At this point, if you have been following my blog you should know about my experience with flexible dieting and what flexible dieting is in general. If you do not, i suggest you read my previous blog post about IIFYM here. This post is going to be about calculating YOUR specific macronutrient intake for your goals.
Now, i am starting this post with some flashing neon lights that say these numbers you find below are not “magic”. They are not simply cut and dry/ black and white. These are ball park numbers. Flexible dieting, tracking, what have you- requires ALOT of trial and error and estimating. Yes, estimating. Just because you follow your “macros” does not mean that right off the bat you will automatically lose 20 lbs. and everything will come super easy. So many factors (age/genetics/hormones/gender/hormones/body size/body composition/ diet history/exercise/environmental temperature/altitude/food and caffeine consumption/smoking… ALL influence your RMR (resting metabolic rate). Prediction equations, while based on science, can overestimate and underestimate macronutrient needs so one has to take their results with a grain of salt. The macros that work for one 5’4 23 year old female may not work for another 5’4 23 year old female. As long as you are aware of those facts we are good to continue…. lol back on track.
To calculate macros requires a little bit of number crunching. I do not use an online macro counter/calculator for a few reasons. One reason is i am not able to tell where they are getting their numbers from . If i crunch the numbers myself, using equations, i am better able to rely on the information and not just trust that it’s not some bullshit number shot at me by random. I’d suggest grabbing a calculator if you are bad at math and even if you’re not, id still grab one…lol it’s a lot of math.
Carbohydrates= 4 cals/g Protein= 4 cals/g Fats: 9 cals/g
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of energy per unit of time that is necessary to keep your body alive at complete rest. I.E. when you are asleep. Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is what your body needs for your body to maintain itself when you’re completely sedentary meaning nonactive but in an alert state. I.E. When you’re laying on the couch watching netflix.
Your “maintenance calories” are the amount of calories your body needs to maintain it’s weight. This is considered your TEE or Total Energy Expenditure. You’re TEE is made up of 3 things: 1. resting metabolism (70%) 2. thermic affect of food (10%) and 3. physical activity (20%).
The FIRST step to determining your macros, is determining your RMR. To do this, i use the Mifflin St. Jeor Equation. This considers factors height, weight, gender and age. (Weight is calculated in kg, height is calculated in cm, age in years.)
Weight in lbs / 2.2 kg = weight in kg /////// Height in inches x 2.5 = height in cms.
Men: RMR= (9.99 x wt.) + (6.25 x ht.) – (4.92 x age) +5
Women: RMR=(9.99 x wt.) + (6.25 x ht.) – (4.92 x age) – 161
FOR Example: A 23 year old female who weighs 140 lbs.
Weight= 140 lbs /2.2 kg= 63.63kg ///// Height in cms= 64inches x 2.5 = 160 cms
WomenRMR=(9.99 x wt.) + (6.25 x ht.) – (4.92 x age) – 161
(9.99 x 63.63) + (6.25 x 160) – (4.92 x 23) – 161
635.66 + 1000 – 113.16 – 161
= 1,361.5 —-> round up to 1,362 calories.
The SECOND step is taking your RMR X Activity Factor = TEE or maintenance calories.
ACTIVITY FACTORS :
Sedentary: Little/no exercise = 1.2
Lightly Active: Light exercise/ exercise 1-3 days a week = 1.375
Moderately Active: Moderate exercise/ sports 3-5 days a week = 1. 550
Very Active: Hard exercise/ 6-7 days a week = 1.725
Extra Active: Very hard exercise/ sports/ physical job = 1.900
Example with the same 23 year old- 140 lb. female– who lifts casually 2-3 days a week
RMR x Activity Factor = TEE
1,362 x 1.375 = 1,872 calories
After you have determined your maintenance calories…. It is time to break your calories down into macros. So your carbs, protein, and fats.
1st: PROTEIN. Recommendation is about 1 g per lb. of body weight.
ex. 140 lbs = 140 grams of protein
140 g X 4 (because protein is 4 cals/g) = 560 calories from protein
2nd. FAT. Recommendation is about .35g of fat per lb. of body weight.
ex. 140 lbs = .35 x 140 = 49 grams of fat
49 g x 9 (because fat has 9 cals/g) = 441 calories from fat
Last. CARBS. The remaining calories left from your TEE will be allot for carbs. So to determine this….
