When and How To Adjust Your Diet | Manipulating Macros

Man tracking and writing numnbers on a workbook

In the previous article, we covered Why You Need To Make Adjustments as You Diet. This is the guide on how to do it.

Your diet progress has slowed or come to a stop for 2-3 weeks, diet adherence has been good, you’re sleeping well and there is no additional stress at home or work. So what do you do to get things started again?

This is where manipulating your macros may come in.

The goal should always be to have the smallest calorie deficit that you can get away with while still progressing with your diet. This helps keep metabolic adaptation at a minimum, which is important for three key reasons that I’ll quickly explain:

  • Your sex drive stays healthy.
  • You don’t run out of places to make cuts.
  • You reduce the risk of rebound.

1. Your Sex Drive Stays Healthy – No explanation needed of the importance, just bear in mind that when dieting, testosterone is affected, and thus libido will be affected to an extent. We just try to keep that to a minimum.

2. You Don’t Run Out of Space To Make Cuts

The Story of Andy and Bob

Consider two friends whose maintenance calories are 2500kCal per day. They decide to go on a diet to see who can lose the most weight over the next 6 months.

Awesome Andy starts with a daily deficit of ~500kCal, Bonehead Bob ~1500kCal.

The first week…

Bob starts losing weight faster than Andy.

Bob is happier than Andy and considers the hunger worth it because of how quickly the results are coming.

Andy is a little jealous of Bob’s progress but doesn’t really feel hungry or deprived.

6 weeks later…

A is feeling good, progress has been steady but slowed a little recently, still doesn’t feel particularly deprived though, and gym sessions are going well – strength is being maintained.

B on the other hand is suffering, badly. This is both physical and mental. The initial huge water-weight dump set B up with inflated expectations of the fat losses that could be achieved per week. In the second week, losses were a lot less, but still ahead of A so he could put up with the hunger. From then on the losses have slowed considerably each week, strength is being lost in the gym, it’s getting really hard to keep saying no to drinks with friends, and he’s lost interest in sex with his girlfriend.

After 6 weeks of dieting both A and B now need to decrease their macros to continue progressing. Recall from the post, Why you need to make adjustments as you diet, that part of this reason is metabolic adaptation – a drop in their base metabolic rate (BMR). The key difference here is that B’s metabolic rate will have dropped to a much greater extent than A’s.

B has lost more weight than A, but B has really suffered for it.

A is pretty relaxed about making a decrease and progresses onward.

B is faced with eating even smaller meals, or adding cardio. Both are unappealing. It’s just a matter of time before he cracks. B has run out of places to make cuts.


3. You Reduce the Risk of Rebound

Well, Andy certainly has. Bob however has set himself up for a big one. Let’s continue the example:

It’s now the end of week 8…

Andy and Bob are camping away with friends for the weekend at a music festival. They’ve had this planned for months. Everyone gets drunk on the Saturday night. With lowered inhibitions, they both stumble over to the kebab stand at midnight. Andy has a kebab and stumbles off to the tent to call it a night. Bob, after weeks of heavy calorie restriction just can’t help himself and goes wild – he eats four, runs out of cash, steals a hotdog and wakes up in the car park surrounded by fast food wrappers. They both decide to declare Sunday a total day off.

Monday morning Bob steps on the scales and finds he’s gained 8lbs. He’s heartbroken, and a text message from Andy saying that he gained (just) 4lbs pushes him over the edge. He quits the diet and concedes the challenge.

Part of the weight gained back in both cases is water weight – due to increased carb and salt intake – but B will have gained more fat because he’s hormonally more primed for fat gain after weeks of heavy calorie restriction. With the challenge aborted, the fat gain continues over the next two weeks, despite not eating any more than he would have prior to the challenge, and soon B finds himself back to where he was 8 weeks ago.

Does this story sound familiar? This is why you see most competitive body builders balloon up after their stage day – they cut too quickly and don’t moderate their calorie intake increases afterwards – often they can’t as they’re mentally at breaking point by the time they hit the stage.

The best diet is the one you can keep.

The story of Bob happens every day. But of course, no one is interested in moderation, and companies pushing diets on us don’t give a shit about the rebound.

So what is moderation then? What is reasonable progress?

Fat Loss Guidelines

The body has a pesky tendency when in a calorie deficit to burn the fuels in the ratio they are available: free fatty acids from your stored fat, or amino acids from your muscles. By keeping protein high and doing resistance training we try to avoid muscle mass being broken down, however, there is a theoretical limit to how much fat can be released from the fat stores in a single day, and this is inversely proportionate to how lean you are.

  • The leaner you get, the less body fat you can burn a day.
  • If your energy deficit for the day is beyond your body’s capability to fuel itself from fat stores alone, you will lose muscle mass.

Put another way, an obese person can get away with a greater deficit than a leaner person; they can lose fat at a greater rate.

If you shoot for the following you should be ok for preserving muscle mass:

Body fat %Loss /week
30%>~2.5 lbs / 1.1kg
20-30%~2 lbs / 0.9kg
15-20%1.25-1.5 lbs / 0.45-0.7kg
12-15%1-1.25 lbs / 0.45-0.6kg
9-12%0.75-1 lbs / 0.35-0.45kg
7-9%0.5-0.75 lbs / 0.2-0.35kg
<7%~0.5lbs / 0.2kg

The above figures are my guidelines, they are based on observation, not theoretical limits. For the latter, it will generally be slightly more, but to calculate it is complicated and unnecessary.


