How to Calculate Your Macros for Fat Loss
Want to know EXACTLY what you should be eating for fat loss?
Well, it doesn’t have to be all boring foods and eating exactly the same things every day.
You can eat bread and lose fat.
You can eat rice and lose fat.
This is the best one, you can EVEN eat chocolate and ICE CREAM and lose fat.
I know, because I’ve done it, many times. I’ve lost amounts such as 35 pounds, while still eating some of those foods, revealing my abs and getting shredded.
The key is to have strict limits on how much you eat and how often. No one is saying you should make this the core of your diet. No one is saying you should eat like this every day. Flexible dieting is about saving up some space in your diet so you can have either occasional splurges, or eat a tiny amount each day. That second option is more torture than fun, so it’s better to eat well 90% of the time, and juggle your macros to allow the occasional treat.
Here’s how it works:
(Side note – want to know how to calculate macros for building muscle? This post will tell you)
The principles of fat loss
- You need to take in fewer calories than you expend. This is absolutely vital and unless you ensure you’re in a calorie deficit there will be absolutely no chance of fat loss. Read more about this here if you don’t think/didn’t know this was true. Nothing else in this post will make sense unless you’re on board with this.
- You need sufficient protein (it helps promote muscle retention when you’re losing weight – ensuring the weight lost is fat and not muscle. It is also filling, which helps when you’re eating fewer calories)
- You must be strength training if you want to signal to your body that it shouldn’t break down your muscle for energy. Muscle requires more calories to sustain than fat, so if your body thinks you are starving, it will look to get rid of that “calorically expensive” muscle tissue first – unless you keep lifting heavy!
How do you know how many calories to eat for fat loss?
The quick way to find the calories you’ll lose fat on is to take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by one of these numbers:
11 – choose this number if you’re doing none, or very little physical activity, and you have a sedentary job.
12 – You have an active job, on your feet all day (e.g. you work in construction), but you do not train currently OR you have a sedentary job and train hard 2-3 times per week.
13 – You have a sedentary job but you train hard with weights 4 – 6 times per week. OR you have an active job and train hard 2-3 times per week.
14 – Choose this number if you’re training hard with weights 4 to 6 times per week, and you have an active job where you’re on your feet most of the day.
There are some cases where people may need to multiply by a higher number than 14, but this is uncommon.
Choose the multiplier that describes you best, and multiply it by your body weight in pounds.
Example – 180 pound man, sedentary job training 3 times a week with weights:
180 * 12 = 2,160 calories per day for fat loss.
Alternative way to calculate calories: Use an online calculator. Be aware that using the method above OR an online calculator is NOT going to give you an exact number that is 100% accurate. It’s giving you an estimation. A ballpark. This isn’t scientific enough to get anywhere near to 100% accuracy. We have to take these estimations and then see what happens when we use them.
Body composition and health
Once you have the right number of calories for fat loss, you could just eat that every day and lose weight.
However, we care about body composition. Therefore, macronutrients are important. You don’t want to just lose weight, you want to lose fat and not muscle.
We also care about health. Eating in a calorie deficit but only eating microwave meals or fast food will still see you lose weight, but you’ll be lacking in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
You can even eat the required numbers of each macro and still be deficient in vitamins and minerals if you don’t eat a balanced and varied diet that emphasises unprocessed food.
Having nutrient deficiencies will lead to health problems as well as crappy workouts. So while micronutrients don’t directly affect body composition, they affect health, energy and a myriad of other things which will affect how well you are able to influence your body composition.
Verdict: Limit your junk and fast food to less than 20% of your intake. Hit calories and macros, and eat at least 80% of your calories from a variety of whole, unprocessed foods and you’ll be fine.
Want a free fat loss guide? I’ve got a 20 page ebook for you here! You can download it completely free!
How to work out your macronutrient split for fat loss
Now that we know how many calories to eat, we need to work out how much protein to eat.
Protein is used by the body to build and repair tissues, and to make enzymes and hormones,
Protein in grams, should be the same as your bodyweight in pounds. Easy.
