Counting Macros

How to Calculate Your Macros and REE for Body Transformation

learn to calculate your macros

Understanding macros and the formula to calculate macros and your REE is highly effective for helping you reach your body transformation goals. 

If you’re new to counting macros, understanding macros is simple.

  • The word macros is short for macronutrients.
  • The three macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
  • Macros are the basis of all the calories (energy) you consume.
  • Protein contains 4 calories in each gram.
  • Carbs contain 4 calories in each gram.
  • Fat contains 9 calories in each gram.

Before you read this make sure you’ve read the article What is Flexible Dieting? to ensure you understand the philosophy of counting macros and why learning to eat in a moderate fashion is often best.

Understanding macros and how to calculate and adjust your daily macro goals is one of the most important aspects of a macro diet, so learning to do this is important to your success.

Your ability to calculate and adjust your macros accurately will largely determine whether or not you reach your physique goals and how fast you get there. 

Everybody is different (yes, you are a unique snowflake…) so calculating your macros is just the beginning. And even the most experienced macro coaches working with clients may do a few adjustments as their clients progress.

Each person’s metabolism, overall health, and lifestyle all play a vital role in how much energy we actually burn and how much of each macronutrient we should be eating.

But, starting with some solid guidelines, even if it isn’t quite right, can be a good start on your journey to dominate your goals and getting the body you want.

Beginner’s Guide to the Macro Formula and REE Calculation

REE calculation

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

When getting started with counting macros the most important thing to calculate your REE (Resting Energy Expenditure) and your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).

I’ve written more about that here, but basically, it’s the number of calories your particular body burns in a day. Eat less than this means that you lose weight and eating more than this means you gain weight. This is referred to as energy balance.

Negative energy balance = weight loss

Positive energy balance = weight gain

Note: My Macro calculator does all of the following macro and REE calculations for you

Basic Macro Formula for Calculating Your REE

The Mifflin, M. D., St Jeor formula is one of the most popular and one of the most respected macro formulas used to calculate your REE. Here how to use the formula to calculate your Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), which is the energy it takes to run your body without any movement whatsoever.

REE Calculation

For males:

10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 = REE

For females:

10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161 = REE

Tip: Remember your high school math lesson about Order of Operations: (PEMDAS from left to right) when solving the equation for yourself.

Since most people don’t lie in bed all day doing absolutely nothing, we next have to figure out movement expenditure or TDEE.

TDEE Calculation

  • Sedentary
    Just normal everyday activity like a little walking, a couple flights of stairs, eating, talking, etc. (REE X 1.2)
  • Light activity
    Any activity that burns an additional 200-400 calories for females or 250-500 calories for males more than your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.375)
  • Moderate activity
    Any activity that burns an additional 400-650 calories for females or 500-800 calories for males more than your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.55)
  • Very Active
    Any activity that burns more than about 650 calories for females or more than 800 calories for males in addition to your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.725)

A typical TDEE equation could look like this:

Let’s say you’re a 29-year-old, 183 cm, 88 kg, very active male.

Here’s your equation with results rounded to the nearest whole number:

(10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 = REE) x 1.725 = TDEE

10 x 88 + 6.25 x 183 – 5 x 29 + 5 = REE

880 + 1144 – 145 + 5 = 1884 (REE)

1884 x 1.725 = 3250 (Very Active TDEE)

Your TDEE would be around 3,250 Calories.

  • Eat more than this = weight gain.
  • Eat less than this = weight loss.
  • Eat this amount = weight maintenance.

As I mentioned, it’s sometimes not as black and white for all people, but for simplicity’s sake let’s imagine it is.

Determining Macros for Fat Loss (Weight Loss)

If you want to lose weight I recommend dropping your overall calories by no more than 20% to start with. Many people believe that they should cut 500 calories, but this isn’t a one size fits all rule. Deducting 20% is a much better universal rule to go by.

In the example, this would take the guy’s calories from 3,250 to 2,600 for weight loss.

3,250 – (3250 x .20) = Weight Loss TDEE

Determining Macros for Weight Gain/ Building Muscle

If you’re looking to gain weight then add between 5 and 20% calories to your overall intake. At 20% you’ll likely gain fat as well as muscle so starting small and working your way up is key if you want lean gains.

In the example, this would take the guy’s calories from 3,250 to 3,900 for weight gain.

3,250 + (3250 x .20) = Weight Gain TDEE

Again, if you hate math,  I do all of this for you with my Online Macro Calculator.