  • Patience, clearly, is increasingly important as you get leaner.
  • Obese people significantly over 30% body fat will be able to lose more per week without muscle losses, but I don’t advise it for skin elasticity reasons.
  • They are just average guidelines. Short people should shoot for slightly less; taller people may shoot for slightly more.
  • With my coaching clients I usually advise a maximum targeted rate of 1.5lbs per week, even with those over 20% body fat. This is because it’s more sustainable and produces better results even in the shorter-term:
    1. Hunger pangs, lethargy and cravings are minimised.
    2. Strength/muscle gain potential is not hampered in those that have the potential for it, as they are with higher deficits. This is important so you don’t diet yourself down from the ‘fat & weak’ category into the ‘skinny-fat’ category. (More on this here.)
  • Strength/muscle gains in beginners (and some lucky intermediate trainees) will make targeting the above rates of fat loss more tricky, as you have muscle gain to factor in. Body measurements and lifting stats become a lot more important for tracking your progress so make sure you know how.

If you are at a point where your fat loss falls short of the target for 2-3 weeks, firstly, wait another week. – Water retention masking fat loss is common for shorter periods, but it gets exponentially more uncommon as time goes on. Waiting 3-4 weeks is what I’d suggest – the fine balance point between the likelihood that it is just water retention vs realistic limits of people’s patience. (Note: if you’re under an unusual amount of stress, then that can cause this to go on for longer.)

If you have waited 4 weeks and the fat loss isn’t happening then you need to either take a diet break or make macro adjustments.

[Update 19/12/2014]: I talked about a male client that had issues with water retention for around 8 weeks on Facebook here. You can see my reasoning on why I didn’t feel the need to make adjustments here.]

Diet Break > Calorie Reduction

Recall the lessons learned with Andy and Bob – we want to make the minimum changes required when dieting to keep fat losses going to avoid unnecessarily high levels of metabolic slow down.

Before looking to cut your energy intake, consider taking a diet break. This won’t counter all the hormonal effects of dieting, but it can help keep your BMR higher, for longer, by minimising the metabolic adaptation. – This means you’ll be able to eat more food while still losing weight.

Lyle McDonald recommends taking a two-week diet break:

Body fat % (men)Diet Break Frequency
<15%every 4-6 weeks
15-25%every 6-12 weeks
25%>every 12-16 weeks

Women add ~7%.

Post diet break people often find that they progress for a while with their previous macro intake. Diet breaks generally are underused though, as they require more patience than people can stomach, and clearly aren’t sexy to talk about.

How to Make Changes To Your Macro Intake

I’m going to assume here that you have set your macro intake according to the rules laid out in the article, How to Calculate Your Macros. (If you haven’t then don’t worry, this should still make sense because you’ll be able to refer to that after.)

Though there will clearly be individual differences, by following those guidelines everyone’s protein intake is going to be set conservatively (high for muscle preservation purposes), and fat intake will be set at or above what I’d consider minimum (for hormonal purposes).

  • To continue with fat losses you’ll want to decrease your overall energy intake for the week by around 5-8%.
  • Protein can be kept the same – it’s the macronutrient that gives the most satiety, and is also muscle sparing, so this is a no-brainer.
  • Reduce energy intake primarily via your fat and carb macros – 50/50 respectively will work fine, though there is scope for personal preference here as long as you…
  • Don’t go below 0.4g* of fat per pound of lean body mass – from that point just adjust your carb intake. When you calculate your fat requirement beware of the tendency to underestimate lean body mass, as this will leave your minimal fat intake threshold higher than necessary. *This number is an average to be taken over your training and rest days.

For Leangains Users

(…or anyone having high-carb, low-fat training days and low-carb, higher-fat rest days.)

  • Make reductions from both your training and rest days initially. – Depending on how you set your initial macros you may have little choice as to where your reductions come from: typically for training days it’ll be carbs and rest days it will be fats.
  • When you can’t reduce any more from your rest days just make the reduction via the training days.

Following the above guidelines the first adjustment a person may make to their macro intake might look like this:

    • Training day: Carbs -40-70g, Fats -5g
    • Rest day: Carbs -25g, Fats -10g

Fat Loss Trouble Shoot  Priority List

Reducing calories is a stress to your body. It’s important that before you do so you have all the other pieces of the puzzle in place, or you could drive yourself into a metabolic hole. The only reason you’re reading this article is because you want to know what to do when the fat loss stops. Here is the specific order in which to look at things (note how ‘macro adjustment’ isn’t first):

  1. Sleep – Not getting enough? Do something about it, the deep, uninterrupted kind. Sleep affects everything, fat loss is a biggie.
  2. Stress – Period of high stress at work or home? Consider a diet break. Stress affects your fat loss efforts.
  3. Diet break
  4. Macro adjustment

Concluding Comments

After a long period of dieting it is perfectly normal to have a stall of several weeks. When this happens it can be best to leave things as they are and just challenge yourself to maintain your current weight. If you have 50lbs to lose then it’d be normal to stall 2-3 times during that period. Prepare yourself mentally for it and don’t get frustrated. Maintenance in and of itself is an achievement.

I know everyone wants to get shredded now, but this isn’t a race. The winners are the people who can maintain their physique and that comes down to those that can keep to their diet in the long run.

How often do you typically need to make adjustments to a diet? 

I can tell you what I experience working with clients, but obviously, that’s biased towards less adjustments because I have more practice at setting things up.

In around 25% of cases where the focus is fat loss I won’t need to make any adjustments during the full 12 week period that I typically work with people.  In the rest it’s normal to need to make a change at some point. As I’m fairly good at guessing initial calorie intakes and suitable macro settings, I’d say that the majority of the adjustments that do take place come in the 8th week or onwards.

The best situation is where everything proceeds as planned and you don’t have to make any diet changes for as long as possible. Don’t wish for complication and never adjust things unnecessarily.


Thanks for reading.

