Note: there will always be a difference in the final amount if you use either of the equations to calculate your BMR and TDEE.

If numbers frighten you and you are confused at this point, do not worry.

An easier way is to simply use a macro diet calculator or calories apps make it easier to log the foods you’re eating and to calculate how many macros are in them.

Here are a few popular apps for calculating calories:

1. MyFitnessPal is the most widely used calorie and diet tracker app. With over 80 million users, a database of over 5 million foods and tracks their calorie value.

2. Cronometer app is what many in the vegan community use.

Once you signup (via app or website), fill in the required personal information and confirm your email, go to profile settings and see your BMI, BMR, etc.

Tweak the settings as needed to suit your lifestyle. The basic calorie goals are a tad bit low, but it does an amazing job of tracking macros.

Under the settings, click on the Target tab, adjust your macros ratio, scroll down to set your weight goals and tons more.

3. Lifesum

4. My Diet Coach

How to calculate protein, fats, and carbs as a vegan

Whether you are vegan or not you will need the same type of macros (carbohydrate, protein, and fat). Vegans get their macros mainly from plant-based sources

The method of calculating your macros is the same as described and illustrated above.

However, for vegans or vegetarians, it is better to use a macros ratio of40 – 45% carbs,25 – 30% protein, and 30 – 35% fat.

Since most plant-based protein-rich foods also come with noticeable amounts of carbs, using the suggested vegan macros ratio above will help you achieve your macro targets easily while eating whole foods.

Furthermore, as a vegan, about 50 – 75% of your fiber intake should be consumed as more carbs. For example, if you consume60 grams of fiber daily, then you need to compensate for the indigestible carbs that are included in your total carb goal by eating an additional 45 grams of digestible carbs.

That being said, keeping track of your calorie intake and maintaining it is very difficult to do, and by all means, do not take it to the extremes but rather keep it as close to your numbers as you can. It will help you reach your goals the fastest.

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