Basic Macro Formula Exceptions

  1. The Very Lean
    For those with very little body fat and a high proportion of lean body mass, the standard IIFYM formula isn’t best. The standard formula factors in an average body fat percentage, so those with below-average will have a lower TDEE calculated with the standard formula than would be typical. Muscle tissue burns more calories even at rest, therefore, should be accounted for. When using our macronutrient calculator, simply use the “Lean Mass” setting. This switches to McArdle, Katch Formula which is the most accurate for those with low body fat.
  2. The Obese
    Just like the very lean, the very heavy have an above-average body fat percentage and this also skews the standard formula’s results. Fat tissue isn’t active tissue and requires very little energy to maintain itself. For obese individuals, total fat weight should be considered in the equation. Here’s a more in-depth article that discusses how counting macros works for obese individuals.

With this knowledge alone you could get started towards your goal. Counting calories can be a very effective way to lose weight (here are some stories of others who’ve done this).

I’ve found losing weight and losing fat can be two different things (you can lose muscle too), hence the importance of measuring each macronutrient.

How to Determine Your Ideal Macro Ratios

Now that you understand REE calculation and your TDEe, you can determine how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming based on your body and goals.

Again, here are the calorie (energy) values for each macronutrient:

  • 1g Protein = 4 Calories
  • 1g Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
  • 1g Fat = 9 Calories

Calculate how much protein to eat daily

Protein is essential for the growth of new tissue as well as fixing broken tissue – like what happens when you work out. Protein should be your new best friend if you want to gain or maintain muscle.

Here’s how to calculate how many of your calories should be devoted to protein. 

  • When already lean and lifting heavy for bodybuilding use a measure of 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
  • Most people can use a more balanced approach and use .825 g protein per pound since most people are carrying fat tissue which skews the “1 gram per pound rule.”
  • For people with a lot of excess fat weight or people who don’t do a lot of strength training, use .65 grams per pound of body weight.

Here’s a more detailed article about daily protein amounts and how to eat more of it.

So if our individual weighs 195lbs (88 kg), and they are doing a moderate weight training program, then their protein intake will be 161 grams.

Calculate how much fat you need daily.

Next, let’s calculate your daily fat amount. Fat has been demonized as the reason most of us are, well, fat. But that’s simply not true.

Healthy Fats can be incredibly beneficial for hitting your body composition goals, but they also affect our hormones – too little fat in our diet can be very harmful.

Most research (and again, there are a lot of opinions out there) supports that 20%-30% of overall TDEE calories should come from the fat macro. Let’s use 25% and a middle-of-the-road starting point. (Some people can opt for 30% especially if you are coming from a higher fat diet like keto, Paleo, or Atkins.

To figure out 25% of Overall TDEE:
3,250 Calories x 0.25 ( = 812.5 Calories) divided by 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) = 90.27g Fat (which I’d round down to 90 g).

Calculate how many carbs (carbohydrates) you need each day.

calculate macros

If there’s one thing the Macros/Flexible Dieting community of the world agrees on it’s this: We love carbs!

Think of all your favorite foods and chances are they are high in Carbohydrates. Your body uses carbohydrates to make glucose which is the preferred fuel or energy that our bodies run off of. They’re what keeps us going.

  • Carbs don’t make you fat.
  • Carbs don’t prevent weight loss.
  • Just looking at carbs doesn’t make you gain a pound.

A low-carb diet is a method of placing yourself in a negative energy balance. Counting macros does this through a more scientific approach but without the restriction.

Fiber, which is important to track if you want to be healthy, is also a carbohydrate but only about 30-40% of it can be used by the body for energy.

We’ve now sorted protein and fats, but how many carbs do we eat? We allocate the rest of our calories (originally calculated from our TDEE) to Carbohydrates.

We started with 3,250 Calories. We allocated 644 calories (161 g) to Protein, 813 calories (90 g) to Fat and we now allocate the rest, 1793 calories, to Carbohydrates.

Since 1g of Carb equals 4 calories we divide 1793 by 4 and get 448 g Carbohydrates.

Final Macros: 161 g Protein, Fat 90 g, and 448 g Carbohydrates for this guy to maintain his current weight.

Still Confused?

Again, I have a macro calculator tool, a TDEE calculator, and many other fitness calculators to help with all the formulas and math. 

I also offer custom macros and coaching as a certified macros coach. I’ll analyze all your stats and lifestyle factors to dial in your macros as accurately as possible as provide lifetime macro calculation adjustments with some of my plans.

