What are macros and how do you calculate macros for fat loss?
If you’re trying to lose weight, then there’s a good chance that you’ve heard the term ‘macros’ being used.
‘How can I calculate my macros for flexible dieting?
’‘What are your macros?’
‘Does this fit my macros?’
Common questions that we get asked all the time.
Learn how to work out your own calorie and macronutrient targets.
In this article we’ll cover exactly what are macros and then how to calculate macros for cutting (as they say in the fitness industry). Let’s get to it.
What Are Macros?
Macros is simply short for macronutrients. As the name ‘macro’ suggests, we require these food groups in large amounts in the diet. There are four macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates and the fourth is alcohol, but we’re going to focus on the first three. So far, so good?
How many calories someone consumes per day depends on their macronutrient intake. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram whereas fat, which is more energy dense, has 9 calories per gram.
Let’s work through an example. Say you look at a food label that has 10g of protein, 10g of carbohydrates and 5g of fat.
To work out how many calories are in that food we multiply the grams of protein (10g) by 4 + grams of carbohydrates (10g) by 4 + grams of fat (5) by 9 = 125 calories.
Here’s the deal.
There are also ‘micros’, short for micronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins, several fatty acids and a number of inorganic elements. We need these in smaller quantities but they are essential for growth, repair and maintaining our cells.
Before you can get down to the nitty gritty of working out what macros you need to start flexible dieting (that`s where you pick and track your own foods to hit your macronutrient targets), you need to first calculate your calorie target.
It’s important to remember that regardless of what approach you take, your calorie target is an estimation, not an exact number.
Even if you follow all our advice to the letter, it’s still an estimation and some tweaking may be necessary (that’s one of the advantages of having a nutrition coach, we can do the tweaking for you. Find out more here)
Anyway, there are several ways you can estimateHow many calories to lose fat how many calories you need to lose fat. We’re going to do it using a slightly more advanced way rather than simply multiplying your body weight by a number like some people may do.
Before we can start, I’d like you to meet Julie.
Julie is going to be our guinea pig, she wants us to be her transformation coach so we’re going to work out her macros.
He’s a 35 year old female, weighing 80kg at 170cm and she comes to my kettlebell classes couple of times per week. She has a desk job and she wants to know her macros for fat loss.
First off, we need to work our Julie’s calorie requirements.
We’ll use the Mifflin-St Jeor formula to estimate her Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is essentially the amount of energy expended per day before we add in her activity levels.
There are several equations we can use but a study by the ADA (American Dietetic Association) found the Mifflin-St Jeor method to be pretty accurate. Here it is:
Men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5
Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161.
So for Julie, our 35 year old female, weighing 80kg at 170cm. Her BMR would roughly be: (10 x 80)+(6.25 x 170) – (5 x 35) – 161 = 1526.5.
Now that we’ve worked out her BMR, we need to multiply it by a Physical Activity Ratio (the estimated cost of activity he does per day).
If you were working this out, you would need to multiply your BMR by:
1.2 if you do little or no exercise
1.4 if you do exercise a couple of times per week
1.5 to 1.7 if you exercise several times per week
1.9+ if you exercise every day or have a hard, physical job
Back to our example.
Julie trains a couple of times per week so we’ll multiply her BMR (1526.5) by 1.4. This gives us his estimated TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure): 2137.1.
In order to lose fat, Julie needs to create a calorie deficit.
This means she needs to consume less calories than she needs per day in order to lose fat.
A 15% deficit is often a good place to start. With our clients, we may go higher or lower depending on their starting body fat levels, their goals and energy requirements.
Anyway, Julie’s calorie target to lose fat would be: 1816 calories.
Now we know how many calories to aim for, let’s calculate some macros for cutting.
Calculating Your Protein Target
We’ll start with protein. A higher protein diet can be a great tool for fat loss. It helps preserve muscle tissue and it helps to keep you feeling full.
A good figure to aim for – when flexible deiting – is often around 2g per kg of bodyweight.
For 80 kg Julie, that would be around 160g of protein.
Struggling to hit your protein target?
This is our favourite raw vegan protein shake for maximum protein and minimum carbs.
Calculating Your Fat Target
How much fat should you eat to lose fat largely depends on preference.
While the name “fat” might strike fear into the hearts of dieters across the land, you need a certain amount of fat in your diet to stay healthy.
Fat has a host of important functions in the body. Fats are essential for cell growth, repair, brain function and a host of other essential bodily functions!
Aiming for a fat intake between 0.7g – 1.2g per kg of bodyweight might be a good start.
On Julie`s flexible dieting plan, she is going to aim for around 1g per kg so that would be 80 g of fat for her.
Calculating Your Carbohydrate Target
So far we’ve worked out Julie’s total calorie target: 1816 calories.
His protein target is 160g
And his fat target is 80g
That means we now need to calculate his carbohydrate requirements.
To do this, we’ll first work out how many calories we’ve assigned already. Remember how to do this?
4 calories per gram of protein and 9 calories per gram of fat, right?
That means Julie has been assigned 1360 kcal so far (160×4)+(80×9).
If we subtract 1360 from his calorie target (1816) she is left with 456 kcal remaining for carbohydrates.
Divide this number by 4 (because there are 4 kcal per g of carbohydrate) then his carb target is 114g.
There you have it. Julie’s daily macros to lose fat would be:
1816 kcal = 160g protein, 80g fat and 114g carbohydrate.
We’ve shown you how to calculate macros, to start flexible dieting you need to go and start tracking your intake and aim to hit those targets! A good tool to track your macros would be My Fitness Pal.
We then would adjust certain days of the week to allow for Carb Cycling where inactive days you eat less carbs or you follow a specific Carb Cycle.[Related article: What is Carb Cycling and what does it mean for fatloss in your 40s]
What foods you eat are largely down to you. It would be a smart move to think of food quality first and foremost.
Embrace those micronutrients!
Aim for nutrient dense, fresh, tasty foods that you love that are packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Flexible dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) isn’t about how much junk you can stuff into a meal plan. It’s about eating a range of nutritious foods (for the majority) that you love, that allow you to hit your macro targets, whist maintaining an element of flexibility.
Follow our guides above to estimate your macros, adjust as needed and start to make some fantastic fat loss progress.
Confused? Need Some More Help?
There’s a lot of numbers been thrown around in this article. It can be quite confusing.
Want to know the best part? You don’t have to do the hard work.
We have done it for you.
You can choose between a pre calculated menu plan for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans following a system ‘Rule of Thumb’ measurement guide to get you started and if all these numbers bamboozle you.
Or, we can do it for you.
We’re experts at calculating macronutrients for people like you and we can create delicious meal plans or coaching programs, designed around your goals, preferences and favourite foods.
You would also have direct support from me as your highly trained nutrition coaches as part of the Wheel of the Year Warrior Goddess Body Body Shape Change programme and access to our private members community for continued support, motivation and help.