HOW THE HELL DO I SET MY CALORIE AND MACRO TARGETS?!
Have you ever tried to achieve a health and fitness goal, tried your heart out, but fell short and felt like something was missing? Maybe you trained your ass off and ate as healthy as you could, yet you still didn’t seem to get the results you wanted. Well, from my experience with my clients over the years, it’s not that you didn’t try hard enough, it’s more so you will doing something wrong and potentially making things harder than they have to be. A simple mistake of eating “clean” but not accounting for your calories can be the defining factor on whether you do or do not achieve your goal. If you need to consume a maximum of 3000 calories per day to lose weight/fat, but you’re eating 4500, then you will not lose, no matter how “clean” or “healthy” the food is, you will NOT lose.
This is why learning how to figure out your specific nutritional needs is so important! If it was up to me, learning how to calculate your calorie and macronutrient requirements would 100% be taught in school! I mean, how on earth are you meant to manage something properly if you don’t know the limits of the thing your managing, and people wonder why obesity is such a problem. Now, I’m not saying figuring out your calorie and macronutrient requirements will solve all your problems when it comes to achieving your health and fitness goals, however, it’s a GREAT place to start.
So, I’m going to give you the SIMPLEST methods and calculations possible to set your calorie and macro targets in under 10 minutes.
SETTING YOUR CALORIE TARGETS
Here’s the equation to figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the number of calories you need to stay the same weight when you are completely inactive. Here’s a simple equation:
BODYWEIGHT IN KG X 22 = BMR
E.g. 80kg x 22 = 1760 calories
Now you have figured your BMR, you now need to account for your daily activity levels, this is called Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) which includes anything from getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom, to running 20km and bench pressing 200kg (don’t worry, they were just extreme examples, I don’t expect you to run 20km or bench 200kg, even though that would be pretty awesome). Here’s the equation:
- Sedentary (little or no exercise) = 1.2
- Lightly Active (Exercise 1-3 days per week) = 1.3-1.4
- Moderately Active (Exercise 3-5 days per week) = 1.5
- Very Active (Exercise 6-7 days per week) = 1.7-1.8
- Extremely Active (Exercise up to 2x per day per week) = 1.9
BMR x ACTIVITY LEVELS = TDEE
E.g. 1760 x 1.5 = 2640 calories (For someone who is moderately active)
Now that you have figured your calories needs to stay the same weight and function on a daily basis, you now need to adjust them to suit your goals. You will most likely either want to a) Gain weight and size, b) maintain your current weight and size, or c) lose weight and fat. This would be categorised into the following:
- Calorie Surplus = consuming more calories than you expend on a daily basis, therefore you gain weight and size
- Calorie maintenance = consuming the same number of calories that you expend on a daily basis, therefore you maintain weight and size
- Calorie Deficit = consuming less calories than you expend on a daily basis, therefore you lose weight and size
A simple rule to follow for this is:
TDEE + 10% = Calorie surplus
E.g. 2640 + 264 = 2904 calories
TDEE = Calorie maintenance
E.g. 2640 calories
TDEE – 20% = Calorie deficit
E.g. 2640 – 528 = 2112 calories
Once you have done this, you have officially figured out your starting point for your specific calorie requirements in order to start progressing towards you goal. Don’t get me wrong, these equations aren’t 100% accurate, they are just simple and easy to follow, and give you a great place to start from. The real figuring out comes after this point when you track your calories and see how you respond to them on a weekly basis. This is where me as a coach or another reputable coach would come in to help you make adjustments to suit your needs.
SETTING YOUR MACRONUTRIENT TARGETS
When setting your macro targets, the best place to start is with calculating your protein requirements. Luckily, the website Examine.com have a great write up on setting exact protein targets (https://examine.com/guides/protein-intake/). Here is a range of targets you can set based on lifestyle factors:
- If you’re sedentary, aim for 1.2–1.8 g/kg (0.54–0.82 g/lb). Keep in mind that your body composition is more likely to improve if you add regular activity, especially resistance training, than if you merely hit a protein target.
- If you’re of healthy weight and active and wish to keep your weight, aim for 1.4–2.0 g/kg(0.64–0.91 g/lb). People who are trying to keep the same weight but improve their body composition (more muscle, less fat) may benefit from the higher end of the range.
- If you’re of healthy weight and active and wish to build muscle, aim for 1.6–2.4 g/kg (0.73–1.10 g/lb). Intakes as high as 3.3 g/kg may help experienced lifters minimize fat gain when bulking.
- If you’re of healthy weight and active and wish to lose fat, aim for 1.6–2.4 g/kg (0.73–1.10 g/lb), skewing toward the higher end of this range as you become leaner or if you increase your caloric deficit (by eating less or exercising more). Intakes as high as 3.1 g/kg may enhance fat loss and minimize muscle loss in lean lifters.
- If you’re overweight, aim for 1.2–1.5 g/kg (0.54–0.68 g/lb). This range, like all the others in this list, is based on your total body weight (most studies on people who are overweight report their findings based on total body weight, but you’ll find some calculators that determine your optimal protein intake based on your lean mass or your ideal body weight). If you’re overweight, fat loss should be your priority, but that doesn’t mean you cannot build some muscle over the same period. (Overweight includes obesity.)
- If you’re pregnant, aim for 1.7–1.8 g/kg (0.77–0.82 g/lb).
- If you’re lactating, aim for at least 1.5 g/kg (0.68 g/lb).
Most people will be opting for the 1.5-2g per 1kg of bodyweight, e.g. 1.5(g) x 80(kg) = 120g of protein per day.
CARBOHYDRATES & FATS
Now, this is where people tend to start overcomplicating things. It only takes one search on google to find tons of conflicting articles telling you set % of carbs and fat of your daily calorie intake you should consume. However, to be honest, it’s best just to let carbs and fats just make up the rest of your calories as long as you hit your daily protein targets.
So, for someone who weighs 80kg in the examples above, we know based on their lifestyle they need 2640 calories to maintain, which also includes a protein target of 120g protein per day. You now need to figure out how many calories are in your daily protein intake, which is simple due to the fact protein contains 4 calories per 1g, carbohydrates also contain 4 calories per 1g and finally fats contain 9 calories per 1g.
To figure out the exact number of calories from protein, you would do the following daily protein in gram x calorie value of protein = calories from protein e.g. 120(g) x 4(cal) = 480 calories.
For the 80kg persons example, when we minus the 480 calories off their 2640 calories, we are left with 2160 calories that can be consumed from a mix of carbohydrates and fats. If they were to split these calories right down the middle, it would leave them with 1080 calories from carbs per day, which is 270g carbs and 1080 calories from fat, which is 120g fat per day.
The final macronutrient calorie and macronutrient split would be:
- 2640 calories per day
- 120g protein per day
- 270g carbs per day
- 120g fat per day
However, remember that it’s not incredibly important for most people to stress too much about their carbohydrate and fat intake. There’s an awful lot of scare mongering around carbs and fats, but the main thing is that you consume your calorie targets for your specific needs, consume your daily protein targets, and opt for foods high in micronutrients nutrients and fibre to make up the majority of your nutritional intake.
I’ve written this to be a simple method to follow in order to set your calorie and macro intake, however, if you want something more detailed (maybe if you’re competing in a sport or looking to take your physique and performance to the next level), I can provide you with a more in-depth to setting calorie and macro targets for sports performance.
As usual, I hope you have enjoyed this blog, and if you’ve made it this far through the blog, I have a little present for you. For taking the time to read this I will give you a free mini-eBook on nutrition, all you have to do to claim this is email firstname.lastname@example.org asking for the mini nutrition eBook and I will email it over to you asap.