Convert Macro Grams Back to Calories?

If you ever need to convert your macro grams back to calories, it’s pretty simple. Remember above when we listed the calorie value for each of the 3 macros?

  • 1g Protein = 4 Calories
  • 1g Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
  • 1g Fat = 9 Calories

So you simply multiply the number of grams by the calorie value given.

  • 9 grams of protein would have a calorie value of 36. (9×4=36)
  • 9 grams of carbohydrates would have a calorie value of 36. (9×4=36)
  • 9 grams of fat would have a calorie value of 81. (9X9=81)

Macros For Beginners

Beginners can easily get started with macros by using the above macro calculations and then using the following two tools. You’ll be up and running in no time!

1. Use a macro tracking app

2. Buy a Food Scale

A lot of nutritional information is available on food packaging, however, a scale will ensure you accurately track what you eat.

Here’s how to weigh and measure your food intake with one.

And that’s it. Do the above and you will be well on your way to getting started with understanding macros and Flexible Dieting. Practice makes perfect and the same thing is true with beginners and macros. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

So get started and adjust as needed!

Accelerate Your Diet and Fitness Goals with My Macro Solution System

Step-by-step self-guided program -or- fully customized personal macros coaching. Feel exhilarated as you conquer your goals!

Macros for Fat Loss
Macros for Muscle Gain


  • Mifflin, M. D., St Jeor, S. T., Hill, L. A., Scott, B. J., Daugherty, S. A., & Koh, Y. O. (1990). A new predictive equation for resting energy expenditure in healthy individuals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 51 (2), 241-247. URL
  • Tipton, K., & Wolfe, R. R. (2001). Exercise, protein metabolism, and muscle growth.
  • Fogelholm, M., Anderssen, S., Gunnarsdottir, I., & Lahti-Koski, M. (2012). Dietary macronutrients and food consumption as determinants of long-term weight change in adult populations: a systematic literature review. Food & nutrition research, 56.
Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, is an expert macros coach, and the author of The Macro Solution. If you need personal help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see his nutrition & macros coaching options.
Last Updated: April 22, 2021


  1. Laura Emmerson

    Hi…I’m 37, female, 140lbs and 157cms tall, I want to lose around 10-14lbs with my focus on becoming more lean and less fat. I run approx 3 miles 3 times per week and I intend to do 3 HIIT type sessions (but haven’t got into the routine of this yet). Can I just check if my calculations seems right for achieving this…1577 Cals per day…C 180g P 115g F 44g??

    • Ted Kallmyer

      Hi Laura, Your macros seem inline with your exercise days but you should also calculate a rest day set of macros since on days you don’t run or do HIIT, your body requires less energy.

  2. Shanny

    How would I adjust/redistribute the macros when it comes to carb cycling( High carb days on training days and little to no carbs on rest days) ? Do I just split the added grams from the carbs to protein and fat on low carb days? Based on calculator, I would need 1810 calories per day, 207g of carbs, 132g of protein, and 50g of fat. Do I just make this high carb day?

    • Ted Kallmyer

      Hi Shanny, You should use two sets of macros since you have two TDEEs. A rest day set and an exercise day set. Use sedentary to calculate for your rest day set.

  3. Beth


    I am a 27 year old female, weighing 133lbs and I’m 157cm tall. I work out 5-6 days a week, including weight training, HIIT and cardio. So I’ve calculated my macros based on 1200 calories per day. It gives me 133g of protein, 122g of carbs and 20g of fat. But when I put my information into your online calculator it gives me completely different measurements. Am I calculating it wrong?

    • Ted Kallmyer

      Hi Beth, Yes, You should be eating more than 1200 calories in light of the exercise you do. Also, you are eating too little fat with those numbers.

  4. ashley l sullivan

    Hi. I calculated my Macros to where I would be eating 1200 cals for protein, 675 for fat and 845 for carbs. But this is for maintenance. How would I adjust these for carb cycling for high, low, and normal carb days?

    • Ted

      Hi Ashley, That’s a lot of protein! Are you sure you need that much? Your carbs should cycle according to your exercise, not some arbitrary cycle. More when you exercise less when you don’t. See here:

      • AshleyLashun

        I used the calculator to determine my macros and it told me 300g of protein per day which is 1200 calories right? I just feel really lost. I need someone to explain this to me like I’m 3 years old. I understand that I should eat high carbs on the days I workout. But I’m just really confused on how to cycle my macros. Is there a formula to use to help me figure out what each one should be cut to?

