How To Calculate Macros? (Step-by-step guide)

By Ire | Calories

Jul 15

Question “how to calculate macros?” should come up when dealing with gaining weight. Calories play key role with getting more muscles. If we miss this part, we will never achieve our goals. So, make sure to read this article fully and reread it until you completely understand it. Without knowing this, you will fail in escaping heall of being a hardgainer!

This article will explain the science behind keeping track of your calories and it will also give examples of how Billy finally put on some serious mass.  At the end, we will talk a little bit about timing and consistency of our meals.

Skinny male trying to open a jar of pickles.

Understanding science behind it

So let’s go the very beginning. Let’s talk about sun! I know, “what does the Sun have to do with me getting bigger?” Sun shines on grass and plants and is magically somehow transferring its energy to plants. So now, plants have some of the sun’s energy in order to grow and bloom… Cows, chickens, turkeys (whatever your favorite food happens to be) consumes much of those “magical” energy through eating plants. Eventually, those animals get lured into a slaughter house, where they turn them into meat. However, most of that magical energy remains in their bodies. They get turn into all kinds of delicious meals and we eventually end up consuming that food. And guess what? We also end up consuming their energy. We measure that energy in Calories (Kcal). So, whenever you heard the word Calories, it is pretty much just the energy of the sun.

Sun is shining on plants. Energy from it turn into calories

Everything is an estimation

In this article we will learn how to properly calculate our daily caloric intake. You should know that all we do here is estimation. There is no technique which would be 100% accurate. Different forms of equipment and formulas do exist; however, they are only considered more accurate estimations. However, we will keep is short and simple, only learning the most important things. Trust me, if you only know what we are going to learn here, you know more than 90% of the guys in your gym. That means that you are not wasting time in the gym, like many do. (we all know a gym addict who has been looking the same ever since he first got there).

CALORIES AND MACRONUTRIENTS

As we said, everything has energy. Energy in food is measured in Calories (kcal). Calories have a subgroup called Macronutrient. Group consists of Carbs, Proteins and Fat.

It is time to get your calculators ready. Every gram of each of those three subgroups represent a certain amount of energy (Calories). Make sure you remember those numbers!

Carbs: 1g carbohydrate = 4 Calories
Protein: 1g protein = 4 Calories
Fat: 1g fat = 9 Calories

Person standing on a scale in order to see if they correctly tracked their calories

EXAMPLE: I buy a chicken breast. I cook it and then I weight it. I subtract the weight of the plate and it just happens that I am going to eat exactly 100grams of chicken. Now, I go to MyFitnessPal and put in cooked chicken in the search bar. I select the amount and click add. It tells me that chicken has: 0g Carbs, 1g Fat, 31g Protein. So just by those information, now I can calculate how many calories my 100g of chicken has. Now, let’s pull out our calculators and see. Remember the conversions on the top.

SO: (0g Carbs x 4 Calories) + (1g Fat x 9 Calories) + (31g Protein x 4 Calories) = 133 Calories

Our cooked chicken will give me 133 Calories.

STEP 1: Calculate Maintenance

Body needs energy for your organs to work. On a daily, body requires X-amount energy to keep you alive. Guess what is going to happen, if we consume the same amount of energy that the body is going to use in everyday living (X-amount). Our weight STAYS THE SAME.

STEP 2: Caloric Deficit & Surplus

When we consume less energy than what our body uses, we are in Caloric Deficit.
When we consume more energy than our body uses, we are in Caloric Surplus.

How to calculate macros? Muscular male staring in the distance.

We should know that no matter what we eat, if we end up in Caloric Deficit, we are simply not going to gain weight. If we end up in Caloric Surplus, we are going to be gaining weight.

STEP 3: Calculating Total Amount of Calories Spent (TDEE)

Easy formula for you. Take your body weight in lbs (kg x 2.2) and times that by 15-17.  The number you get is called TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).  Multiplying by 15 would be on your low side, while 17 is on a high side. This would totally depend on how skinny you are now and how active are you daily. If you tend to run a half marathon every day then for god’s sake, multiply it by 17. If you are lazier sort, maybe 15 is better for you.

Example: Let’s look at Billy. He is 6’0 and 160 lbs. Billy thinks that he eats all the time but never gains weight. Billy’s only recreation is going to the gym 3x a week. Because he is not crazy active, we are going to multiply his weight by 16.

160 x 16 gives us 2560 calories. That is rough estimation of how much Billy must eat just to maintain his weight. If you are trying to gain weight, it is recommended that you are in surplus for about 300-500 calories. Billy decided to add 500 to 2560. He is looking to eat about 3060 calories every day.

Apple getting measured

STEP 4: How to calculate macros?

So here we have another rule of thumb. For weight gain, we would like to consume about: 25-30% Protein, 50-60% Carbs, 15-25% Fat.

My example below is:
Carbs: 0.6 x 3060 = 1836 Kcal of Carbs (1836/4 = 459g Carbs)
Fat: 0.15 x 3060 = 459 Kcal of Fat (459/9 = 51g Fat)

Protein: 0.25 x 3060 = 765 Kcal of Protein (765/4 = 191g protein)

Here you go, rough estimate of what I should eat would be: 191g protein, 459g carbs and 51g fat in a day. That all together would add up to 3060Kcal which should be more than enough for substantial weight gain.

Now that you understand the basics of keeping track of your calories, I want to talk to you about one more thing.

Healthy Female lifting weights

TIMING & CONSISTENCY OF MEALS

I have read a lot about this topic since I wanted to maximize my gains. When we go to the world wide web, we can find TONS of information about that. However, we cannot find a clear answer. There are professional bodybuilders and people with highest education who claim things like: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, have a protein shake right after your workout, do not eat carbs after 6pm…”. Those people have the best bodies and studies to support their claim.

On the other side, we also the same population (educated and jacked), who claim that those statements are very outdated. They come up with different studies that show how the opposite opinion is wrong and how timing and frequency of the meal does not matter.

This is the kind of debate that we find when we google about meal timing and frequency. No clear answer. Therefore; I want to memorize the next sentence: ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS YOUR EXPERIENCE. It does not matter how much you have read about the topic. If you are eating once per day and are getting towards your goal, for god’s sake, keep doing that. If you are eating once per day and can’t seem to gain weight, obviously it is not working for you. Might work for your friend, but it does not work for you. Change it. Only thing that matters is what work for you, therefore make sure to pay close attention to how your body reacts to different kinds of training and meals.

Healthy male, with decent mass: Posing

SUMMARY

Now we understand how weight fluctuation works. With that, we have learned how to calculate it and use it in our advantage. We understand that Billy felt really overwhelmed about this article at the first time. He spent hours trying to figure out how much calories he is consuming. However, Billy always had his goal in mind. Billy wanted to gain muscles, increase his self-confidence and get with a hottest girl in class. Therefore, Billy pushed through those initial burdens.

He weights his plate so many times that he remembers exactly how much only a plate weights. He also knows exactly what macronutrients are in his most commonly consumed dishes. By the end of second week, it takes Billy only 5-10 minutes every day to calculate his daily macronutrients.

Billy made calorie tracking his new habit. One of my favorite’s quite is: “first we create habits, then they create us”. Billy started with creating his perfect body by asking himself the question:”how to calculate macros?”

About the Author

Hey, my name is Ire.I am a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach based in Stockholm, Sweden.When you don't find me in the gym, I will most likely be on a Track and Field stadium throwing around a discus.

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