So, you want to lose body fat and get shredded? Me too. I think pretty much anyone does, because having low body fat is a very attractive physical quality. On top of that, it’s also a sign of health and vitality.
Anyone who says they don’t care to be more attractive, personally, I think is lying.
We all want to look good, and we all want to feel good. Unless you’re at an unhealthy low level of body fat, losing body fat can and will help you do that.
Whether you want to step on stage at a bodybuilding show, or you want to look good at the beach, the process will be generally the same. To lose body fat, you have to burn more calories than you consume. That’s it.
The hard part is, how do you figure out the right macros for YOU to pull that off? That’s what I’m going to help you with today.
So stick around, and take some notes. There will be some math involved, and a bit of science to explain it all.
But don’t worry, I’m going to keep things simple and easy to understand. First, let me answer the question that may be on your mind…
What Are Macros?
The word "macros" gets thrown around a lot in our industry, but do you know what it stands for and what it means?
“Macros” is short for macronutrients. If you don’t know what macronutrients are, let me explain.
Macros are the type of nutrients we need in larger amounts every day. They are also the nutrients that provide your body with energy in the form of calories.
These macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Alcohol also contains calories, but we don’t need alcohol at all to survive, so I don’t consider it to be a macro.
Protein is an extremely important macro that you CAN’T live without. Protein is made from amino acids, and different proteins contain different amino acid profiles (concentrations of certain amino acids).
Almost everything in your body is made of various proteins, including many hormones. Besides the water content, your muscle tissue is also made from protein.
This is one of the main reasons I recommend that you focus on your protein intake in addition to your calorie intake. Eating more protein will help you maintain more muscle while losing body fat.
Believe it or not, this can also help you with fat loss. More on that in a bit.
Carbs are your body’s preferred source of fuel when it’s available. This is especially true during exercise. Out of all 3 macros, your body can make energy with carbs much faster than it can with protein or fats.
When you’re on a cutting diet, many people think you need to cut out carbs. This is not true for everyone despite it being a mainstream opinion.
Some people do better on lower carbs, but others do better with more in their diet.
For me personally, I see much better fat loss results when I keep my carb intake higher. For those who have problems with insulin resistance, they should keep their carb intake lower.
This is because their body has a harder time processing and storing carbohydrates. If you aren’t sure if you have this issue, talk to your physician and they can help you figure that out!
Fats are essential, and you can’t live without them. Your body doesn’t just use fat for energy and storage.
Sixty percent of your brain is made of fat tissue (1). There are even fats in your cell membranes. Your body also uses fats to make hormones, like testosterone and estrogen.
There was actually a very popular fad diet in the 90’s to cut fats as low as possible in order to lose weight. No wonder it was a fad! While it’s okay to eat lower amounts of fat, you don’t want to go too low for too long or you can run into some health issues.
What Are Calories?
Now that we’ve covered what macros are, another question might pop into your head … what is a calorie? Plus, how do calories relate to your macros?
Well, a calorie is nothing more than a unit of energy. So, being in a calorie deficit means you’re burning more energy than you’re consuming.
That energy difference is how you lose body fat. If you burn more energy than you eat, that extra energy has to come from somewhere. That “somewhere” just happens to be stored energy on your body in the form of fat or muscle.
All of the macros I just talked about contain calories in every gram. That’s how the food you eat gives you energy. However, this is also how it adds body fat if you eat too much.
So, how many calories are in each macro?
• 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories.
• 1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories.
• 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.
So, not every macro is created equal. The calories you consume from fat can add up really quickly if you overdo it.
Imagine looking at a nutrition label and seeing 30 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbs, and 30 grams of fat.
You’re getting a combined total of 240 calories from protein and carbs, but you’re getting 270 calories from fat alone! So, there are more calories in 30 grams of fat than in 60 combined grams of protein and carbs.
Keep that in mind when you look at nutrition labels.
Cutting Calories vs. Counting Macros
At the end of the day, we are talking about the same thing, but your focus may be different.
If you are just counting calories, then you are essentially saying that the source of those calories doesn’t matter. If we are talking about pure weight loss, you’d be mostly correct.
If your body is given fewer calories than you burn, theoretically, you will lose weight over time. There’s no telling how much of the weight you’d lose is coming from body fat and how much is coming from lean muscle though.
Yes, you may also lose muscle when on a cutting diet, which isn't ideal. You don’t have to just accept that reality though. In fact, there are ways to minimize the amount of muscle you lose and maximize the amount of fat lost throughout the process.
Only focusing on calories, though, is not the way to accomplish this.
That’s why counting your macros is truly superior. You are still focusing on eating a certain amount of calories, but taking it one step further.
