The Complete Guide To Setting Your Macros

Your nutrition is the biggest difference maker when it comes to getting leaner.

If you neglect your nutrition, you'll NEVER achieve the lean, strong body you want.

In today's blog, you'll learn exactly how to set up a nutrition strategy specific goals and preferences, and how to adjust it as your body changes.

How To Lose (Or Gain) Weight

Calories are energy.

→ When you burn more energy (calories) than you take in, you lose weight. This is called a negative energy balance, or calorie deficit.

→ When you take in more energy (calories) than you burn, you gain weight. This is positive energy balance, or a calorie surplus.

→ When you’re taking in the same amount of energy as you're burning daily, you maintain your weight. You’re eating at your maintenance calories.

To lose or gain weight, you simply manipulate energy balance by:

  • Increasing/decreasing the calories you eat
  • Increasing/decreasing the calories you burn

How to manipulate calories out:

→ Exercise - Lifting weights, cardio, etc. Contrary to popular belief, exercise doesn't burn many calories. You could burn 500 calories with an hour on the stairmill, and then drink a 500 calorie margarita in five minutes.

This is why trying to "burn it off" doesn't go well for most.

→ Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.) - All the calories you burn in your everyday life outside the gym. N.E.A.T. is the most controllable variable of calories out. Adding in a bit of daily movement adds up to thousands of extra calories burned over a month.

This is why ALL my online clients with fat loss goals also have a step goal.

→ Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) - Calories burned during digestion. It takes energy to turn the food you consume into energy. This is TEF.

→ Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) - Your BMR is the number of calories your body burns just to stay alive. Generally, the heavier you are, the higher your BMR.

These are the four components of metabolism, A.K.A. the processes that can increase calories out.

How to manipulate calories in:

Here, your only option is manipulating your calorie intake.

→ Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain

→ Calories In = Calories Out = Weight Maintenance

→ Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss

This means you don't have to follow ANY specific diet. As long as you create a negative energy balance, you'll lose weight. This is a very empowering realization for most, and allows us to create a nutrition strategy that is 100% individualized to YOU when you start online coaching with me.

Professor Mark Haub illustrated this point with his now infamous Twinkie Diet. He lost 27 lbs in 10 weeks, eating a diet of Twinkies, powdered donuts, nutty bars and the like instead of normal meals.

Despite eating a diet of almost entirely processed, sugar laden foods, he still lost weight by creating negative energy balance.

So Are Calories ALL That Matter?

From what we just talked about, you understand that you could just fit whatever into your calorie goal and lose weight.

The thing is, while calorie intake is the MOST important factor for weight loss or weight gain... it gets a bit more complex than that.

We want to make sure your nutrition both fuels your body and hormones properly, and allows you to enjoy your life.

Finding this balance is a big part of what most diets get wrong, and what my online nutrition clients do differently to get such great results. Here's how we do it:

→ 80-90% Whole Foods

The reality of the society we live in is, it’s way too easy to overeat.

There's a reason you don't see thousands of people walking around with lean, strong bodies every day. Most of the highly-processed food we eat is designed to be hyper-palatable - it's literally engineered in a lab to make us crave more.

Pair this with the fact that most highly-processed foods are also very calorie-dense and low on nutrients, and you have a combination that makes stay lean quite a challenge - as you've probably experienced.

This is why my online clients focus on eating 80-90% whole foods.

In the simplest terms, 80-90% of your food should have either:

a.) Grown from the earth

b.) Had a face at one point

Basically, you're eating mostly foods that a caveman would have eaten in the Paleolithic Era (with a few exceptions like white rice, oats, dairy). These foods are packed with nutrients that will make your body feel amazing, create more optimal hormones, and aid your training performance and recovery. They'll also keep you full much longer than their highly-processed counterparts.

→ 10-20% If It Fits Your Macros

Eating like a caveman most of the time is a good idea to build the lean, strong, and healthy body you want... but even cavemen need to enjoy some queso occasionally.

As long as you're eating mostly whole foods, you won't have a problem with insane cravings or constant overeating. Your fat loss will come much easier, and you'll feel great.

This means you can use an If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) approach the other 10-20% of your diet, without hurting your results, or your health.