Browse the other diet adjustment guides using the menu at the top, or get access to my full book on the topic of how I adjust the diets of my clients to take them to shreds and how you can do that too, here.

Questions welcomed in the comments as always. – Andy. 

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About the Author

Andy Morgan

I am the founder of RippedBody.com, this is my sincere effort to build the best nutrition and training guides on the internet. Some readers hire me to coach them, which I've been doing online, via email, for the last six years. If you're interested in individualized, one-on-one nutrition and training coaching to help you crush your physique goals, let's start the conversation.

352 Comments on “When and How To Adjust Your Diet | Manipulating Macros”

  1. Naomi says:

    Hey Andy,

    I have scoured the site (all very interesting) but can’t find the answer to my question. With regard to training days/rest days – if I’m training 6 days a week (mostly CrossFit/Olympic Lifting) obviously that is a lot of high carb days – will this still be effective for cutting or should I alternate high and low carb days? I’m already a fairly lean female with approx 20% body fat.



    1. Hi Naomi. As you’re training each day it would be better to not cycle your carbs.

      1. Naomi says:

        Ok great, thank you!

    2. Kevin McWhirk says:

      Andy- I am a larger athlete who does a lot of body building, metabolic conditioning and strongman type of workouts. I am on a great exercise plan. My problem is my nutrition. I am 6’3″ and 345#. I want to really lean out and preserve as much muscle as possible. What is the best approach for me? High Protein and Fat/ Low Carb off days and High Protein/ Carbs Low fat training days? What should my macros be for each type of day? I am a male and 42 years old. Please help!


      1. Hi Kevin! All the same principles apply, I’ve got you covered here:
        The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet

  2. Josh says:

    Hey Andy,

    So I recently stalled on my weight loss for two weeks and decided to do a diet break as I hadn’t done one in 12 weeks and was starting to become hungry and tired all of the time. The diet break worked in that I’ve gone back to my macros prior to the diet break and I feel great and not mentally or physically drained anymore BUT my weight loss is still completely halted. All in all I’ve stalled out for about a month now and I’m wondering if its time to make a cut or if I should just stick it out for two more weeks or so? My old myotape broke (shit quality) so Ive not had one for over two weeks as the new one is on backorder and ships out tomorrow but when I was taking measurements there wasn’t any noticeable difference for two weeks.

    Thanks for your response Andy,


    1. Hi Josh, thanks for the question. Essentially you’re asking whether you should be more or less conservative, which is down to you. I mean, any decision can be adjusted later, right?

      Now, as you’re feeling good, so make a cut. If you progress too quickly you can always bump things back up.

  3. Leigh says:

    Hi Andy

    What’s your thoughts on water fasting for 7 / 14 & 28 days?

  4. John says:

    Would you consider Kidney beans or any type of beans a good carb sorce for Macros ?

    1. Sure, just be careful of that bumping up your fiber intake too high. Guidelines here.

  5. Anna says:

    Hi Andy,
    I’m a female with experience in lifting and many other forms of exercise. I do it because I enjoy it; no specific goals in particular other than to lose some body fat. I’m 23, 5’7″, 137 lbs. and about 25% BF. I’ve lost 30lbs over the last 2 years and have hit a sort of plateu, so I want to incorporate macros more intentionally as well as IF. Definitely not interested in mad gains, just leaning out.
    I’d like to start IF but I don’t intend to follow a lifting program: 3 days a week I do body weight strength based exercises and 3 days a week I do Bikram Yoga.
    My question is this: do you think it necessary for me to take 10g of BCAAs every 2 hrs after my AM workouts, or would I be okay with less, as my goal is not to build large amount of muscle?

    1. Hi, Anna. Thank you for the question.

      The idea behind the BCAA supplementation is to help you recover better when doing fasted strength training, which will help you achieve the body composition changes you wish to see, faster. It’s a marginal benefit, as long as protein intake is sufficient over the course of the day. – Kind of like greasing the chain on your bike, or not.

      It seems though that a scoop of whey is likely equal to, or better than BCAAs supplementation. 25g of whey 30 minutes before you workout will do the job. I came to this conclusion recently and just haven’t gotten around to updating the site yet.

  6. Drew says:

    Hi Andy,

    My question is, why do stress and lack of sleep have a detrimental effect on fat loss exactly?

    I would assume that there are a few factors such as, 1) lack of recovery from lack of sleep/stress leads to bad workouts which lead to more muscle loss; 2) lack of sleep/high stress tend to contribute to over eating, so resisting hunger might be harder; 3) I know stress can affect water weight retention, so that might mess with some people psychologically.

    Am I missing anything, or is those the main issues? I apologize if this is beyond the scope of this article.


  7. Rodrigo says:


    Here in the site you suggest as a fat loss guide:
    9-12% 0.75-1 lbs / 0.35-0.45kg
    7-9% 0.5-0.75 lbs / 0.2-0.35kg
    <7% ~0.5lbs / 0.2kg

    But in your book, you recommend:
    9-12% 0,5-1lbs / 0,2-0,45kg
    7-9% ~0,5lbs / 0,2kg
    <7% <0,5lbs / 0,2kg

    What 'd be the best choice?

    1. Thank you for pointing out the difference Rodrigo. The latter is a little more conservative, so consider going with that.

      1. Rodrigo says:

        Cool! Thanks for the answer, Andy!

  8. Walter says:

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for your awesome work on this website – I’ve relied on the information you’ve provided here often, and have found your writing to be clear, concise, and on point. Thanks again!

    I have a quick question for you. When I try to create a caloric deficit while doing IF, I sometimes have difficulty sleeping (both falling asleep and waking up early in the night). Have you seen this happen with your clients, and if so, do you have any tips for mitigating this?

