How to Set Up Your Macros

As I transition from a bulk to a cut, my macros are changing. How I came to determine them is part structured process and part trial and error.

I’ll break down for you how I landed on the macros for my bulk, and then explain how I came across the macros in which I’ll be starting with for my cut. They both play off of each other, and the entire process in which I nailed down these numbers might help you put yours together if you ever want to start a strategic meal plan.

My Bulking Macros:

To start calculating macros for your meal plan, you’ll first need to get an idea of what your maintenance calories are. “Maintenance calories” are the amount of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight/muscle mass while training.

This is pretty hard to nail down exactly correct on the first try. What I’d recommend is look up a BMR (basal metabolic rate) calculator online. There are a ton of them out there, and most can point you in the right direction, at the very least.

When first calculating my macros, I put my information (height, weight, age, gender, activity level, etc.) into a few of these calculators and got estimated calories at rest (1,800 calories) and when active (2,800). Averaging out those two numbers gave me a calorie number of about 2,400 calories, which I used as my maintenance calories number. I based my bulking calories off that number.

Now, in order to bulk, you’ll need to be in a caloric surplus, which means you’re giving your body more calories than it technically needs. What this will allow your body to do is put on weight and add muscle.

Quite simply, your body goes through a number of processes each day, in which it utilizes the nutrition from the calories you ingest to carry out its daily processes. The amount of calories your body needs goes up when you’re training in the gym. For a bulk, you’ll be regularly lifting and creating muscle breakdown, which needs to be repaired. The excess calories help your body repair and build new muscle tissue — that is, when the calories are properly distributed.

That’s where calculating your macros comes into play.

For me, when I was in the mid-170-pound range, I decided to go 300 calories into a surplus (to 2,700 total calories a day) and set up my bulking macros based on the following:

  • 200 grams of protein
  • 65 grams of fat
  • 330 grams of carbohydrates

This translates to approximately 2,700 calories. Now, it’s one thing to just throw numbers out there. However, there is a science behind all of this.

Calculating Protein:

First, I started with my overall body weight (at the time, anywhere between 170-175). Knowing that getting at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight is a good rule of thumb, and combining that with the fact that I enjoy a high-protein diet, I decided to go about 1.15 times my body weight and assign 200 grams of protein a day to my diet.

I think it’s important to one, follow some proven guidelines when it comes to setting up your macros (like one gram of protein per pound of body weight), and two, tweak your diet within reason to be enjoyable. For instance, I like a high protein diet. Knowing that, I fit a little bit of added protein into my macros and adjusted the rest to have a meal plan I could be consistent with.

Generally, if you’re bulking, you can figure out your needed protein intake by eating anywhere from 0.8% – 1.2 % of your body weight in grams of protein. I’d suggest if you’re at a healthy body fat level, to go with one gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you’re above a healthy body fat level, perhaps factor yourself into the 0.8% – 1% range, and if you’re below a healthy body fat level, factor yourself into the 1% – 1.2% range.

Again, none of this is set in stone. Use this scale to find a number that you believe will work best for you and your consistency and give it a shot. You can always readjust if needed once you get started.

Once you’ve gotten your protein levels set, calculating the rest of your macros is pretty simple.

Calculating Fat:

Generally speaking, your fat grams should be anywhere from 20% to 30% of your total calories. So once again, with my overall calories set at 2,700, I used this range to make a decision on fats that would be sustainable for my diet.

The number I ended up with was 65 grams of fat a day (approximately 22% of my total calories from fat). I chose to go on the lower end of the scale solely because I enjoy a lower fat diet. I also enjoy eating carbohydrates and using them to fuel my training sessions, so by going with a little bit less fat, I was able to go with more carbs, which suited my goals and my tastes.

Generally speaking, I’d suggest you use 25% of your overall calories for fats if you’re at an average body weight level. If you’re above an average weight for your size, you might want to think about falling in the 20% to 25% range, and if you’re below an average body weight, you might want to find yourself in the 25% to 30% range.

The running theme here: find a number that will work for you and give you a chance to be consistent with your diet.

Calculating Carbohydrates:

We’re at the very last step in calculating your macros, and this one is the easiest. Quite simply, now that you have your protein and fat intake decided upon, you have a specific number of calories left to dedicate to carbs.

To revisit my bulking numbers, at this point in the process I had 200 grams of protein and 65 grams of fat. Knowing a few helpful numbers will guide you in a lifetime of managing your meal plan…

  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories

So let’s do some simple math…

My 200 grams of protein x 4 calories = 800 total calories from protein.

My 65 grams of fat x 9 calories = 585 calories from fat.

Add the protein + fat calories together, and you get 1,385 calories. If my total bulking caloric intake is set to be 2,700, then subtracting 1,385 from 2,700 tells me I have 1,315 calories left to work with. These are going to be calories from carbs.

So, 1,315 divided 4 calories = 328.75. I made it a simple, round number and assigned myself 330 carbohydrates.

For your meal plan, the process would be the same. Find out how many calories you have left over from protein and fats, and divide that number by 4 to get your carbohydrates.

This process will give you a great starting point for your diet. As you progress, you can tweak the macros as you see fit. If you’re not gaining weight, add some fats and carbs. If you’re gaining too much weight, subtract some fats and carbs. You should be set to make gains in the gym on a bulk.

Calculating my Cutting Macros:

I had success with those bulking numbers. Over the course of 20 months I gained 20 pounds. That was the goal, and probably should be for most people looking to bulk. Any more than a pound gained per month, and you’re probably talking about taking on too much excess body fat. Much less than a pound a month, and you might not be giving your body enough nutrition to truly make gains.

Now that I’m entering a cut, my focus will be on shedding body fat while retaining as much of the muscle mass I’ve built up as possible. In order to do that, I’ve structured my cut to be slow and gradual over a 12- to 14-week process.

The first step is going to go back to my maintenance calorie number and see what type of weight I drop. Based on 2,400 calories, I’ve come to the following macros:

  • Protein: 200 grams
  • Fats: 65 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 250 grams

Initially, I expect to drop weight just based on water retention over the course of my bulk. With the drop in carbs, I will probably see quick results initially. After that, I expect the weight loss to be much less dramatic and much harder to accomplish.

My goal is to remain at a 2,400 calorie diet for as long as possible and continue to lose weight by upping my training intensity and introducing more cardio. These are the types of things I plan to document as the cut progresses.

I haven’t done a cut like this before, so I only have expectations based on what I think will happen. I’m excited for this to play out to continue to use trial and error to fine-tune my training for the future.

If you have any questions, or if you have feedback on any of the information I’ve described here, feel free to utilize the comments section below, Hit us up on Twitter or e-mail at holisticfitnesschris@gmail.com! I’d love to help and learn in any way possible.

Thanks for reading!

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