For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you’ll eat 180 grams of protein.
The reason this is on the higher side when you’re trying to lose fat is it helps you to keep muscle and helps keep you feeling full when you’re more likely to be hungry on lower calories.
Important Note: Depending on how overweight you are, the 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight recommendation may not be necessary or realistic.
If you weigh 320 pounds, you shouldn’t eat 320 grams of protein. That’s overkill.
The actual recommendation for protein is 0.8g per pound of LEAN body weight. That means all of your NON-fat mass. For most people who are in the 15-25% bodyfat category, 1 gram of protein per pound of total body weight will get them in the right ballpark for 0.8g per pound of lean mass.
The most accurate weight to do it is to therefore find out what your lean body mass is and eat 0.8g per pound of that number. You can estimate your bodyfat percentage by looking at pictures on google for “bodyfat percentage” and comparing to yourself.
Want an easy way round this? Take your ideal weight – the dream scenario – and eat 1g per pound of THAT weight.
How Much Fat to Eat for Fat Loss
No, eating fat doesn’t burn fat. As we’ve stated, fat loss comes from a calorie deficit.
Fat in your diet is really important for helping you to absorb micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and for hormone production and regulation.
How much fat you eat is partly up to personal preference.
Fat has 9 calories per gram (compared to 4 kcals/gram for protein and carbs). As it’s higher in calories, the amount of it you can fit in will be lower.
The minimum you should have is 0.3g per pound of your bodyweight. There isn’t strictly a maximum (as long as you’re still controlling calories), but my upper limit is 0.6g per pound of bodyweight. You can go higher, but I don’t recommend it as it will result in carbs being too low (and in my opinion we should all be eating carbs).
Take between 0.4 and 0.6 and multiply by your bodyweight in pounds to get the grams of fat you should eat each day.
Choose a lower number if you like carbs and can sacrifice fattier meats, nuts, avocados, cheeses etc.
Choose a higher number if you’re the other way round.
Example: 180 * 0.5 = 90 grams of fat.
How Many Carbs to Eat for Fat Loss
I don’t recommend eliminating carbs. I definitely don’t subscribe to the view that they’re bad. The problem is, too many people eat way too many of them in a form that’s easy to overconsume, which leads to them eating too many CALORIES. That’s why they don’t lose fat.
Many people do fine and even report superior results eating no or very little carbs, but this is not a requirement. You can absolutely lose fat eating carbs. I eat about 20-30% of my total calories from carbs.
We work out how many carbs you should eat a little differently.
As mentioned, protein has 4 calories per gram, and fat has 9 calories per gram.
You now need to work out how many calories you’ve allocated yourself from fat and protein, and then figure out what is left to come from carbs.
- Take your protein grams and multiply by 4. E.g. 180 * 4 = 720 kcals from protein.
- Take your fat grams and multiply by 9. E.g. 90 * 9 = 810
- Add these together (720 + 810 = 1,530)
- Take the daily calories you figured out in step 1 that you would need to eat to lose fat. Our example was 2,160 calories.
- Now subtract your protein and fat calories from the total calories.
In our example that leaves us with 630 calories to come from carbs.
Carbs have 4 calories per gram, so we divide this number by 4 to find how many grams of carbs we should eat.
That’s 157.5 grams from carbs.
Tip: Don’t worry about silly numbers
The first thing I usually do is round each macro to the nearest 5 grams. It’s silly to try and be ultra specific with this, seeing as all the nutritional information in food comes with a margin for error, you’ll have your own margin for error, and everything is a ballpark and slightly individual.
In the above example, 180g of protein and 90g of fat are nice round numbers, so I’d keep those. I’d round the 157.5 grams of carbs down to 155 for simplicity.
You don’t have to be spot on every day with these numbers. You can be within 10% and that is fine. Don’t stress about it and worry about finding a food with 2 grams of fat and 14 grams of carbs to help you hit your numbers.
Hopefully that was useful!
All that’s left is to work out your own, and start trying to eat this way! Buy some digital scales and let me know how you get on.