    1. Hi Walter, thanks for the comment. I’d guess this has little to do with the IF and more to do with the other changes you made when implementing the IF.

      Two common scenarios:
      1. You’re eating too far away from bed time and the hunger is keeping you awake. You could try positioning one of your meals closer to bed.
      2. You’re eating too close to bed time, this is causing sleep disturbance. (Some people find they sweat after a big meal.)

      Other things to consider:
      – Waking up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet? If so, try tapering your water intake down towards the end of the day, particularly on any lower carb days.
      – Waking up due to hunger? The calorie deficit could be too low entirely.

      Hope that helps.

  9. Jamie says:

    Hi Andy,

    A couple of questions I’d really appreciate answers to:

    1. Is it normal to experience a sudden loss in strength as you approach a lower bf% (close to 10%)?

    2. Once I reach my target of <10%, I would like to transition into a slow bulk. Do you think it would be worth bringing my calories back up to maintenance for a few weeks before embarking on the bulk, or would it be better just to go straight into a surplus?

    Much appreciated

    1. Hi Jamie, thanks for the questions.
      1. Not sudden, no, it’s usually a gradual thing. Occasional bad workouts are normal though and should be expected.
      2. Yes. See my articles on coming up to maintenance and bulking for more.

  10. Rick says:

    Hi Andy

    I did a cut for 8 weeks, losing about 1.7kg at about an average of 0.25kg per week.

    At the end of 8 weeks, it was my girlfriends birthday and I ate like crazy from Friday night to Sunday night. When I weighed myself Monday morning I was 90.0kg putting that 1.7kg back on immediately.

    As of today my weight seems to be settling back down as the numbers have steadily decreased and I’m at 88.6kg today only 0.3kg heavier than at the end of the cut.

    I’m planning to slowly increase calories from 2000 during the cut and I’m getting around 2300-2600 on average this week.

    I’m guessing this rapid weight gain was water and glycogen and as I’ve got back to the gym and training pretty hard, with calories not too much higher, I’m depleting my glycogen stores and water as the week goes on.

    What do you think?

    1. Hi Rick, thanks for the comment. Sure, could be that. I think it’s a mistake to worry about a specific explanation for such fluctuations though. This is what happens, weight will fluctuate. Have a read of this article on tracking, I think you’ll find it useful:
      How To Track Your Progress Like A Pro, To Ensure Body Composition Goal Success

  11. anya says:

    Hi Andy,
    For the last year my diet has been all over the place to the point I was only consuming 500 calories a day for about 6 months whilst working out with very little protein and carbs. The story you posted sounds all too familiar to me.
    Anyway I’m trying to sort my diet out now and track my macros, so my daily calorie intake has gone up quite alot (1200) as well as my carb (100g) and protein (110g.)
    I do weight training 3 x a week and light cardio the other 2 days. I’m worried now my body will be shocked by all this change and I’ll just put on loads of weight/fat but my diet needed to change badly!

    1. Nope, it’s just what was needed.

  12. Eddie says:

    Hello, After 11 weeks, my body fat is a lot lower. I am noticeably leaner and my strength is actually through the roof! Very happy. I chose to carb cycle, and my final macros for myself (158 lbs, 5’8 23) ended up being 220 protein, 130 carbs and 40 fat on training days and 220 protein 40 carbs and 60 fat on rest days. I am now going to start a reverse diet to gain some muscle and eight back and do it as best as possible to limit fat gains. My question to you is. Do you think it would be good to keep carb cycling? I figured on my rest days I’ll slowly increase fat around 5-8 grams and carbs only 10 grams while on training days I’ll raise fat only about 2-5 grams while I raise carbs 20-30 grams each week. This way it’s like how I reduced calories by slowly dropping different macros on different days, but I’ll be adding them back. Do you think this plan will work or should I nix carb cycling while reverse dieting?

    1. Hi Eddie, thanks for the questions.
      Do you think it would be good to keep carb cycling?
      – With carb cycling we’re talking about marginal benefits. Do you enjoy doing it and find the process sustainable? If so then keep doing it. If it threatens diet adherence (you find managing it to be a ball ache) then consider stopping.
      Do you think this plan will work or should I nix carb cycling while reverse dieting?
      – I can’t comment on specific macro modifications.

      Hope this helps.

  13. Dundar Göc says:

    Hello Andy! Thank you for your website.

    There’s one small detail I’m confused about. Sorry if it’s a silly question. In your fat loss guidelines you’ve written the safe amount of loss/week in order to preserve muscle. Is this loss referring to the amount of fat in weight you can lose (if you could theoretically weigh the fat) or actual weight (as in what the scale shows me)?

    For the last 4 weeks I’ve lost on average 1.5 kg and I think I’m around 25% bodyfat. Do you recommend I should up my calorie intake so that I only lose 0.9 kg/week? I just want to make sure I don’t misunderstand what you’re writing. Thank you for the help.

    1. Hi Dundar, thanks for the question.
      What the scale shows (ignoring any large initial fluctuations as the water weight drops from a decrease in carb intake) as there is no reliable way to measure it otherwise. If you’re over target then it may be worth upping your intake as they’re set for a reason after all.

  14. Miguel says:

    Will there be a significant difference in my cut if I shift from carb-cycling to the same daily macro-intake assuming that I still maintain a total calorie deficit?


    1. Covered here Miguel. Skip down to the section 4 on nutrient timing:
      The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet

  15. Mac says:

    As far as coming off of a diet break it’s best to keep the macros as they were before the break or start back by adjusting lower? With the raising of the metabolism but the weight still getting lower, calculating the deficit seems a little more confusing after a diet break.