10-20% IIFYM means that you can use these calories and macros to eat and drink whatever you want. Beer, ice cream, chips and queso... seriously, whatever. As long as you still make these foods work in your calorie and macro goals, your results and health won't be affected.

Getting and staying lean doesn't come down to "eating clean foods" - but rather to calories-in - calories out.

This approach means it’s ok to go get ice cream with your significant other a few nights per week. It’s ok to have some drinks and be social on the weekends. There aren’t any foods that you have to give up,  as long as you make them work within your macro goals.

Why Track Your Intake?

So if your body isn't currently where you want it to be, we know that an adjustment in to your energy (calorie) intake is needed.

But to implement a nutrition adjustment that will create the changes you want, we first need a baseline to adjust from.

Let's say you're reading this because you want to get leaner. We know that getting leaner probably requires you eating less than you are currently.

The problem is, if we don't know how much you're currently eating, there's no way to accurately tell you how much to reduce your intake to create the changes you want.

Plus, if you're not tracking your intake consistently, we don't know how many calories you're eating day-to-day. So even if your body IS changing, we don't know what calorie intakes are creating said changes.

So, when you start nutrition coaching with me, the first thing we do is a nutrition assessment. Here, we'll determine your current intake, and what changes it's creating in your body.

From there, I can say...

"Ok, we know you're maintaining on 2,900 calories per day. So I'm going to drop your calorie intake to 2,300 calories per day. This should lead to weight loss of ~1lb per week."

Tracking you intake removes the guesswork. As long as you're consistently tracking, we've basically turned your fat loss into a simple math equation.

The Macros

So like we talked about, overall calories are the MOST important factor - but what those calories consist of also has a big impact on how your body changes.

Tracking macros instead of just calories helps you optimize your food intake to your goals.

All the foods you eat are made up of some combination of the following macronutrients (macros):

→ Protein: 1 gram of protein contains ~4 calories

→ Carbohydrates: 1 gram of carbohydrate contains ~4 calories

→ Fat: 1 gram of fat contains ~9 calories

→ Alcohol: 1 gram of alcohol contains ~7 calories

When you're tracking your macros, these are what you'll be tracking.

Each macro has some unique benefits worth weighing when determining your macros.

Protein

Keeping protein high is crucial to building a great body.

  • Adequate protein is a MUST for building lean muscle - through a process called muscle protein synthesis, your body turns the protein you eat into muscle protein (your muscles are essentially made of protein). When your protein intake is inadequate, you can't fully recover and grow from you training.
  • On a similar note, adequate protein is necessary to maintaining muscle mass as you diet.
  • Protein is the most satiating macronutrient (it keeps you full longest). The hardest thing about diets? You’re hungry. More protein helps.
  • Protein also has the highest thermic effect (TEF) of all the macros - It takes energy to turn the food you consume into energy. When you eat more protein, you're actually increasing the calories out side of the energy balance equation, since you're burning more calories via TEF.

 

    • Protein: 20-30% of calories consumed are burned via TEF
    • Carbs: 5-10% of calories consumed are burned via TEF
    • Fat: 0-3% of calories consumed are burned via TEF

Outside of controlling energy balance, increasing protein intake to .8-1.2 grams/lb of body weight daily is the most impactful thing you can do nutritionally to improve body composition.

Carbs & Fat

The ratio of carbs to fats you eat doesn't make a huge difference for fat loss.

As long as overall calories and protein intake are on point, your results won't be hugely affected by the ratio of carbs/fats. The D.I.E.T.F.I.T.S. study did a great job of showing this.

The ratio of carbs to fats you eat doesn't make a huge difference for fat loss.

As long as overall calories and protein intake are on point, your results won't be hugely affected by the ratio of carbs/fats. The D.I.E.T.F.I.T.S. study did a great job of showing this.

For you, this means your free to set fat and carbs to your preference. As long as your protein and calories are on point, it won't make a huge difference in your results.

That said, there are a few things you should take into consideration for each macro...

Fats:

  • Fat plays an important role in hormone production, so adequate fat intake is necessary - the lowest you want to set fat intake is .3-.4g/lb. Much lower than this, and you start running the risk of EPA (Omega-3 fats) deficiencies.
  • Protein and fat are "essential" (you'll feel awful/potentially die if you go too long without eating them).