You do this by making sure you eat enough protein to help maintain or even build muscle. That, and balancing your carbs and fats in a way that suits your goals and lifestyle best is essential.
That’s how you can make sure you’re losing body fat AND minimizing muscle loss at the same time.
So, to sum this up, the food sources you choose are just as important as the total number of calories. At least, if you care about the quality of your results.
How to Calculate Your Macros For Cutting Body Fat
When it comes to your cutting diet, you must have your macros set up properly. Otherwise, there is no reason to expect results.
But, how do you figure out the amount of calories you need? You probably don’t have the expensive equipment available to actually measure everything.
That’s what I’m going to teach you.
To cut body fat while maintaining, or even building muscle, I recommend that your macros follow these 2 rules:
Your calories must be set lower than the amount you burn daily.
Your protein must be set to at least 1 gram per pound of your goal body weight.
Now, this is where most people get confused. How do you know how many calories you’re burning every day?
Should you just look at your smartwatch and see what it says? Definitely not.
You’d be surprised at how inaccurate those smartwatches are when it comes to measuring calories burned. It can totally throw you off course.
According to a study done by the Stanford School of Medicine, fitness trackers accurately measure heart rate, but not energy expenditure (2). The most accurate fitness tracker was off by 27%, and the least accurate one was off by 93% (2).
So, if you can’t rely on a smartwatch or fitness tracker to determine your energy needs, what can you do? Allow me to show you!
How to Calculate Your Maintenance Calories
You know, you can break down every calorie you burn into 3 main categories:
Resting Metabolic Rate: This is the amount of calories your body burns every day at rest. These are the calories it takes to keep you alive and functioning. This actually covers 60-75% of the calories you burn daily (3).
Daily Activity: This covers any sort of daily movement. This could be an intentional workout, or even walking from the bathroom to the kitchen. The total amount will vary depending on how active you are on a daily basis.
Thermic Effect of Food: This covers all of the calories your body burns by simply digesting your food. This also varies depending on how much you eat and what you eat. Protein, for instance, has a higher thermic effect than carbs and fats do.
So, as you can probably tell ... the types of food you eat plays a role too.
But still, even knowing those things … how do you measure any of it? Without very expensive equipment, we really can’t take a measurement.
That doesn’t mean we have nowhere to go though. There are calculations you could use to figure out your resting metabolic rate. That will give you a starting point, and a place to work from.
You could use a complicated equation, like the Harris and Benedict equation, but I’ll show you an easier way. Better yet, I’ll show you both.
The Harris and Benedict equation for men is this: 66.4730 + (13.7516 x weight in kg) + (5.0033 x height in cm) – (6.7550 x age in years)
So, for me, I’m 195 lbs (88.6363 kg) and 5’ 10.5" tall (179.07 cm). This equation gives me 1985.41 calories per day.
While you can do that equation, you could also use a much more simple formula. I would just start by multiplying your body weight in pounds by 10. That would give me 1950 calories.
Sure, my equation is off by 35 calories, but I got pretty close without doing much thinking at all. You just add a zero!
Now that you know an estimate of your RMR, what does this mean? That’s your floor as far as calories go. Remember, that’s what it takes to keep you alive and functioning.
Going below that number will make your body feel like it’s being starved a little too much. When that happens, your body starts to fight you on the progress.
Now, the key is to find your maintenance level. A quick calculation for this is multiplying your body weight in pounds by 14-16.
• Multiply by 14 if you’re sedentary and don’t get over 10,000 steps per day. Multiply by 16 if you’re more active and regularly get around 15,000-20,000 steps per day.
• Multiply by 15 if you’re somewhere in between.
So, if I was between those two and multiplied 195 by 15, I would get 2925 calories. That would be an estimate of the calories it takes to keep my weight where it is.
If I want to cut, I need to go below 2925 calories, but make sure I’m still above 1950 calories.
I would keep it conservative and not drop your calories too low to start out. That way, it gives you room to drop them in the future when you plateau. We all inevitably plateau at some point.
A healthy rate of weight loss is roughly 1-2 pounds per week. 1 pound of fat is around 3500 calories. Divide that by 7 days, and that’s about 500-1000 calories less per day than you should eat.
So, I would take 500 calories from your maintenance level and start there.
So for me, I’d be starting at 2425 calories. Did you follow?
It’s all about finding the right balance; Eating less than you burn, but not so little that your body slows your metabolism a bunch.
Now onto the next question: What should your macros be?
How to Calculate Your Macros
Okay, so we’ve already figured out the amount of calories you should start at. How do we figure out the macro breakdown out of that?
Well, we’ve already covered the calorie content in each macro.
• 4 calories per gram of protein
• 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates
• 9 calories per gram of fat
From here, you ALWAYS want to start with protein!