    1. Hi Mac, see a comment or two previous for my answer.

  16. Michael Duxfield says:

    Hi Andy, thanks for all the great articles, I’ve learned a massive amount from your website. So helpful man.

    I finished up a 12 week program 2 weeks ago. I was unable to make it to the gym so I was doing bodyweight at home on a 3 day split routine, HIIT on a spin bike on one rest day and yoga on another rest day. I lost 10 lbs in the 12 weeks and retained muscle so I’m stoked with the results and what I was doing seemed to be working well. Unfortunately I was unable to continue paying for my coaching so I’ve decided to learn as much as possible now so I myself can make adjustments.

    This week I started at the gym, doing the big 3. After reading your articles I thought it smart to consider myself a novice and start at the beginning. I ran through your setting up lean gains macros article and was surprised to see the difference between what I’m on now and what I got back from your calculator.

    What I’m on now;

    Training: F30/C200/P175
    Rest: F50/C100/P175

    Results from your calc:

    Training: F40/C330/P130
    Rest: F75/C210/P130

    So my question is, do I just keep doing what I’m doing because it’s getting results or am I actually not getting the most out of myself because there is such a big difference in macros here, should I make changes?

    Just to note fat loss has slowed abit but I’m very skinny, my estimate of body fat has come in at 16% down from 24% based on your body fat estimator. I’m still in a cut and am planning on getting lean before bulking.

    Any help will be appreciated



    1. Hi Michael, glad you’re finding the site helpful. If you’re getting results and are happy with what you’re currently doing, don’t mess with it.

  17. Bryan says:

    Hi Andy,

    Just wanting to get some clarification to see if I understand this correctly.
    Going based of yours and Lyle MacDonald’s advice, women should compare data points every 4 weeks, for example beginning a diet at 150.2
    Week 1: 150.2
    Week 2: 151.3
    Week 3: 150.9
    Week 4: 150.7
    Week 5: 145.2
    Would you then compare Week 1 to Week 5 and see that a 5lb in total or 1.25 loss/week ( 5lbs/4weeks) was hiding under week 2-4 of weekly water retention? Is that what you mean by comparing data points 4 weeks apart and kind of disregarding weeks 2-4?


    1. Yup, exactly right.

  18. Heather L says:

    A friend started counting her macros about 8 weeks ago. Prior to this she had done the hcg diet, keto diet, and some other things. Within the 8 weeks she is exercising about 5 days a week, 30 mins. However it seems she’s gained 10 lbs. I know a portion of this is muscle weight. But she’s pretty down, because her body hasn’t changed as much as she’s liked, if much as all.

    I guess I’m looking for suggestions – do you think this is water retention? her body regulating after basically starving it for so long?


    1. I don’t know your friend, nor do I know all the facts of the situation, but here’s my best shot at an answer.
      Assuming your friend is comparing the same point in her monthly cycle then she is 10 lbs heavier due to muscle, water and glycogen weight increases. If she isn’t then water retention is another likely possibility.

      “Her body hasn’t changed as much as she’s liked, if much as all.” which is a pretty good result given that she’s now likely a hell of a lot less miserable with more carbs in her diet compared with the previously stupid (HCG) and overly-restrictive (keto) diets that weren’t sustainable for her.

      The only reason she’s down about it is that she’s hung up on the scale weight change, as women typically are, and hasn’t see the bigger picture. Get her to track according to these guidelines here.

  19. Jamie says:

    Hi Andy, I have calculated my macros in order to lose 1.5-2lbs per week. For the last two weeks following these macros pretty closely within 10-15% each day either way I have noticed no difference in the scale weight and minimal difference in measurements say 1/2mm. Could it be that I have incorrectly calculated these macros and should start again or should I tweak the carbs & fat? Could it be that I am not eating enough macros?

    I think my main question is would you expect to see weight loss on the scale if I had calculated the macros correctly straight away?

    1. Hi Jamie. You need to look at trends over a longer time frame, as well as take account of the sleep, stress and other factors. Sign up to my course on making adjustments, it’ll take you through it. The popup will load if you refresh the page a day later (or just open this page in a different browser).

  20. Bryan says:

    Hello Andy,

    Given the menstrual cycle of women and the higher chances of water retention among women, do you still recommend taking measurements once a week? Or would you recommend monthly? Also, as opposed to men instead of making an adjustment after week 4, and then every 2 week assessments. Would you keep making adjustments and assesments in 4 week intervals for women, as opposed to 2 week intervals for men? I know this is not your speciality so what ever knowledge you have would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Hi Bryan,
      …do you still recommend taking measurements once a week?
      Yes, just compare the same points in the cycle. Week 1 to week 5, week 2 to week 6, assuming their cycle is regular.

  21. Isabel says:

    Hey Andy,
    I just started my cut at 1815kcal (165C | 165P | 55F) this week and I’m supposed to carb cycle per week to lower carbs at week2: 110C, weeks 3-4: 55C
    But i seem to be having trouble reaching my cals/macros (I fall short at around 1200 per day it’s been a few days)
    Just wondering, if I keep this up (No appetite) will I have to readjust my macros for my whole cut.. should I just try to eat more right now to hit my calculated macros? Or is it fine that I’m way below my cals these 6 days and just “refeed” on the 7th day to make my weekly average 1815?

    1. Hi Isabel. Generally the longer the cut, the more likely that you’ll have to make an adjustment at some point. Always aim to hit your macros, if you don’t, you’re just guessing. If you feel the current ones are too high, adjust now.

  22. Vincent says:

    Is there a downfall to just simply readjusting the macros as if you are doing an initial macro set up. I.e. I was originally at 186, and after 5 weeks I have stalled at 180. Can I just reset my macros based on that weight and body fat % using the initial macro calculation methods?