Carbs:

Carbs are "non-essential". You'll survive just fine without 'em, so there's not a "floor" for how low you can take carbs. Buuuut...

  • Your body’s preferred energy source is glucose. Glucose comes primarily from carbohydrates. When you stop eating carbs, your body depletes its glycogen (the stored form of glucose) stores fairly quickly.
    • When we don’t have enough carbs coming in to fuel our body with glucose, the body eventually starts breaking down fats for energy instead. These fatty acids are converted to ketones by the liver. Ketones replace glucose as the body and brain’s primary fuel source. With ketones as the primary fuel source, some things change. A big one - your ability to exercise intensely decreases. This makes building a lean, strong physique MUCH harder.
  • Eating carbs also prompts insulin release. Insulin (unfairly demonized) is a key hormone to building lean muscle. Increased insulin release, plus the ability to exercise more intensely means it make more sense for those with goals of building a lean, strong body to eat higher carb (generally).

Alcohol

Your body essentially views alcohol as a poison. Priority #1 for your body is getting alcohol out of your system ASAP.

To be more efficient at this, the body shuts down other processes to clear the system faster. Stuff like - oxidation of fat, hormone production, muscle tissue repair, etc.

Basically, when you drink, your results (losing body fat, building lean muscle) stop until your body clears the alcohol.

That said, fat loss still comes down to creating a calorie deficit.

Drinking only causes you to gain body fat if it's kicking you out of a calorie deficit (unless you're taking it to the extreme/alcoholism levels).

So yes, you can absolutely enjoy some drinks while improving your body composition.

Guidelines For Drinking:

Nights that end in a calorie overload of drunk food are usually brought on by drinking with an empty stomach. If you’re starving and drinking, you’re more likely to drunk eat.

You’re also gonna get way more drunk on an empty stomach. Leading to less willpower, and eventually, quesadillas.

→ Plan ahead - You need to save up some calories for the night. For big events, saving up calories the few days previous will give you some extra wiggle room.

→ Fast + eat mostly protein during the day - You know you're likely to consume a lot of calories when you go out. Offset this a bit by fasting until 1pm-ish.⠀You also know adequate protein is super important to your body composition goals. So hit your protein goal before you go out.

→ Eat a meal of protein + high fiber carbs right before you go out -The enemy here isn't alcohol itself. It’s drunk you who wants to eat an absurd amount of Taco Bell at 2am. The best strategy to prevent this (outside of not getting drunk) is to drink on a full stomach. Protein is the macro that keeps you full, longest. Pair that with some soluble fiber-dense carbs (try: sweet potatoes, apples, oats, beans) to slow digestion, and you'll be feeling full for quite some time. The carbs will also "soak up the alcohol", making your hangover less terrible.

→ Low-calorie drinks - You can easily drink thousands of calories without realizing it.⠀The easiest thing to do- get a liquor with diet soda. Crown and diet is my personal favorite. By switching to diet soda, you're saving yourself ~100 calories per drink.⠀If you're a big beer drinker, it's a bit harder. You have to drink a lot more beer (and calories) to get the same effect as liquor.

Setting Your Macros

Step 1: Setting Calories

The first step in getting you sustainably lean and strong is setting the proper macros.

Regardless of if you want to...

  • Get leaner
  • Maintain your current body composition
  • Build a stronger body while staying lean

...you have to have your macros set up properly to achieve the results you want - so don’t skip this step.

Regardless of your goal, you need to know your maintenance calorie intake (the intake you maintain your current body composition at).

You have a few options here:

OPTION 1: Use this calculator.

OPTION 2: Multiply your bodyweight by 13-17. (13 would be a sedentary office worker, 17 would be an extremely active construction worker.)

OPTION 3: Start tracking everything you eat in MyFitnessPal (don't change your diet from the norm), and take the average of the total calories you eat for 4-6 days.

Regardless of which method you used, you should now have a number that is roughly you maintenance calorie intake. 

Now, you need to establish your starting calorie goal, depending on your body composition goal.

