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Make Sure you Spend 2 Minutes to read the notes on the calculator after using it!
1. “Does this Macro Calculator work?” — To address your first likely concern…
Yes, the macro calculator ‘works.’ I’ve been coaching online as a full-time job since 2011. If I didn’t get results (view over 100 client results photos here), I’d get fired.
And yes, they are very well thought out — they’re based on the recommendations in my book, The Muscle and Strength Nutrition Pyramid, which is a 290-page, fully-referenced guide for powerlifters and physique athletes.
But wondering whether they are ‘correct’ is the wrong way to approach things, because…
2. You will need to adjust these Macros sooner or later to achieve the desired rate of weight change.
Why sooner? Because the calculations are based on equations derived from group averages. You might be either side of this average, so consider them a start point from which to adjust. (Additionally, your meal prep may be inaccurate also.)
Why later? Because energy needs change over time as we diet and bulk. Your metabolism will gradually adapt to fight a caloric deficit, and energy needs increase when we gain weight. These things happen for some people more than others and this is not something a calculator can predict for.
However, knowing how impatient people are to see results, I’ve factored this into the macro calculations…
But Before we get into that…
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So as I was saying, I’ve factored the energy need adaptions into the calculations in the following couple of ways…
3. For those cutting, THE MACRO CALCULATOR SETS energy intake at a level where bodyweight losses would be 0.75% per week, were the metabolism not to adapt.
But it will, and many people will find their resulting weight loss to be around 0.5%, which from experience, seems to be the sweet spot for busy individuals with real lives who can’t afford the brain fog that comes with higher caloric deficits.
Additionally, the total nerds among you (love you guys!) who have been getting your macro calculators out to check my math, may have noticed that…
4. For those bulking, I’ve upped the caloric surplus by 50% to anticipate some of the increased energy needs when bulking.
This is not an extreme change. For a 30-year-old, 6ft, 200 lb novice male, their daily intake will change from 3070 kcal to 3245 kcal because of this.
Unfortunately, there’s a tricky little bitch called NEAT which can impact energy needs way more from person to person, especially when bulking.
NEAT is the nickname for ‘non-exercise activity thermogenesis’. It is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing and texting friends, shaking up a protein shake, performing yard work, and fidgeting.
Some people ramp up NEAT much more than others which explains those who claim not to be able to gain weight (a.k.a. ‘hard gainers’) when, in fact, they need to eat more.
This cannot be factored into the macro calculator either, which is why tracking average weight change and then adjusting caloric intake based on the outcome is so critical.
5. So now you’re probably wondering, “What is a desirable rate of weight loss or gain?”
Weight loss: I recommend 0.5–1% of body weight loss per week when cutting. — The leaner you get, the slower you should take it.
Weight gain: I recommend 0.5–2% of body weight gain per month when bulking. — The more experienced a trainee you are, the closer you are likely to your genetic potential, so the slower you should take things:
- Beginner — 2%
- Novice — 1.5%
- Intermediate — 1%
- Advanced — 0.5%
This is the upper end of the ranges recommended in my book, The Muscle and Strength Nutrition Pyramid, which makes changes easier to track, especially when you aren’t working with a coach and are doing things yourself.
6. Most people will have a jump in scale weight in the first week.
This will be due to the change in gut content, water, and muscle glycogen in your body. It happens whenever you change the number of carbohydrates you eat or the total food intake in general.
So, before deciding you need to adjust, track for several weeks first, taking the average scale weight each day, and ignore the first week of data.
7. To make a Macro adjustment to get your body weight change on track…
If you are cutting, multiply the amount you are off your weekly weight change target by 500 kcal (or 1100 kcal for those using kg). Add or subtract that from your caloric intake each day accordingly. Here are some examples:
- If you’re losing weight 0.5 lbs slower than your target each week, reduce daily caloric intake by 250 kcal (500*0.5). — This is approximately one cup of uncooked rice or 3 cups of cooked rice.
- If you’re losing weight 0.3 lbs faster than your target each week, increase your daily caloric intake by 150 kcal daily (0.3*500). — This is approximately a 2 oz portion of uncooked pasta.
If you are bulking, multiply the amount you are off your monthly weight change target by 150 kcal (or 330 kcal for those using kg). (These numbers are explained in my mega-guide on bulking). Here are some examples:
- If you’re gaining weight 1.5 lb slower than your target each month, increase daily caloric intake by 225 kcal (150*1.5).
- If you’re gaining weight 0.5 kg faster than your target each month, reduce daily caloric intake by ~165 kcal (330*0.5).
Make this caloric change via fat and carb changes per your preferences. This is as simple as follows:
Leave protein intake as is, unless you have a lot of body fat to lose. (More on this in a moment.)
8. Before making any adjustments, make sure your adherence is on point.
If your adherence is not on point, fix that before adjusting your macros. Solid adherence in the week only to throw it away on the weekends is the most common pattern people follow. This includes adherence to your workouts — your training routine needs to be routine; plans don’t mean anything if they aren’t followed through.
9. Double-check that you are tracking things accurately.
Here’s my guide to counting macros and making meals out of them. (The simplified counting rules in this guide are what gave the food value estimations you saw the end of the calculator.)
But despite guides like that trying to simplify, studies consistently show that people are terrible at tracking things. So, if you’re not losing weight at the rate desired and you’re concerned that your macros look low, swallow your ego and consider the possibility that you’ve screwed something up.
Log everything that passes your lips into a nutritional calculator for 2 weeks. This will tell you if you have an issue.
10. Protein intake is calculated based on body weight rather than lean body mass.
This is much easier than requiring people to estimate their body-fat percentage first, and the results are roughly the same anyway. Plus, all the methods we have available for estimating body-fat percentage are prone to chuckle-worthy levels of error. I recommend you do not attempt it.
11. Importantly, those with a lot of body fat to lose will need to adjust Protein Intake Down A Little, Swapping for Carbs or Fats.
While a good heuristic for many, the “1 g per lb rule” will set protein intake too high for overweight or obese people. I’d suggest you set your protein intake as per your height using the chart above.
So, if you’re 260 lbs and 6’0, instead of consuming ~260 g of protein as I have in the calculator, consume 180 g and swap the 80 g remaining for carbs to maintain the calorie balance. This will be better for satiety, diet variety, and training quality.
Some people may argue that this protein figure is a little too low to be protective of muscle mass when dieting.
Having a lot of fat mass is protective of muscle mass. This makes sense when you think about it from a survival perspective. When the body comes to choose between releasing fatty acids or breaking down muscle into amino acids for fuel, the smarter decision for survival is to burn off fat when there is an abundance of it. Therefore, protein needs are likely a bit lower for the 260 lb guy with 160 lbs of muscle mass vs. the 200 lb guy with the same muscle mass.
Using whey protein to help you meet your numbers is fine, but real food tends to be more filling. Speaking about food, don’t worry about “complete” and “incomplete” proteins — whey and animal products may be the most “complete” proteins, but as long as you hit your targets by the end of the day it won’t make a difference.
12. Too many people make calorie and macro calculations, wait two weeks, then decide that they “don’t work” if they don’t see the calculated for scale weight change.
They then move to another macro calculator (or diet method entirely).
This is sadly common. Don’t be this person.
A simple adjustment of your caloric intake up or downwards is all that will be needed. (Reasons 2-4, at rates described in 5, in the manner described in 6.) Don’t make this mistake.
13. If you have already calculated your macros elsewhere and they aren’t radically different, I don’t suggest you change them.
The key, as I’ve covered, is that you track your progress and adjust based on the outcome.
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