How do you know when you should bulk vs. when you should cut?
Are you a healthy body weight? What are your long term goals? Are you training for an event, or gene...
| June 13, 2021
Read time: 4 min.
If you’re active on social media, you’ve probably heard your favourite influencer talk about their current macros. So what the heck are macros? How to calculate your macros? They’re referring to the amount of protein, fats and carbs they’re taking in.
This is another method of calorie tracking, but it’s actually better. If you’re just tracking calories you could be severely under eating one macro, and overdoing another. There’s a minimum amount of fats that you need to consume in order to maintain healthy hormone function. There’s a minimum amount of protein that you need to consume in order to maintain proper immune function, fluid balance, and so much more. Carbs are technically non essential, which just means you won’t die if you stop consuming them. This doesn’t mean that carbs aren’t important, it just means that we can be slightly more flexible with our carb intake compared to protein or fats.
Whatever you do, do not copy someone else’s macros. They’re likely not right for you. Calculating your macros should be done individually, since it depends on your height, weight, lean body mass, activity levels, health status, and more.
So where do you start?
The first thing you’ll need to figure out is your calorie target. Do you want to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain? Go to www.tdeecalculator.net to get an estimate of where your maintenance range is. Again, this is just an estimation, and it could be wrong, but it is a great place to start. Once you figure out your maintenance calories, you can decide to change the calorie goal depending on if you want to lose weight or gain weight. If you want to lose weight I would start with a 400 calorie drop from your estimated maintenance. If you want to gain weight you could add 400 calories. If you want to go into a ‘bulk’ where you predominantly want to gain lean body mass, but not a lot of body fat, add 200 calories onto your maintenance.
Once you have your calorie target, you’ll need to figure out your protein and fats next.
How to calculate your macros will depend on a few things. If you’re overweight, set your protein intake to 1g/LB of your target body weight. So if you’re 200 lbs sitting around 30-40% body fat, and your goal weight is 160, set your protein to 160g. If you’re already pretty lean, and have a decent amount of lean body mass, set your protein to 1g/lb of current body weight. So if you’re 200 lbs and 15% body fat, set your protein intake to 200g. This is important, because consuming adequate protein will be important for maintaining lean body mass, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. We all lose lean body mass when we diet, but this is one way to hold on to as much lean body mass as we can. Alternatively, if your protein is too high, you’ll be taking away from optimal levels of fats and carbs.
How to calculate your macros, I generally set this to 0.8g/kg of body weight. This again will depend. Some people prefer to be on more fats, but this is the lowest amount of fats I would recommend someone take in, to maintain healthy hormone function. If you like more fats, that’s OK! That just means that your carbs will be lower.
So now that you know what your protein and fat targets are, we can easily figure out your carb intake. Carbs will make up whatever calories you have left over. Take the amount of calories you have left over and divide it by four. So if you have 1200 calories left in your macros, that will be 1200/4 = 300g of carbs.
Again, this is just a starting place. If you’re losing weight on your targets when you are trying to gain weight, add another 200 calories, but give it time before you make any changes. See how you respond for 2-3 weeks first, since it can take time before we truly know if a macro split is working for you or not.
Again, this is just an intro to figuring out your macros. There will always be exceptions to these rules, especially if you’re struggling with major health issues. For example, someone with insulin resistance might feel better on lower carbs, and even higher protein and fats. Someone else with kidney issues might have to consume less protein. As always, follow your doctor’s advice if you have major health issues.
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