Setting Calories For Fat Loss

→ Multiply maintenance intake X .85 for less aggressive fat loss - Slower progress, but less hunger, more social life, generally feeling better.

-OR-

→ Multiply maintenance intake X .8 for more aggressive fat loss - Quicker progress, but more hunger, less social life, and overall feeling like a bit rough.

Generally, creating a calorie deficit of ~3,500 calories will lead to ~1lb fat loss. So, eating 500 calories below your maintenance calorie intake every day for 7 days, should lead to about a pound of fat loss. (500 x 7 = 3,500)

Keep in mind, this is just a baseline. You will likely have to adjust this in the near future. Your fat loss WON'T happen linearly on this intake.

Example

Gerald, a 200 lb man, has a maintenance intake of 2,800 calories per day.

To determine starting cutting calories, multiplies his maintenance intake by .85

2,800 X .85 = 2,380

→ Gerald's fat loss intake is 2,380 calories per day.

Setting Calories For Lean Muscle Gain

→ Multiply maintenance intake X 1.1-1.15 to build muscle while staying lean.

A calorie surplus is more is optimal for building lean muscle - your body has excess calories to shuttle towards building more muscle.

That said, the biggest bulking mistake is thinking...

More food = more gainz.

This isn't how it works, unfortunately. You hit a point of diminishing returns rather quickly when it comes to increasing calorie intake for muscle building purposes.

Basically, as you get fatter (~15% body fat for men, or ~25% for women), a much greater portion of the calories you take in are stored as fat, and fewer are shuttled to muscle-building.

That said, determining the ideal surplus for building muscle without getting fat is tricky, and depends A LOT on you.

Remember N.E.A.T? The calories you burn doing random stuff outside of the gym - pacing, fidgeting, etc.? When eating in a surplus, some people naturally increase movement to match. Without thinking about it, they start moving more throughout their day when fed more calories. (This is why some people "just can't gain weight".)

Now, how overfeeding affects you varies a ton by the individual, but the point is - some people need to eat a lot more when attempting to bulk to actually create a surplus. (More on how to know when to adjust later.)

Example

Gerald, a 200 lb man, has a maintenance intake of 2,800 calories per day.

To determine lean gaining calories, he multiplies maintenance intake by 1.1

2,800 X 1.1 = 3,080

→  Gerald's lean gaining intake is 3,080 calories per day.

Step 2: Setting Protein Intake

→ Set protein intake between .8 - 1.2g per lb of body weight (multiply body weight x.8-1.2) - Regardless if your goal is fat loss or muscle gain, protein intake should always stay in this range.

When you're losing fat, adequate protein increases the odds that you'll build (or at least maintain) muscle. Plus, it keeps you full, and has the highest TEF of all the macros. Here, it makes sense to aim for the 1-1.2g/lb range.

When you’re in a gaining phase, you don’t need quite as much protein. You're taking in an excess of energy, so your body won't turn to muscle protein as a fuel source. Here, it makes sense to aim for the .8-1g/lb range.

 Fat Loss & Muscle Gain Example

200 lb Gerald needs 200 grams of protein.

200 X 1 = 200.

→ 800 of Gerald's 2,380 kcal/day will come from protein.

(Remember, protein contains 4 calories per gram.)

200 X 4 = 800 calories

Step 3: Setting Fat Intake

Setting Fat Intake For Fat Loss

→  Set fat at .3-.4 grams/lb of body weight - For optimal hormonal function and health, most of us need at least .3g fat/lb of body weight. Dipping below this point can causes hormonal issues, and potential fatty acid deficiencies. As a broad generalization, most men feel ok on the lower end of this range. Most women do better on the higher end.

Now, fat isn't as satiating as lean protein or fibrous carbs. It's also the most calorie-dense macro, coming in at 9 calories per gram.

Realize that none of this is to demonize fat  - it's an essential nutrient after all. You'll feel awful if you don't eat it.

But from my years of experience as a nutrition coach, eating lots of high-fat foods simply makes it a lot easier for clients to rack up the calories without ever feeling full. This is the reasoning behind relatively lower fat recommendations.

Fat Loss Example

Back to Gerald, weighing in at 200 lbs.