TEE – calories from protein – calories from fat = Calories from CARBS
ex. 1,872 – 560 cals/protein – 441 cals/ fat = 871 calories from carbs
871 calories from carbs / 4 (because carbs are 4 cals/g) = 217.75 grams of carbs –> 218
So, for the female in our example– Her macronutrient break down would be:
Carbs: 218 g Protein: 140 g Fat: 49 g
Now that you have your macros…what now? Well next comes tracking your macros. Some common apps for tracking macros are MyFitnessPal or My Macros +. I personally use MFP. Whichever you choose is up to you, just be consistent. If you are just starting off tracking in general, i would recommend giving yourself a macro range. This would mean trying to hit your carbs and proteins within a 5 g range of your macros. For fats, i would recommend keeping the range to about 3 g since fats are more calorically dense.
Below, i have come up with a list of common questions associated with counting macros that you may find helpful.
Q: Do i need to consider anything else with my food choices besides just my macros?
A: The answer is YES. It is important to keep FIBER in mind. The recommended amount for women < 50 years old is 25 grams. Men < 50 is 38 grams. For men > 50, the recommended intake is 30 g and for women > 50 21 g. Another important thing to consider is MICRONUTRIENTS. Micros are things such as vitamins and minerals that your body needs in smaller amounts than macros. Micros such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium to name a few. These are commonly found in your nutrient dense foods such as veggies, fruits, grains, and legumes. You can track both your fiber and micronutrients on MFP as well. One last thing to consider is the 80/20 RULE. To make sure you are hitting your fiber/micronutrient goals; you want about 80% of your macros to be filled with nutrient rich foods- i.e. fruits,veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, etc. The other 20% can be those fun foods you really enjoy such as a cookie or mini cheesecakes.
Q: When do i change my macros?
A: I would not recommend changing your macros until you are and can hit them consistently on a regular basis. Initially, i would track before 2-3 weeks before i even thought about trying to change them. Once you are hitting your macros consistently, change things slowly. Change one macro at a time.
Q: What about Carb Cycling?
A: I would not recommend carb cycling right off the bat. If you cannot consistently hit one set of macros then it is going to be very difficult to try and hit 3 different numbers 3 different times. (If anyone is interested in learning more about carb cycling, i can do a later post about this topic..comment below if you are interested.)
Q: What if i want to lose weight or “cut”?
A: Cutting requires eating in a deficit. This does not mean not eating and starving yourself. (Starving yourself will kill your RMR and your RMR will slow down). The goal is to cut while eating as many calories as possible. It is considered “safe” to subtract 100-500 calories from your maintenance macros. You want to cut calories slowly. You want to cut on as many calories as possible because a. your sanity and b. long term maintainability. Start by cutting your carb and fat macros. A 1/2 lb. weight loss a week is more maintainable long term than losing 2-3 lbs a week.
Q: What if i want to bulk? Or reverse diet?
A: Bulking requires eating at a surplus. It is usually recommended to add calories slowly back into your diet to minimize fat gain. (Side note: some fat gain is inevitable with muscle growth). When you are adding calories, protein typically remains constant and carbs and fats are added in slowly. The faster you add in calories the more fat gain that typically results. If you want to GAIN MUSCLE, you need to be fueling your body with more calories.
I hope this post is beneficial to some of you out there who are looking to get started counting macros. Remember, these numbers are not magic…these are meant to be seen as ball park numbers . Macros require a lot of trial and error but consistency, patience, and practice will get you where you want to be. Don’t get discouraged if you do not see progress right away… be patient and consistent and good things will happen. Don’t be afraid to play around with your macros, see how you feel, and find what works for you.
If you have any more questions about macros, how to count them, tips to hitting your macros like a pro, what foods to fit into your macros, etc, comment below and i will be more than happy to help. Please “share” and “like” this post and be sure to subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already,
Thanks so much for reading and talk soon,