How to Calculate Macros in 5 Easy Steps

Ever wondered how to calculate macros or what should my macros be?

First things first: What are macros? If you’re brand new to this macro thing, please read this guide for a breakdown of what they’re all about.

Calculating your personal macro goals can be done in a variety of ways – and everyone does it a little differently. This first calculation should be a starting point for you in your journey to figure out what ratio is best for you.

In the coming weeks, take note of how you FEEL with regard to energy levels, workouts, sleep, etc. Even just a couple of weeks can provide you insight into what’s working and what’s not. From there, you can always make tweaks on your own or work with me to determine the right macro ratio for you.

Here’s a breakdown of how to calculate your own macro numbers:

1.     Determine your maintenance calories (number of calories you need to maintain your bodyweight) by multiplying body weight (in pounds) by 14 (or 15 if you are very active and/or have a low body fat percentage).

2.     Set deficit (or surplus) calories: If your goal is fat loss, a good place to start is by subtracting 200-500 calories from step 1 above. (If you’re looking to gain weight, add calories to the number you received from step 1.) This number is mainly determined by your goals/how much weight you want to lose as well as your current body fat %.

3.     Set your protein goal: Multiply your bodyweight (pounds) by 0.8. This will give you your protein goal in grams per day.

4.     Set your fat goal: Multiply your bodyweight (pounds) by 0.45. This will give you your fat goal for the day.

5.     Set your carb goal: Divide your remaining calories by 4. This will give you your carb goal.

Example:

Body weight: 140 pounds

140 X 14 = 1960 calories to maintain

Fat loss = 1960 – 200 = 1760 calories

140 X 0.8 = 112g protein

140 X 0.4 = 63g fat

1760 – (112 X 4) – (63 X 9) = 745 (carb calories)

745/4 = 186g carbs

Macros: P 112 C 186 F 63

*There are 4 calories per gram of protein, 4 calories per gram of carbs, and 9 calories per gram of fat.

Please note: This macro calculation is for the masses. When we calculate macro goals for our clients, we incorporate personal goals, activity level, type of exercise, occupation, body type, and more. The results that you calculated, while not individual, are a great starting point for your macro tracking journey!

Once you’ve determined your macro goals, it’s time to enter them into a tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you adjust your macros on workout days versus rest days?

This really depends on the individual, their goals, and their workout (i.e. type, duration, intensity). It’s also trial and error, but, in general, not much changes. On your rest day, just eliminate your post-workout recovery drink (i.e. protein shake). If you don’t work out, you don’t need the extra calories, so your macros stay the same.

How do you adjust your macros if you’re breastfeeding? 

Once again, this depends on the individual mama (her body and baby’s needs), but as a general rule of thumb, our Registered Dietitian on staff recommends adding an additional 500 calories each day, which you then split according to your overall macro proportions since all of your macro needs increase when you’re breastfeeding.

How do you track alcohol?

Great question! I love using the WAG Alcohol Calculator to figure out the macros of my adult beverages. If you’re curious why alcohol macros are calculated differently, download this free guide: When Macros Get Boozy. It also includes some low-calorie cocktail recipes! 🙂

Should I add back the calories I burn during exercise?

If your goal is to lose body fat, then no you should not add them back in – unless you’re training for an endurance event (i.e. half marathon, marathon) and then working with one of our nutrition coaches will help you determine your calorie needs. Here’s why we don’t recommend adding back exercise calories. When you get your macro goals, the calculation has already taken your exercise level into account. We figure out how many calories you’re burning while you exercise and factor that into your macros. If your goal is to lose weight, we then make sure you’re in a deficit, so when you hit your macros, you actually hit your calories with the numbers that you would be at while working out. For example, you just burned 300 calories at the gym and your calorie goal is 2,000 for the day. If you add those calories back, you’re eating 2,300 calories, so now you’re at maintenance or even above maintenance, which will not help you get to your goal.


Start your macro journey now with my Getting Started with Macros Guide and 40-30-30 Weight Loss Meal Plan.

Join my FREE 5-Day Macro Bootcamp to learn all about getting started with tracking macros! 

Want to eat your carrots and cake, too? Check out my nutrition coaching options

15 Comments

    1. Unfortunately, because of diet culture and a lot of other factors, a lot of people don’t have a “natural bodily response to hunger.” Macros (as a tool) and working with a coach can make you much more aware of your food choices, hunger, and what you need to fuel your body. It’s not so black and white for a lot of people. Hunger is 100% factored into macro coaching. Our ultimate goal is to teach someone to eat intuitively with macros as a tool/check-in from time-to-time. We don’t want our clients to be on a “diet” for the rest of their lives, so we’re big on teaching habits and how macros can’t fit into someone’s lifestyle.

    2. @Molly: I’m a great example of someone with no intuitive eating skills. Joined Weight Watchers at age 25 at 142 pounds ( I’m 5’7”) with a goal of reaching 125. I did it high carb/ low fat. I was hungry all the time. But I reached my goal and ate that way for years. It ruined my natural hunger responses. So lots of people out there like me that need healthy boundaries and math. Just thought I’d share that for the lucky ones who don’t have the issue.

  1. This was a super helpful post. I am a vegetarian and know there is no way I am meeting the protein goal on a regular basis. I know you have some posts on this, but I would love to see more posts in 2019 on non-meat sources of protein. Thanks Tina!

  2. This was a super helpful post! I am a vegetarian and know there is NO way I am meeting the protein goal on a regular basis. I know you have some posts on this, but I would love to see more posts in 2019 about high protein/veggie-friendly meals. Thanks Tina!

  3. Love this guide to calculating macros! I was trying my hand with it as the holidays approached, so I’m excited to get back to it! I want to start at maintaining, since I’ve been able to do that the last couple of years. I’d eventually want to increase a little. I do CrossFit and am looking to PR and get stronger through my journey!

  4. Following your calculations with my weight and with the -200 calorie deficit it put me at 162.4 P, 81.2 F and 315 C which seems like a lot of carbs to try to lose weight. Is the calculations you provided an accurate calculation for people over 200lbs? Or should I calculate more of a deficit?

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