200 x .3 = 60

→ Gerald will be eating 60 grams of fat daily. To determine how many calories this is, multiply by 9. (Remember, fat contains 9 calories per gram.)

60 x 9 = 540

Gerald will be eating 540 calories from fat daily.

Setting Fat Intake For Muscle Gain

→  Set fat at .3-.4+ grams/lb of body weight - Nothing really changes here. You're free to go higher than this on fats (in exchange for lower carbs) if you'd like. That said, if your goal is muscle gain, most will do better with a higher percentage of carbs.

Step 4: Setting Carb Intake

→ FOR FAT LOSS OR MUSCLE GAIN: Set as high as possible while maintaining the necessary protein and fat macros - Counter to popular belief, carbs should not be avoided. Carbs from whole-food sources will help keep you full, improve your performance in the gym, give you more energy, and speed up your recovery from training. Plus, carbs are your body’s preferred fuel source. To build the leanest, strongest version of yourself, proper fuel is a must.

Fat Loss Example

Gerald has a goal intake of 2,380 calories per day.

Subtract the 800 kcal coming from protein.

2,380 - 800 = 1,580 calories

Subtract the 540 calories coming from fat.

1,580 - 540 = 1,040 calories

Gerald has 1,040 calories remaining to fill with carbs.

To determine how many grams of carbs to eat, divide by 4. (Remember, carbs contain 4 kcal per gram.)

1,040 / 4 = 260

→ Gerald will be eating 260 grams of carbs per day.

And you now have a set of "macros" - protein, carb, and fat goals. Let's break down what to do with them, and how to tweak them as your body changes.

How To Track Your Food Accurately (And Why It Matters)

Your nutrition is the single most important factor in creating the lean, healthy body you want.

If your body isn't changing, we know an adjustment to your intake is needed - but we have to have a consistent macro baseline to adjust from. If your macros are all over the place, it's impossible to know how many calories we need to decrease your intake by to resume progress. If you're consistently several hundred calories off-target, we don’t have an accurate baseline to adjust from. This applies to under-eating calories, as well as overeating.

This is why it’s crucial to be at or near your macro goal daily. No diet adjustment will make up for a lack of compliance.

I typically tell clients to aim to be within 10g of their protein and carb goal, and 5g of their fat goal daily - or 50 calories (+ or -) of their total goal.

On a similar note, ensuring that you're tracking food in your food log accurately is also very important.

When a nutrition client's progress stalls, the first thing we do is ensure they're tracking accurately. This usually results in weight loss resuming.

Tracking accurately does require measuring most of your foods - at least to for a few weeks to ensure you have a good grasp on portion sizes. I know it’s a pain in the ass... but not as much as kinda tracking for years and never getting results, right?

Tools to help track accurately:

  • A food scale
  • A set of measuring cups
  • A set teaspoons and tablespoons

Using measuring cups and spoons is always a good idea. The food scale is a good idea for everyone for at least a few weeks - you'll learn tons about proper portion-sizes. If you're looking to get or stay very lean, the food scale will help tremendously.

The Most Common "Tracking Mistakes":

  • Cooking oils: Even if you don’t apply it directly to your food, but rather line the pan with it, it still gets absorbed. This can add up to hundreds of un-tracked calories.
  • Dressings, toppings, and condiments: The two biggest culprits here are salad dressings and condiments like BBQ sauce. Both are sneaky high in calories, and all too easy to forget to track.
  • Estimating instead of measuring: As you've learned, we're typically pretty terrible at estimating our food intake accurately.

Guidelines:

  • Don’t track using metrics like: small/medium/large. One medium banana. One large avocado. ½ bowl of rice. 1 steak. This leaves a lot of room for error.
  • Weight measurements (in grams) are by far the most accurate: Weigh as much as possible with a food scale. Measure the rest with cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons.
  • Weigh your meats raw (but thawed) and track them as such.

How To Measure Progress And Make Adjustments

To be sure you're progressing, you need to measure how your body is changing. This gives you grounds to make adjustments.

Too many people get stuck in "diet purgatory" - they always feel like they're dieting (not a good feeling), but aren't tracking progress and making needed adjustments.