    1. Hi Vincent. Yes, calculations can go wrong. It’s best to adjust based on the baseline of calorie intake you have already created and the results you have seen from it.

  23. Carly says:

    This is wonderfully helpful information. I am new to macro tracking and have a question. I quickly lost about 20 lbs after starting a weight training program and somewhat consistent dieting following a mostly low carb diet that ultimately restricted my calories below what is considered ideal starting point for a macro tracking diet based on my current weight.

    Now I’d really like to startup a macro diet, but I’m confused about where to start in terms of calories, since I think I previously was eating too few calories but had experienced a plateau. I recently took a break from dieting for a vacation. Would it be effective to jump into macros recommended for my current weight, even if they are more calories than I was previously eating? Is there any chance I will experience weight gain when I start?

    1. Hi Carly. As you’re unsure as to whether you have been underrating or not, your best bet is to start with a calculation. Yes, you’ll experience weight gain. This will be a bump in muscle glycogen and water balance due to the increase in carb intake. You may experience a little fat gain as your body comes back up to maintenance calorie intake from a slightly depressed metabolism. This is necessary to do things right and progress from here.

      Here’s my full guide to dietary set up:
      The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet

  24. Bryan says:

    Hello Andy,

    I noticed on this link you stated that to continue with your fat loss journey, simply decrease energy intake for the week by 5-8%. However in your book you suggested making an 250 kcal reduction to continue fat loss. Im confused on which piece of advice to follow. Seems as though you save more carbs and fats by making a 5%-8% reduction of energy intake rather than an additional 250 kcal deficit per day. If you could clear this up that would be great. Thanks!

    1. Hi Bryan, thanks for the question.
      They’re just guidelines to save you from making a calculation, neither is more correct than the other.
      To lose 1lb of fat per week, you need a 500 kcal deficit, you can make a calculation from there.

  25. Greg Fields says:

    Hey Andy,
    From what I understand, LBM is important for determining your metabolism. From your experience, if a client diets down to, say 10% body fat, then goes on a lean bulk and makes significant gains, and tries to get back to 10%, would they be able to eat more or the same amount of food to reach that conditioning? From what I have heard from natural bodybuilding competitors, they end up eating the same amount of food each time they do their prep regardless of how much lean mass they’ve put on, but they are reaching extreme levels of leanness, which makes things much more complicated.

    1. Hi Greg.
      would they be able to eat more or the same amount of food to reach that conditioning?
      they end up eating the same amount of food each time they do their prep regardless of how much lean mass they’ve put on
      No. How much they can eat will correlate to how much lean muscle mass they have gained. However, elite natural bodybuilders may gain just a pound or two over the course of a year, which will not significantly (i.e. noticeably) affect their energy needs, which explains the assertion.

  26. Bryan says:

    Hello Andy,

    I saw your post about not adjusting your clients macros for 12 weeks because you assumed it was water retention. Did you know this because the measurements were not increasing, but rather just staying the same? Also, moving forward with his diet how would you know if he was actually stalled or if it was just water retention again?

    1. Hi Bryan. There was another post along with that one (the day after or a few days after) explaining the decision.

  27. Adam says:

    after my first week of reverse dieting i weighed my self everyday for a week an at the end my average gain was one lb…after my reverse diet i am going for a lean gain of 1% a month which is roughly 1.5 lbs….should i make another adjustment to macros this week or keep the same since i gained 1 lb my first week of reverse diet

  28. Bob says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’m on the 6th week of a cut that I started with a 500 cal deficit. Scale weight has barely gone up or down. Minor progress with measurements at week 4. I started this cut having previously hit a plateau with linear progression on Stronglifts. I’ve been feeling run down from my training, especially squatting every workout, and I know that it’s time to lower volume. So I was wondering:

    Can fat loss stall if training volume is too high and recovery is impaired?

    I’d rather not decrease calories any further if lowering volume might kickstart fat loss.

    1. Hi Bob, thank you for the question.
      “Can fat loss stall if training volume is too high and recovery is impaired?”
      No, though stress can cause water retention which can mask fat loss and make it appear you have stalled. Training is a stress, so I can see there being a case here for too much of it causing temporary water retention.

  29. Andre says:


    Why do you not use traditional ReFeed days as discussed in the Nutritional Pyramid E-Books in favor of only workout days and non workout day calories? I was under the impression there were physiological benefits to bringing calories back up to maintenance atleast once per week.

    1. Hi Andre. It’s the same thing, just another way of organizing it.

  30. Niraj says:

    Hi Andy,
    Great site, keep it up. I’m 37, 4 weeks into a cut and have dropped somewhere between 6.7 – 8 lbs to date (started at 208 down to 200 now) aiming for a 1000 cal daily deficit. I was training 3 days / week during the first 3 weeks, doing great and feeling great. In the 4th week, I decided to up my training to 5 days / week (weekends off). My workouts consist of sled pushes and pulls for 30 mins followed by 25 mins of high rep complimentary muscle group training (e.g. super set of tricep rope pulldowns + medium grip overhand pull-downs 3 supersets of 15-20 followed by 3 supersets of 15-20 of leg curls + back extensions on roman chair). Last week, I felt a noticeable drop off in strength and endurance by the end of the week and I generally had a feeling of “tiredness” and feeling weak, whereas in week 3 I was super excited to get into the gym and push.
    I’m concerned about muscle loss and the feeling that the gym is a “grind” which will hurt my own adherence to the program.

    Here are my macros (measured since Feb 4th):
    1) My average protein intake is 135 g / day which is too low. I am going to make a concerted effort to up this to 175 g / day.
    2) My average fat intake is 71 g / day which is fine and I intend to maintain.
    3) My average carb intake is 144 g / day.
    4) My average fibre intake is 20.59 g / day but I am taking steps to get that up to 40 g per day (basically more lentils and legumes).

