Calculating Macros – 5 Simple Steps!

calculating macro nutrients

Let it be known that there are some “macros” many of us have been known to use to get the physique that we feel like we need or that we want.  Whether you’re just aiming to lose some weight or you’re trying to become something of a beef cake, there are some carefully calculated and time-tested formulas out there known as macros.  Macros, if strictly followed, are a scientific way to regulate your body’s metabolism, allowing you to use your metabolism as a tool for success [1]!  Consider this cutting edge method once you feel like you’ve hit a wall and are really struggling to meet your goals.

It’s important to understand that many people misuse the word macro when it comes to this regulation of the metabolism.  More often than not, the common belief is that building a macro is as simple as calorie counting in combination with various exercises.  That is simply not the case.  Macro is short for Macronutrients.  These are the chemical bonds that make up the different foods that you eat and represent each of the major food groups.  So, the formula should never be as simple as counting calories and changing your workouts based on the end goal that you’re trying to achieve.  While the formulas do consist of calorie regulation, you should always be conscious of the types of calories you’re putting in to your body.  When you’re looking at adjusting your macros, you will find that you should be adjusting the types of calories you’re getting rather than the number of calories [2].  We’re going to go over the 5 steps to build yourself the best macro to meet your needs, then discuss different ways to maintain your newfound glory once you’ve met your goal.


  1. Set a realistic macro that you believe you’re going to be able to stick with for an extended period of time. Slip-ups are the enemy to a strict macro-enabled regimen.  It is strongly suggested that you use a macro calculator that can be found at various fitness sites on the internet, like this macro nutrient calculator. This will give you a good baseline to build your customized macro around.  Since macros are based around a diet resulting in a regulation of calories, carbohydrates, and proteins-  the best way to build a customized macro to fit your needs is to adjust these three main groups.

Fats – A common mistake many beginner macro-generators make is that they choose to cut out fats completely. You should never cut out all fats.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to bulk up on muscle or looking to cut weight and remove visceral fat.  Removing fats from your diet can and will ultimately result in muscle loss while you work out intensely [3].  This can often be limited through the use of supplements but it cannot be prevented completely.  It only makes sense that if you work out hard enough to put your body in a heavy calorie deficit, your body will start to burn muscle for energy, rather than just fat.

Rather than removing fats from your diet entirely, let’s try regulating them while keeping the calorie count in mind.  Don’t eat a Twinkie, but grab a few handfuls of almonds or mixed nuts to snack on instead.  Nuts are a healthy source of fat that your body will store and use for energy when it comes to those cardio workouts or intense lifting sessions.

proteinCarbohydrates can be adjusted just as heavily as proteins can be. Extreme intensity workout regimens will require an increase in carbohydrates to provide the energy that your body needs to power through the exercise sessions.  That said, if you have too many carbohydrates and your body doesn’t use the energy it’s storing, carbohydrates will turn to fat and add to your unwanted weight gain and increase in flab.  Be sure to adjust the carbohydrates in your macro to fit your lifestyle and don’t be afraid to change your carb intake after you feel like you’re a bit sluggish in the gym or, conversely, if you’re gaining flab.

  1. Don’t torture yourself. It’s the fastest way to fail.  Find foods and supplements that will not break your bank account or that you can’t stand eating.  We don’t suggest hitting up the cheapest sections of your local dollar store, but there is no reason to spend an absurd amount of money on your food either.  Look for the best deals at your local grocery stores and take advantage of them when they arise.  If chicken breast goes on sale, buy a bunch of it and freeze what you won’t be needing right away, for example.  Or if you can, try to purchase your supplements in bulk.  This can save you literally thousands of dollars throughout the year and minimize the financial burden of practicing macro-nutrition.  Don’t let your blind desire for results put you in an irresponsible state of mind financially.

Make sure you’re getting a wide variety of food.  Obviously some foods are far higher in one of the caloric groups than others, but don’t let that dictate how you consume your food.  Remember that you need to eat you survive and you need to eat often to be healthy so don’t add further stress to your life by dreading what you’re going to eat for your next meal or at your next refueling snack time.  Make sure you’re preparing things that you enjoy eating so that you don’t get discouraged, ensuring a successful macro stint.

Thirdly, please do not ever eat something that has an undesirable side effect.  We are all different and all of our bodies may react to certain foods, food groups, or supplements differently.  If you find that something makes you uncomfortable in any way after ingestion, it’s possible that you have an allergy and you should cease and desist immediately.  Just because nuts are a good source of fats and proteins, doesn’t mean you should keep snacking on them when your tongue swells up and you break out in hives!  Okay, obviously we’re being a little facetious here but it’s important to understand that it’s okay to look for a substitute to a food or supplement that didn’t quite agree with you.  You’ll have dozens to hundreds of options once you do your research.


  1. Protein as a priority. A lot of times, it is easy to get lost in the specifics of your customized macro.  To be honest, if you’re going to be thorough when it comes to your protein intake, you’re going to find it far easier to regulate the other two pieces of your caloric diet.  Just remember that the level of proteins that you put in to your body is the building block for lean muscle mass.  If you don’t provide your body with an adequate amount of proteins, especially during weight loss regimens, you will inevitably lose muscle mass [4].  To retain your muscle mass, keep your protein levels high.  You can find calculators for just how much protein you should keep in your diet during cutting or building cycles on many of the same websites that you can find the macro calculators.  Whatever you do, keep the protein as a priority.  The rest will follow.