Here's what we track to be SURE that you're making progress when you start online coaching:

→ Body Weight - Although not the end-all-be-all of fat loss, the reality is, most people should lose weight in a fat loss phase.

For most, the ideal speed of weight loss when trying to get leaner is .5-1% of body weight per week.

Go much slower than this - You won't see see much progress on a weekly basis. Your fat loss phase will drag on. You'll get sick of dieting.

Go much faster than this - You'll feel constant fatigue, mental performance will suffer, and you'll create a bit higher risk of muscle loss.

The fatigue of extremely low calories also means you'll want to move less. If you're not careful, this can significantly decrease energy expenditure (calories out), and be counterproductive for fat loss.

All that said, scale weight can fluctuate pretty wildly, due to things like water retention from higher sodium intake, stress, and digestive issues. Don't get caught up in weekly weight changes. Look at the trend over multiple weeks/the month.

You're still aiming to lose .5-1% of body weight weekly, but don't worry if this doesn't show up on the scale every week.

Most SHOULD see a monthly trend of 2-4% of total body weight lost.

→ Body Measurements - Many times, an online client's body will be shrinking, but the number on the scale won't budge.

In this case, body measurements often give a more accurate picture of how your body is changing than your weight.

→ Progress Pictures -The day-to-day changes in your body are so miniscule, you WON'T notice them. This is why progress pictures are so important - they allow you to look at the bigger picture of your fat loss over the course of months - instead of just yesterday vs. today.

→ Biofeedback - this is another part of online coaching that is always very individualized to your goals & needs. But generally we’re tracking things like stress, motivation, mood, cravings, etc.

Tracking biofeedback allows us to take into account ANYTHING that could be impacting your results - not just nutrition and training. This is an essential part of why my online clients get such great results - we take your whole life into account.

Tracking Body Stats

→ Weigh yourself at least three times per week. First thing in the morning, before eating or drinking, and after using the bathroom.

→ Take the following measurement once per week, at the same time you weigh in. For accuracy, measure in centimeters with a soft tape measure.

Chest - Take a circumference measurement, with the tape at the level of the nipples.

Navel -Take a circumference measurement of your torso with the tape 2 cm above the navel, at the navel, 2 cm below the navel.

Hips - Take a circumference measurement around the broadest part of the hips.

Thigh - Take a circumference measurement around the broadest part of the right thigh.

Right Arm - The broadest part of your right arm, both flexed and relaxed.

→ Take progress pictures front/side/back in a lighting and time of day you can replicate easily. Retake with similar lighting/time of day monthly.

When To Adjust For Fat Loss

Before making any dietary adjustments, you first need to determine if your progress has actually stalled.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you still losing weight? Again, not the end-all-be-all, but typically the first thing you'll notice. Be sure to look at weekly/monthly averages, NOT day-to-day fluctuations.
  • Are your body measurements changing?
  • Are you measuring EVERYTHING you consume accurately?
  • Are you hitting your daily movement goal?
  • Are you sleeping enough?
  • Have weight and body measurements been stalled for 2+ weeks?

If you can tick all these boxes, and body measurements + weight aren't improving, it's likely you need an adjustment.

As you know, you can create a larger deficit by manipulating calories in, calories out, OR both. Often with online clients, the easiest to adhere to is slightly increasing movement and decreasing calories. That said, this article is about calories in.

Decreasing Calories In

When weight loss stalls, the first step is usually to decrease calories by 5-10%.

Decreasing intake by 5-10% is typically enough to get online clients back to losing .5-1% of bodyweight per week (again, look at monthly weight loss, not weekly).

We already talked about why dropping calories too low can be less than optimal, both psychologically and physically - so when reducing calories, we (typically) take the approach of doing as much as necessary, not as much as possible.

Which macros should I reduce?

Again, the most important factors for your body composition are:

1. Overall calorie intake

2. Protein intake

So obviously, those are your priorities when making adjustments. Calories need to drop, and protein needs to stay around the 1g/lb body weight mark.

That leaves you fats and carbs to pull calories from.

→ When reducing fat calories - there will likely be a hard "floor". You'll notice after dropping below a certain intake, you feel much worse. Anectdotally, this floor is higher for women than men. Be mindful of keeping fats above 20% of daily calories.

