How to Calculate Your Macros

Article Written by: NB Athlete Brandon Smitley  MS, CSCS, USAW, CPT

In today’s fitness realm, the If It Fits Your Macros approach to nutrition is becoming rather popular and gaining some good popularity. While this article isn’t designed to discuss the pro’s and con’s of IIFYM, this is how I opt to coach over 90% of my nutrition clients, and so it’s going to base things on this premise, so that if you are in favor of this nutrition approach, you have some good guidelines to start with.

Goal: Strength Improvement (Powerlifting or Strongman)

Men

Calories: 15-18 calories per pound of bodyweight

Fat: 20-25% of total calories

Carbs: 40-50% of total calories

Protein: 20-30% of total calories

Women

Calories: 13-16 calories per pound

Fat: 20-30% of total calories

Carbs: 35-45% of total calories

Protein: 20-30% of total calories

When it comes to strength improvement, we’re going to aim to be in a surplus of calories for a majority of the time, with our main focus being on carbohydrate intake. We need to ensure that we’ve got ample glycogen stored to be able to perform at our best for training, and to use insulin in our favor to shuttle nutrients to the muscle cells.

Protein and fat intake will be variable per person based upon how your recovery is feeling. My general suggestion is to get about your bodyweight in grams of protein per day, and see how you’re doing. If you’re not recovering very well, increase your protein and decrease your fat. But if you’re doing okay in the recovery department, fat will help you add in extra calories incredible easy without making you full. Many times gaining strength and weight can be difficult for people to shove down enough food, especially when it’s high-quality food sources.

Goal: Hypertrophy (Bodybuilding)

Men

Calories: 16-20 calories per pound of bodyweight

Fat: 20-30% of total calories

Carbs: 40-60% of total calories

Protein: 20-35% of total calories

Women

Calories: 13-17 calories per pound

Fat: 20-30% of total calories

Carbs: 35-50% of total calories

Protein: 20-30% of total calories

For hypertrophy, the numbers we’re shooting for here aren’t going to change much from our strength counterparts, except that we’ll ideally see the carbohydrate intakes go up a tad. With hypertrophy training, we’re looking at increased time under tension, and generally more overall training volume, with a plethora of rep ranges from three all the way up to 20-30. So we need to have some extra calories in this department, which aren’t required nearly as much for our strength goals.

Protein and fat intake will be similar to the strength, but I know that many bodybuilders like having higher protein intake and lower fat during periods of weight gain. I think this is mainly personal preference, and as a coach, I usually just listen to what my clients are craving.

Goal: Maintenance

Men

Calories: 14-16 calories per pound of bodyweight

Fat: 20-30% of total calories

Carbs: 35-50% of total calories

Protein: 20-30% of total calories

Women

Calories: 12-14 calories per pound

Fat: 20-30% of total calories

Carbs: 25-40% of total calories

Protein: 20-30% of total calories

When your goal is to be in a maintenance phase, we’re trying to find a good balance of calories and macros that let use keep training hard, but optimize our nutrients and body composition. Our focus should still be on carbohydrates so that we can train hard, but we can take in a bit less if so desired. I usually opt to have clients start in the middle of the spectrum and adjust based upon how their workouts are going. If your workouts are suffering, increase your carbohydrate intake, especially during the peri-workout window (periods around your training).

Protein and fat will still be based off how many carbohydrates you’re having, but I like to have a bit higher fat intake here to help with fullness and to keep insulin levels a tad lower and steady when ingested with carbohydrates. As long as you’re getting around a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, you should be good to go.

Goal: Weight Loss

Men

Calories: 10-13 calories per pound of bodyweight

Fat: 25-40% of total calories

Carbs: 10-35% of total calories

Protein: 20-45% of total calories

 

Women

Calories: 9-12 calories per pound

Fat: 25-45% of total calories

Carbs: 10-30% of total calories

Protein: 20-35% of total calories

For weight loss, this is where our emphasis is going to see a drastic change from the macro layout for the other goals. When it comes to weight loss, I like to start things off with protein and work from there. I want to ensure that we’re still getting in a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, and maybe even a bit more if you can. I like to be about about 1.3 grams per pound personally. I just feel that when I’m in a deficit calorically, I recover and feel better with a higher protein intake.

After your protein is figured out, I think the next step is to look at your current body composition to determine your next move. If you’re overweight, I think it’s important to keep carbs on the lower end of things. Your insulin sensitivity needs improvement, and having a lower carbohydrate intake will help with this. You’ll also be able to burn through glycogen much faster, possibly aiding in body composition gains (this is argued back and forth in the community).

For those that are already on the leaner side, you can keep your carbohydrate intake a bit higher if you like. I’d ensure that you’re still taking some in during the peri-workout window, but from there you can probably keep things on the lower carb side to optimize body composition even more.

What About Non-Training Days?

This is an excellent question and topic, and I prefer to use more of a carbohydrate and caloric cycling approach. So on days that you training, you’ll follow the recommendations listed above. On non-training days, you’ll usually be on the lower end of those spectrums.

Examples

To make this all come together, here’s some examples using myself, at 145 pounds in the off season:

 

Strength Phase

Training Days:

  • Calories – 2320
  • Fat – 64
  • Carbs – 261
  • Protein – 174

Non-Training Days:

  • Calories – 2175
  • Fat – 73
  • Carbs – 217
  • Protein – 163

Hypertrophy Phase

Training Days:

  • Calories – 2610
  • Fat – 58
  • Carbs – 359
  • Protein – 163

Non-Training Days:

  • Calories – 2320
  • Fat – 77
  • Carbs – 232
  • Protein – 174

Maintenance Phase

Training Days:

  • Calories – 2175
  • Fat – 73
  • Carbs – 217
  • Protein – 163

Non-Training Days:

  • Calories – 2030
  • Fat – 79
  • Carbs – 178
  • Protein – 152

Weight Loss Phase

Training Days:

  • Calories – 1740
  • Fat – 58
  • Carbs – 152
  • Protein – 152

Non-Training Days:

  • Calories – 1450
  • Fat – 73
  • Carbs – 36
  • Protein – 163

Adding It All Up

There are certainly more ways to do things than I have listed above, and more importantly these are all just starting guidelines. Having a good place to start is only half the battle. I highly suggest that no matter what your goals are, you use the mirror, the scale weight, pictures, measurements, and your lifts to indicate how you’re really doing. We all adapt slightly differently based upon the macros we are taking in, and the examples that I have listed as what tends to work best for me, and even then I deviate just a bit to make things work even better when I need them to.

 

If you have any questions about this or the recommendations, feel free to get in contact with me at brandonsmitley.com.

 

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