  1. Stay focused and stay consistent. For a variety of reasons, staying consistent is extremely important.  Your body will only have time to adjust to the macro that you’ve created if you’ve been practicing it for a few weeks.  Don’t make large changes every couple of days because you’re never going to see any sort of result that way.  You need to build yourself a macro that you are sure that you can adhere to and track the results over the course of at least two weeks.  Then, if you’re not satisfied, adjust.  Admittedly, it can be a little challenging finding the right formula for your body, especially if you’re already in particularly good shape.  Don’t get discouraged though.  Keep up with your supplements and keep up with your macro!


  1. Plan your attack. Make sure you take the time to plan your meals out for the day or the week.  Shop for fewer groceries more often to keep fresh food and minimize waste.  If you start to plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time, you will find that it’s easy to keep track of what you’re putting in to your body.  Rather than just eating on the fly, pack yourself containers of food for each meal and put your snacks in pre-measured bags.  This will make if far is easier when it comes to the macro-nutrients control and calorie counting.

I’m Seeing Results!  Now What?!

macronutrientsWhatever you do, don’t just stop.  It’s terrific that you’re seeing the results that you have been longing for, but let’s get real… we knew you would!  Now it’s time to maintain.  If you decide to cold turkey stop following the macro regimen that you’ve created and adjusted for yourself, you’re going to balloon out like a blimp.  Your body will be all sorts of out of whack and since you were just limiting the carbohydrates or fats or both, it will think it needs to store them for future abuse!  You need to ween your way back from the macro you’ve become accustomed to.  Here are a few things to do to maintain your newfound physique and prevent the dreaded rebound:

  • Decrease the intensity of your exercise. There is no need to go full throttle if you’re not looking to lose any more weight.  If you’re finding that it’s impossible to lose weight without losing muscle mass, it’s time to ease up.  Continue the supplemental stacking that helped you get to this point and be sure to continue to exercise… just pump the breaks a bit.
  • Modify the frequency of your workouts. Working out too often will often result in muscle mass loss, much like highly intense exercises.  We’re not saying to quit exercising by any means.  Just cut back a bit.  If you were working out 7 days a week, consider taking a rest every few days.  If you were hitting the gym 3 or 4 times a week, you may way to cut back a single day or simply substitute it with a walk.
  • Modify the diet again. Much like you were setting and adjusting the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates levels during your macro cycle, you need to reset and readjust when you wish to maintain your current physique.  For example, if you were consuming a low level of carbohydrates to promote visceral fat loss, you may need to increase the amount of carbs you’re consuming to preserve lean muscle mass now that you’ve reached your goal.
  • Keep a journal. Step on the scale regularly and jot down your weight.  Take pictures in the mirror if you wish to visually track changes.  You’ll need to play with the formula of your regular diet much like you needed to play with the formula of your macro to get the best results.  It’s hard to know what the best results are if we’re not keeping track of the effects our dietary adjustments are having on our bodies in the first place!
  • Revisit and reduce the supplements you were taking. It’s possible that you were taking some weight-loss supplements that you wouldn’t want to continue with if you’re happy with your results.  Just as it’s possible that you wouldn’t want to continue stacking muscle-building products if you’re not going to be hitting the gym as often because this, especially in conjunction with a dietary change, will almost assuredly result in unwanted fat gain.  Thoroughly read and research about every supplement that you’re going to be putting in to your body as you do not want to ingest something you’re allergic to and you don’t want to ingest something that will negate all of the hard work that you’ve put in to get up to this point.
  • Continue eating healthy, exercising, and getting plenty of rest. If you stop any of these things, you will be undoing all of the results that you achieved.  Just because you’ve hit the pinnacle doesn’t mean you need to fall back to the bottom!


Perhaps the most important take away about macro-nutrition, macro-nutrients, and macro-formulating is that it’s an imperfect science.  There is no one-size-fits-all answer or formula.  Age, sex, ethnicity, health conditions, and natural metabolism all have an effect on how our bodies will react to certain regimens.  There are calculators available to get you started but you’re going to have to do the real work when it comes to developing a working formula for your body.  Don’t get discouraged.  Even the most practiced athletes take weeks to months to customize an effective macro for their bodies.  The most important thing is that you stay focused and make an effort to push, improve, and maintain your beautiful body.  The rest will follow!


  1. Effects of diet macronutrient composition on body composition and fat distribution during weight maintenance and weight loss
    Amy M. Goss, Laura Lee Goree, Amy C. Ellis, Paula C. Chandler-Laney, Krista Casazza, Mark E. Lockhart, and Barbara A. Gower Obesity (Silver Spring). Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 Jun 1. Published in final edited form as:
    Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jun; 21(6): 1139–1142. Published online 2013 May 13. doi: [10.1002/oby.20191]
  2. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation
    Eric R Helms,corresponding author1 Alan A Aragon,2 and Peter J Fitschen3 J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014; 11: 20. Published online 2014 May 12. doi: [10.1186/1550-2783-11-20]
  3. Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss.
    Cava E1, Yeat NC1, Mittendorfer B2. Adv Nutr. 2017 May 15;8(3):511-519. doi: 10.3945/an.116.014506. Print 2017 May.
  4. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes.
    Mettler S1, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Feb;42(2):326-37. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181b2ef8e.
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