The Complete Guide to Calculating Your Macros (for Beginners)


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macro calculator for flexible dieting

Have you tried using a macro calculator?

If you search “how to calculate my macros” on google, you’ll end up a ton of macro calculators.

You’ll spend hours clicking through each one, wondering why every single one spits out different numbers.

The truth is.

There is no perfect macro calculator, and there are no perfect macros that’ll take you from overweight to fit.

how to count macros

But macros do work.

And if you want to learn how to calculate your personal macros without doubting yourself, take your fitness journey to the next level, and build a better relationship with food, this guide can make it happen. 

Let’s jump in.

What are macros

Macro is short for macronutrients.

Protein, fats, and carbs make up your macronutrients, and each one plays an important role.

Protein

If you’ve never counted macros before and ever feel like you’re not ready to dive deep into tracking what you eat, start here and only track your protein intake and calorie intake. 

Protein has four calories per gram and is extremely important when it comes to the breakdown and building of your tissues. 

Not only that, but protein also helps you maintain muscle when you are losing weight, is key to helping you build muscles, is good for your bones, helps you feel full, and curves your cravings.

Here’s a list of protein examples:

  1. Chicken
  2. Steak
  3. Beef
  4. Turkey
  5. Fish
  6. Seafood
  7. eggs
  8. Tofu
  9. Tempeh
  10. Beans
protein

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Eat More High Protein Foods (Even If You’re Plant-Based)

Fats

Fats are made up of 9 calories per gram (making this the highest calorie macro out of the three) and are important, especially for women because it’s the macro that helps keep your hormones in balance.

Do you have PCOS? Try increasing your fat intake or your calories.

But not all fats are created equal. We have saturated, trans fat, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. 

You can read more about the difference between each in this short article at Heart.org.

But, for the sake of this post, I want to focus on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the “healthy fats.”

Here’s a list of fat examples:

  1. Avocados
  2. Nuts
  3. Egg yolk
  4. Fatty fish (salmon)
  5. Chia seeds
  6. Flax seeds
  7. Olive oil
  8. Cheese
  9. Tofu
  10. Nut Butters
weight loss questions

Carbs

CArbs, oh CArbs. Honestly, can we stop bullying carbs?

Carbs are made up of 4 calories per gram, just like protein. But unlike protein, we actually don’t need carbs to survive. Yup, it’s true. 

But be honest with yourself, can you go live the rest of your life without them? No fruit, rice, bread, cookie, veggies, I mean the list can go on.

I couldn’t, plus just because we don’t need carbs, it doesn’t mean they don’t provide us with any benefits.

Carbs are a source of energy. They give you that boost you need to get your workout in, run around town and do errands, chase the kids, or run in general. 

You can read more about the different types of carbs over at Healthline.com and check out what they have to say under “Carbs” are not the cause of obesity.

For now, I’ll list some of my go-to carbs.

Here’s a list of carb examples:

  1. Bread
  2. Rice
  3. White and regular sweet potatoes (with tahini over this, OMG so good!)
  4. Bananas
  5. Berries
  6. Oatmeal
  7. Broccoli
  8. Lentil pasta
  9. Quinoa
  10. Beans
macro calculator

Related: The Best High Protein Vegetables (You Need to Be Eating These)

How do you figure out your calories?

Before you calculate your macros, the goal is to figure out how many calories YOU, yes, YOU burn in a day.

How many calories you burn just plain existing and living, but doing nothing essentially just awake and lying in bed. No activity – This is called your REE (resting energy expenditure)

And how many calories you burn existing and now going on about your daily activities like going to work, cleaning, cooking, driving, and whatever other tasks are included throughout your day – this is called your TDEE.

So how the heck do we get these numbers? You can either use the macro calculator at calculator.net or walk through the process with me below.

Let’s walk through it by using the popular Mifflin-St. Jeor equation.

And to make things a little easier to understand, we’ll be using the following example and find out how many calories she burns a day.