Studies show when on a cutting diet, you lose significantly more muscle eating the RDA of .8 grams of protein per kg bodyweight (4). You lose significantly less muscle by eating 2.2 grams of protein per kg bodyweight (4).
2.2kg is also equal to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. I’d say that’s a good place to start.
If you want to start lower, I recommend not dropping it below 1 gram per pound of your goal body weight as a rule of thumb.
So, if I want to lose 10 pounds and go down to 185 pounds, I set my protein at 185 grams of protein daily. So (185 grams x 4 calories per gram) = 740 calories from protein.
Now that we have protein set, we can worry about carbs and fats! I have to first subtract the protein calories from my overall calorie goal.
That would be (2425 calories - 740 calories) = 1685 calories from carbs & fats.
The rest is pretty easy, but you have to ask yourself something. “Am I more likely to stick with a diet higher in fats, or higher in carbs?”
It doesn’t matter that much where you set these at. As long as your fats aren’t too low. From there, you can customize the amount to your liking.
For females, I don’t recommend setting your fats lower than 40 grams daily. For men, 50 grams daily.
So, let’s say I want to keep my fats moderately high at 100 grams per day. That means (100 grams x 9 calories per gram) = 900 calories from fat.
Now, to find your carbs you split the difference.
That’s 740 calories from protein + 900 calories from fat = 1640 calories. So (2425 total calories - 1640 calories) = 785 calories left for carbs.
To figure that out in grams, just take 785 calories and divide it by 4. That gives us 196.25 grams of carbs. Let’s round it down and call it 196 grams.
That leaves us with a macro breakdown of:
185 grams of protein
196 grams of carbs
100 grams of fat
Yes, it’s that simple! If you have a certain amount of carbs you want, then work backward on the fats at the end instead of the carbs.
Putting These Macros Into Practice
In order to follow your macros, a certain level of planning matters. If you don’t plan anything and just figure it out as you go, you’ll almost never end up eating the right ratios of food.
You also MUST track your meals. Otherwise, you’ll never know if you’re hitting or missing the mark!
Center every meal around your protein source. I usually take my protein intake and divide it by how many total meals I will likely eat.
So, if I can get to 4 meals in the day, I’ll divide 185 grams of protein by 4 meals. That’s 46.25 grams of protein per meal.
Every meal I ensure I hit at least that amount, and then I’ll look to add in other foods to help me hit my carbs and fats. Throw in some fruits and veggies at each meal, and you’ve got a good plan of attack!
Pre-tracking out your entire day helps a lot too. That makes a big difference in helping you hit your numbers more easily and consistently.
Other Tips For Your Cutting Macros
Planning out your daily macros sounds hard, but it’s not. It just takes a little knowledge and a little math.
I did mention that we all inevitably hit plateaus, and I wasn’t lying. Your body will slow your metabolism down over time to stop you from losing weight.
It’s a survival mechanism. So that means you won’t see results with these macros forever, and they will need to change.
That’s when having a professional to help can really come in handy!
You could pay $70-140 per visit with a dietitian to have them help you adjust it. You could do the same thing working with a personal trainer or nutrition coach, but it will still cost a pretty penny.
Fortunately, I’ve got the best solution for you, and it’s not expensive!
All you need is to download the 1st Phorm App, and we’ll help you with whatever you may need. We set you up with certified personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and even dietitians to help you directly inside the app.
Your advisor in the app won’t just help you get started with your macros … but they’ll also be happy to help you make adjustments whenever you’d like!
Not only that, but you can easily track your food, workouts, and progress all in one place!
We truly wanted to make the best all-in-one tool for you to see success long-term. That’s exactly what that app is.
Give it a shot and download it today. I promise, if you utilize the tools and follow the plan we give you, there’s no way you won’t be successful in the long run!
If you have any questions at all, please reach out. We would love to help you get started, and see the results you’ve always wanted. Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stphorm.com anytime!
(1) Chang CY, Ke DS, Chen JY. Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan. 2009 Dec;18(4):231-41. PMID: 20329590.
(2) Dusheck, Jennie. “Fitness Trackers Accurately Measure Heart Rate but Not Calories Burned.” Stanford Medicine, 24 May 2017, med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/05/fitness-trackers-accurately-measure-heart-rate-but-not-calories-burned.html.
(3) Kim DK. Accuracy of predicted resting metabolic rate and relationship between resting metabolic rate and cardiorespiratory fitness in obese men. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2014 Mar;18(1):25-30. doi: 10.5717/jenb.2014.18.1.25. Epub 2014 Feb 28. PMID: 25566436; PMCID: PMC4241941.
(4) Stokes T, Hector AJ, Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients. 2018 Feb 7;10(2):180. doi: 10.3390/nu10020180. PMID: 29414855; PMCID: PMC5852756.