    I am hoping that increasing my protein will make me feel better and lately I haven’t been sleeping as much so that also needs to be upped.

    My questions to you:
    1) Am I missing anything? More water consumption? (My pee is pretty clear, how clear is too clear?)
    2) Assuming improved protein consumption and better sleep, how long should I tolerate feeling “tired” in the gym?
    3) If I continue to feel tired should I a) train less b) change the training but keep the frequency c) eat more?

    It’s worth noting that I have a bet with a friend on bf% lost and our weigh in date is May 1st. We both started at 26% bf. My personal goal is to get under 16% by May 1st. If that is too aggressive, what goal would you recommend?

    1. Niraj, sorry but this amounts to a request for a training and set-up consultation which is beyond the scope of the comments and isn’t something I offer privately anyway.

      If you have a specific question or clarification, please feel free to ask. If you need to write several paragraphs then it’s out.

  31. Morgan says:

    Hey Andy,

    How would one adjust their macronutrient intake for a CrossFit competition?



    1. Too broad of a question Morgan. If you can get more specific, I may be able to answer.

  32. Hey Andy,

    Great article,
    Whats your advice on putting an obese person (+30%bf) in a deficit would you stick to 500kcal a day for the initial drop or more?



  33. CJ says:

    Hey Andy,

    Is there a limit to how long you should perform a “cut”? If let’s say that time frame limit is 6 months and I am still no where near my goal would I be able to prolong the cut past to recommended time frame to continue fat loss or would it be better if I reverse dieted and then try to cut once again??

    Thank you,


    1. HI CJ, thanks for the question.
      “Is there a limit to how long you should perform a “cut”?”
      – No, but you need to take into account how you are feeling/performing as you do it. So structured diet breaks should be a part of any plan.
      Do You Need To Take a Diet Break?

  34. Ryan says:

    Hi Andy – My bulk has been going great, went from 177-191 over the last three months. I started quite lean and it came fast due to muscle memory etc without too much fat gain. started around 10%bf and now probably somewhere around 15% bf as abs are still barely visible but stomach is flat. I left myself two weeks before a beach holiday. My calc brings me to around 2025-2200 cals for my cut. I was 3100 cals for my bulk. In this situation where my timeline is very tight does it make sense to be more aggressive in the numbers and perhaps drop to 2000 or 1800 cals due to the very short timeline? Keep protein very high around 230 grams etc. but try to push for maybe a 3 pound drop per week? Is that possible to cut very aggressive over a two week period or is that not the way the body works?

    1. Hi Ryan. Any severe deficit will risk losses of muscle mass. Go with what you can sustain, extreme approaches don’t work. You’re not a bride looking to get into her wedding dress next month who doesn’t give a damn about what she looks like the next.

  35. Barron says:

    Hi Andy, 2 questions:

    1.) I’m starting my diet again, and am wondering if I can use the numbers we originally landed on when we first worked together last year. Only difference is I’m lifting much heavier than I was back when we first started. Should I just start w/ these numbers and make adjustments if needed after 4 weeks? Goal = fat loss.

    2.) I believe you advised against HIIT cardio back then, but would it be worth throwing in a few sessions a week into my training schedule to speed up fat loss / burn more calories, or will that make it tough for me to track and make the appropriate changes to my macros?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Barron, good to hear from you.
      1. The numbers are a start point from which you’ll need to adjust. Whether you choose to go with the same numbers or recalculate and go with those ones, it won’t really matter in the long run as you’ll dial things in after 4 weeks.
      2. See my post, On Cardio for the Physique-Focused Trainee.

      Have an awesome 2016!

  36. Holden says:

    If I’m training 3 days a week (Mon Wed Fri) from 18:00-19:00, and then eating dinner at 20:30, should I also eat my dinner around the same time on my off days?

    1. Hi Holden, thanks for the question.
      Yes, that’s a good idea for hunger management, if possible.

  37. Sumit Khurana says:

    Hi andy,

    I approaching the conclusion of my fatloss program (since may with one 9 day diet break sept/oct) and plan to shift gear into maintenance before I bulking in late nov / early dec. As of now, I’m -20/0 and thinking to shift to -20/+20 for the month of November. Not sure what the optimal numbers should be? prob best to sit in maintenance to reset hormones, etc before the bulk?

    Thanks man!

    1. Hi Summit. The adaptive component of your BMR doesn’t lend itself well to calculation. Don’t attempt to recalculate everything from scratch, just follow the guide above.

  38. Shane says:

    Hey Andy,

    Thanks for all the great content you put out! We’re beyond spoiled. I was meaning to post this on the setup guide but I didnt see a comment section. Anyway my question is regarding weekly fat loss. Say i’m 13% bf and i’m using a 500 calorie deficit in hopes of losing 1 pound of fat per week. Should my actual scale weight loss also be 1lb per week or will it naturally be higher because of water loss and other factors? I’m assuming the latter?

    1. Hi Shane. Water balance will fluctuate with your carb intake, which means your scale weight will fluctuate also. The first week you’ll see a whoosh of weight downwards (because you’ll have reduced your carb intake upon starting the diet). Ignore it, what matters is what happens on average across the days of the week from then onwards.

      Did you opt to get the complete set-up guide as a download? If so, you’ll be getting an e-mail course guiding you through all these things.

  39. Joel Campos says:

    Hello Andy,
    FIrst of all, I love you page and articles!!