For reference:

  • 1 pound = .45 KG
  • 1 Foot = 30.48 cm

Our Example:

  • Woman
  • Weight: 160 lbs.
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’6 

Mifflin-St. Jeor equation:

10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161

10 x 72.57 + 6.25 x 170.69 5 x 29 161

 *in case you for got the order of operations its

  • P parenthesis
  • M multiplication
  • D division
  • A addition
  • S subtraction

10 x 72.57 + 6.25 x 170.69 – 5 x 29 – 161

726 + 1,066.81 – 145 – 161

1793 – 145 – 161

1648 – 161

1487 calories

So in a day, this 29-year-old, 160 lb., 5’6 woman burns 1,487 calories – This is not including any activity or exercise.

That was easy!

Let’s figure out her TDEE

Now let’s include some activity. Do you exercise 5 times a week? Two days a week? Do you work a job that has you on your feet all day? Or does she sit for 8 hours a day?

All of these things matter. 

We know she burns 1,487 calories a day now; let’s multiply that by an activity factor.

  • Lightly active: x 1.375 (light exercise less than three days per week)
  • Moderately active: x 1.55 (moderate exercise most days of the week)
  • Very active: x 1.7 (hard exercise every day)

This is where I’d always get caught up and confused, but not anymore, and you won’t either. 

If you’re working out 3- 5 days week or have a job where you move frequently go for the moderately active factor, 1.55

So her TDEE is:

1487 x 1.55

2,304 calories a day.

This can’ be right! There’s no way. 

I’ll definitely gain weight if I eat that much

Nope, I’m sticking to 1,200 calories a day.

I am saying all of these things because it can be scary eating more than you’re used to.

Very scary. 

Be patient, we’ll talk about setting our calories and macros for weight loss later, we will, but right now we need to figure out how many calories we burn in a day and what your macros for those calories are.

So far, we know our TDEE is 2,304 calories a day, now let’s work on calculating our macros.

macro calculator

HOW DO YOU FIGURE OUT the macros?

How to calculate your Protein

The recommended protein intake ranges from 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kg and in this example we’ll stick to a number in the middle, 1.9

Weight (kg) x 1.9
72.57 x 1.9
138 grams of protein
How many calories is that?
Remember that for every gram of protein there are 4 calories
Grams of protein x 4
138 x 4
552 calories

Result: 138 grams of protein and 552 calories

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR Fat

There isn’t a range of fat you should intake, but more so a minimum.

To keep your body healthy, set your fat at a minimum of 0.8 grams per KG.

Weight (kg) x 0.8
72.57 x 0.8
58 grams of fat
How many calories is that?
Remember that for every gram of fat there are 9 calories
Grams of protein x 9
58 x 9
522 calories

Result: 58 grams of protein and 522 calories


A quick tip: if you’re only focusing on tracking your protein and calories, make sure you don’t go below 58 grams of fat per day to keep those hormones in check.

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR CArbs

After calculating your protein and fat, the calories leftover all go towards your carbs!

TDEE Calories: 2,306
Protein calories + fat calories
552 + 522 = 1,074 leftover calories
TDEE calories – Leftover calories
1,232 calories

How many grams of carbs is that?
Remember that for every gram of carbs there are 4 calories
Calories / 4
1,232 / 4
308 grams of carbs

Result: 308 grams of carbs and 1,232 calories

Let’s double-check our work:


Protein calories + Fat calories + Carb Calories
552 + 522+ 1,232 = 2,306 calories
TDEE calories: 2,306

They both match perfect!

What are her macros:


For our 29-year-old, 160 lb. 5’6 Woman her macros are.
2,306 calories a day
138 grams of protein
58 grams of fat
308 grams of carbs

2,306 calories are how many calories she will need to eat daily to maintain her weight, neither lose nor gain.

Her maintenance calories.

macro calculator

Conclusion for calculating your macros

Calculating your macros can take you down a whirlwind spiral.

And, if you calculated your macros through the link, I shared and found that it doesn’t match the math we just did, that’s a perfect example of the perfect macro calculator not existing. 

Calculators and equations are a tool.

A tool that gives you an idea and says, “Hey, after looking at what your day looks like and how active you are, we’re guessing this is how many calories you burn in a day.”

And we can work with that.

If you’re a beginner tracking your macros stick to your maintenance calories

And, if you’ve tried tracking your macros before and it didn’t work, check out the 4 Reasons Macros Are Not Helping You Lose Weight.

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THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CALCULATING YOUR MACROS (FOR BEGINNERS)

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