→ When reducing carb calories - Cutting carbs too low will make diet adherence harder for most. We all love carbs. It'll also likely leave you feeling more lethargic in the gym. That said - carbs are nonessential. You can maintain good health without carbs - so often by necessity - carbs take the biggest hit when reducing calories.

Basically, always keep your protein higher. Carbs and/or fats are going to have to be decreased to reduce calories in.

Again, speaking from anecdote - most online clients prefer to pull from carbs and fats evenly as much as possible.

Fat Loss Example:

Let’s check in with hypothetical client, Gerald. After losing 10 lbs, Gerald's progress has stalled.

Gerald’s stats:

Weight: 190 lbs

Calories: 2378

200 grams protein | 800 calories

66 grams fat | 595 calories

246 grams carbs | 984 calories

Gerald has plateaued, and wants to drop calories by 10%.

2378 X .1 = 237 calories

For now, we'll keep Gerald's protein as is (200g).

Gerald prefers carbs. That said, we don't want to take his carbs too much lower.

So, we’ll pull the 237 calories relatively evenly from carbs and fats.

-13 grams fat or 117 calories (13 x 9)

-30 grams carbs or 120 calories (30 x 4)

For a total deduction of 237 calories.

Gerald’s new intake:

Calories: 2,141

200 grams protein | 800 calories

53 grams fat | 477 calories

216 grams carbs | 864 calories

Typically, clients will diet for 8-12 weeks, making adjustments as needed. From there, you'll take a 1-4 week maintenance phase, before repeating the process as needed. For more about the process of periodizing your nutrition, check out THIS BLOG.

What To Adjust For Lean Muscle Gain

Unless you're new to training and eating properly (or have been off the wagon for a bit), it’s unlikely that you’re recomping (losing fat and building muscle simultaneously). This means that as you build lean muscle, the number on the scale should be going up.

If you're on a quest for building lean muscle and minimizing body fat, check out The Lean Gains Blueprint.

Pay attention to the scale, as this is what you'll be making a lot of your nutrition adjustments from. (Take your weight AT LEAST 3x/week, use the average to determine weekly change.)

Aim to gain .25-.5% of body weight per week.

You should also be tracking:

→ Body measurements - Body measurements give you an idea of what muscle groups are growing, as well as how much your waist is growing. Again, take these once per week.

→ Weight Lifted - If you're making gains, it'll translate over to you being able to do either a) more weight b) more reps with the same weight. Tracking your weight also helps you stay extremely mindful of consistently implementing progressive overload (key to making progress in the gym).

How To Adjust

→ If you've been gaining too quickly - decrease calories by 5%. Repeat as needed until weight gain falls in the recommended range.

Example:

Gerald has been getting a little bit too big, and realizes he need to dial his intake back.

Total Calories: 3,086

Protein: 160 g | 640 calories

Fat: 86 g | 774 calories

Carbs: 418 g | 1,672 calories

First, determine decreased intake.

3,086 x.05 = 154

Gerald will be decreasing his intake by ~150 calories.

Since fats are the least necessary in this situation, he'll pull the 150 calories from there.

150/9 = 17 (Well, 16.67)

Gerald will be pulling 17 grams of fat from his daily total.

→ If you haven't been seeing increases - increase calories by 5%. Repeat as needed until weight gain, measurements, or strength in the gym show progress. Increases in carbs will have the most carryover to training performance.

Example:

Gerald, on a quest to get jacked, has hit a plateau.

Total Calories: 3,086

Protein: 160 g | 640 kcal

Fat: 86 g | 774 kcal

Carbs: 418 g | 1,672 kcal

First, determine increased intake.

3,086 x.05 = 154

Gerald will be increasing his intake by ~150 calories.

Since carbs are most conducive to growth here, that's what he'll add.

150/4 = 38 (Well, 37.5)

Gerald will be adding 38 grams of carbs to his daily total.

And that's how you set up you macros for any goal.

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About The Author

Jeremiah Bair is a certified nutrition coach, strength coach, and owner of the online coaching business Bairfit. Connect with him on Instagram.

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