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How do I calculate my macros?

Quantity versus quality?  It is the age-old discussion within nutrition.  At the end of the day, calories are still king!  The calories themselves will determine whether you gain or lose weight…. but the composition of those calories (the macros) will determine the type of weight gained or lost (i.e. fat or muscle).

the composition of those calories (the macros) will determine the type of weight gained or lost

In an earlier blog we showed you how to calculate your daily calorie target (you can revisit it here and also re-read our piece on macros here), so how do we determine our macro breakdown?  A proper macro-nutrient prescription is very important, and will always add up to an appropriate amount of calories.  Each type of macro provides energy *, outlined below:

  • 1 gram of protein provides 4 calories;

  • 1 gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories; and

  • 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories.

So when you are determining your macros, you want to target eating the number of grams of each macro that when combined will equal your daily target calories.

(* Interestingly, 1 gram of alcohol provides 7 calories but these are not that useful and we are not going to include alcohol here!)

Determining your macros

Food goals usually fall in to one of three buckets: lose weight, gain weight and perform better.  A well thought out macro-nutrient allocation will help us achieve these goals in a much better way.

Calculating your protein macros

Protein is important for a number of bodily functions, including repairing muscle tissue, providing satiation, maintaining lean body mass and stimulating the release of various hormones such as glucagon.  When determining your protein, the rule of thumb is that you want to target:

1 to 1.25 grams of protein for every 1 pound of body weight.

So for those of you working in metrics, that is about 2.2 grams per kilo of body weight; and for those of you working on the imperial scale that is about 1 ounce of protein per 455 ounces (28.4 pounds) of body weight.

Whether you sit at the high or the low end of this continuum will depend on your food goals.  If you are looking to achieve fat loss, then you should target the higher end of the scale (1.25 grams), thus decreasing the proportion of carbs and fats in your diet.  If you are looking for improved performance, you will want to target the lower end of the spectrum so that you can eat more fats and carbs for energy.

Calculating your fat macros

Dietary fats play an important role various bodily processes including hormone control, lean tissue acquisition, reduction of inflammation and fat loss.  The ideal proportion of fat in your diet varies depending on your individual goals, but you should typically target:

30% to 40% total calories consumed should be from fat.

If you have more body fat you want to lose, you should be closer to 40%; if you are slimmer then you should be closer to 30%.  The key thing is that any amount of fat within this range will leave you with plenty of room to get your remaining calories from carbohydrates, leaving energy for the demands of any training you are doing.

Remember 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories.

It is important to note this is a rough guide – people can target 20% to 60% of their calories from fat.  20% is on the low end and typically applies to individuals who are focused on fat loss, where performance is less of a concern and want a high carbohydrate intake (such as body-builders and professional athletes).  60% is at the high end and is typically part of a ketogenic diet where the body is kept in a state of ketosis, where the body is deprived of carbs and uses ketone as a body fuel.

Calculating your carb macros

An so that brings us onto the last macro.  By knowing our protein and fat macros we can deduce our carb targets:

Target carbs (grams) = Daily Calorie Target – Protein (grams) – Fat (grams)


Carbs (g) =

(Daily calorie target (kcals) – (Protein (g) * 4 kcals) – (Fat (g) * 9 kcals) )

/ 4 Kcals per gram of carbohydrate

Putting it all together

So now you know how to calculate your daily calorie target, and how to allocate those calories between protein, fat and carbohydrates.  The sum of the calories from macros in a food substance will always equal its total calorific value so now you can start to make food choices based on higher quality food that meets your calorie needs.

Learn more about the EatWell ToolKit App at:

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