    Now, let me tell you my story: I am trying out flexible dieting. I am a male, 5’8”, 34 years old and weighted 163 lbs last week when I started. According to Tanita Scale I had 16.7% of body fat. As I want to avoid loosing muscle I am consuming 1:1 ratio (protein grams to pounds, 20% Fat and the rest of carbs. Which gave me: 161 gms of protein, 46 grams of fat and 253 grams of carbs or 31% protein, 20% fat and 49% carbs. I used the REE formula and then factor in that I am only doing cardio 5 times a week which gave me that to maintain my weight I should consume 2,561 calories (I used a 1.55 factor or moderate activity) and I am consuming 2,077 calories as I deducted 500 calories to have a deficit. As a result, after one week I have lost 2.2lbs, again, according to the Tanita scale, been 0.44 lbs of fat, 0.44 lbs of muscle and 1.32 lbs of water. I am scared that I am dropping weight to fast and also I am feeling some lethargy.

    Sorry for the long story, just wanted to give you all the details…

    Now, my question, do you think I am doing the things right? If not, what do you suggest? I am not lifting weights right now as I got injured and have to rest a few weeks so I decided to try to lose some fat…


    1. Joel, thanks for the question.
      Nah, you’re pretty much screwing up in the same way that everyone screws up at the beginning. Key places you’re going wrong:
      1. Basing progress on the Tanita scale (a BIA machine) which have horrible inconsistencies in their readings.
      2. Emphasis on calculations instead of tracking how those pan out to reality.
      3. Trying to gauge progress based on a week to week change. – The drop in weight you’ve experienced will be partially (or mostly) from water due to a decrease in carbohydrate intake when starting the diet.

      Either read these articles or put your mail address in that box at the end of the article to get an e-mail course that will guide you through these things.
      The 3 Reasons You Need To Forget About Body-fat Percentage
      How To Track Your Progress When Dieting
      The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet

  40. Chris says:

    Hey Andy,
    I like your page and everything about it. I got some eyperience I wanted to share:
    As everyone knows if your fat levels are down too much libido goes down.
    In my experience if carbs are too low sleep gets bad.
    I found it helpful to stop the diet for one day and eat the TDEE of just carbs and no fat.
    Of course Libido gets down, but I slept like a baby.

    Anyone else this experience?

  41. Ivan says:

    Hey Andy, could you help me? Im in diet for weight loss for about 5 or 6 weeks. But i think i made a mistake. I was dropping 25 carbs (100 calories) a week. But this week, after i dropped 100 calories again, my weight is not going down, and for the past 3 days it went up for about 1 pound. Could it be high sodium intake? I consumed a lot of sodium the past days. Or could it be that my body ajustes its metabolism and the weight is not going down? Is it time to diet brake? And if it is, how do i do a diet brake, how the macros are gonna be? Hope you can help me. Great content!!

    1. Hi Ivan, it’ll be a water weight fluctuation. More on that here.

  42. Matt says:

    Hey Andy,

    How important is the split between training days and non training days? Is this something you strongly recommend meaning more calories / adjusted macros on training days vs less / adjusted macros on off days?

    If so, for a novice trainee (I’m guessing that is what I am), would you recommend 25% – 30% difference?

    1. Less than 10% of your overall results in my estimation. Assuming equal adherence ability and preference to both. More on this here:
      The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet

  43. Robin says:

    Correct, no SF, only good ol’ infantry.
    Makes perfect sense, like most things here.
    Thank you for giving me a number to work around, it helps a lot.

    1. Sure, most welcome Robin. Also, if this helps inspire you, here’s a link to an article from last year:
      What To Do When You Can’t Count – A Letter From Two Soldiers In Afghanistan

  44. Robin says:

    Thank you Andy, for creating this website and the PDF! I have no doubt you will be remembered as a nice guy who CHANGED an industry, you’ve already changed mine.

    I wanted to post this question in the re-done “Nutritional hierarchy of importance”, but there doesn’t seem to be a comment section anymore?

    I’m in the army, and during my 7 weeks of leave I decided to cut (going for a recomp), since it’s easier to bulk then cut while working.
    I put my activity level at Lightly active, since I only work out 3 times a week now while on leave. But soon my 7 weeks are up, so I still have at least 5 weeks of cutting while working.
    I know you’ve been working with military, so I wonder at what activity level you’ve previously placed your military clients?

    Best regards

    1. Hi Robin, most appreciated and glad to hear you’re finding it useful.
      You can comment/ask questions on any of the individual posts – the links to them are at the end of each section.

      Anyway, with military training or active duty, it’s really just a case of making a guess, keeping with it, and then adjusting from there. Consider bumping up your calorie intake by 1000kCal as a start and see how you do. I’m assuming no extremes like Navy Seal BUDs style days or such like like that – on those occasions you just eat what you can when you can and hope it’s enough. Generally it won’t be, but that’s just the nature of the game with the SF & when out on missions where you don’t have access to proper food (or can’t consume enough without getting an upset stomach). You do your best to regain the weight when you’re back on base.

      All make sense?

  45. dan says:

    Hi andy just wanted to let you know your feedback has been really helpful to me and i very much appreciate it and i have been advocating it to many people i know. With that being said i have another question lol. You mention water retention when dieting and to only adjust macros/cal if there is no change after 3-4 weeks? does water really linger that long? i thought water would always be lost very quickly in comparison with fat, like in days? for example when i dropped my bros cals from 5000 ish (bulking plan not set up by myself) to 2900 he lost 9lbs in the first week but since then he has lost exactly 2lbs per week for 3 weeks (which i would assume is fat given the 7000 cal weekly deficit).

    1. Most welcome Dan.
      Does water really linger that long?
      It can do. More likely in people that are under a ton of stress, but I’ve seen it otherwise. I think I linked to a client example above, no? I wrote an e-mail course that covers this. It’s free and I only announced it a couple of days ago. You can get it by downloading the book here.

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