        • Ted

          Hi Ashley, Your question has me confused. 300g of protein? that doesn’t seem right. Cycle your macros? Not sure what you mean by that. Perhaps the best thing for you to do would be to start at the beginning and first, understand the concept of flexible dieting before you jump in to calculating your macros. Check out my book as it will take you through the process from start to finish in a basic way.

  5. Melissa

    Will the above listed calculations still work if I am calculating my protein based on my goal weight and not my current weight? Mostly everything I’m reading says that I should calculate my protein requirements based on goal weight and not current weight. My goal is to loose around 35lbs.

    • Ted

      Hi Melissa, That is technically more accurate because the 1 gram per pound rule is based on lean body mass. However, we have the .825 calculation that would account for this in most cases and probably put you pretty close to your goal weight protein amount.

  6. Alex

    Hi, i had a quick question. I calculated my macros both for the days I work out plus for my two rest days using the light activity and sedentary options. Right now I am trying to lose weight so I added the calorie deficit at 20%, is it better for me to do my protein calculation at .825 or 1? I also put my fats at around 22%. Thank you!

    • Ted

      Hi Alex, If you’re doing any type of weight training or if you want to help preserve muscle mass than 1 gram per pound is recommended. However, if you have a lot of fat to lose this can skew the calculation. If 50+ pounds of your body weight is fat than 1 gram of protein per pound is too much and .825 is more appropriate.

      • Alex

        Hi Ted, thanks so much for answering!
        Currently, those five days I do work out is weight training.

        For the light activity option, I got 154P/38F/148C with the 1:1 ration for Protein, and 127P/38F/175C with the .825.

        I was just conflicted in regards to which one would be most beneficial since the spike in difference between carbs and protein seems to be significant.

        Thanks again!

        • Ted

          In that case, do the 1:1 ratio so use the first set.

  7. Debbie Cindy

    Hi wanted to check. What if I’m currently still breastfeeding my child and planning to lose weight at the same time? I’ve checked from another website (specific for nursing mom) that my caloric needs should be around 1863 cal/day. I work out 3x a week as well. How much should i be needing if i want to lose weight but at the same time being able to breastfeed my baby?

  8. AnnaLisa Elizabeth

    I tried to calculate the REE formula several times. I keep coming up with a severely low REE and TDEE. I have successfully used the male formula for my boyfriend. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong on my own. I am a 37 year old female. I weigh 135lb (62kg), I’m 5’5″ (65cm).
    10*62 + 6.25*65 – 5*37 – 161= 680 REE
    I work out 4-5 times a week for 30-45 min..running (4miles), vinyasa yoga, weight work incl abs, legs, upper body. I am also very busy in general. I usually count myself as moderately active.
    680*1.55= 1054 calories
    This doesn’t seem possible for me…or healthy.
    I don’t know where I’m messing this up. Can anyone else tell?

    • Ted

      Hi Annalisa, Just a simple mistake. You have to convert your height to centimeters not inches. You’re 65 inches tall which is 161.1 cm

      • AnnaLisa Elizabeth

        *palm to face. I figured I was something simple. Thank you!!!

  9. Jenny New

    Hey. I was wondering if you could help me please? I have recently got into fitness. Well I’ve always been on and off but I am determined this time.

    I was having 1,200 cals and someone told me that was way too low for me. So I calculated my info. And the calculator said I should be having this. I’m 20, weigh 63.3kg and my height is 160cm and my body fat is 27.8%
    I am wanting to lose weight and build lean muscle. The results say I should be having 1881 calories. 238g C, 114g P & 52g F! Is that right? I am active I burn between 800-1200 or abit more cals 5/6 times a week. Also I was told to have 5-6 small meals a day should I do that or stay with 3? Hope you can help! Thank you.

    • Ted

      Hi Jenny, Yes, you hadn’t been eating enough. You need to support your metabolism and your activity. You should divide your eating up as it best suits your hunger levels. I would really recommend getting started on the right foot by getting our flexible dieting solution.

      • Jenny New

        Thank you ?

  10. Jannela Harish

    HI i am harish i want gain muscle and loose my body fat it is around 24% .can i get any advices please?

    • Ted

      Hi Harish, You would want to do the calculations outlined above factoring a 20% calorie deficit. You can also use our calculator which will do this for you.

      • Jannela Harish

        HI SIR,how to get a lean body….
        diet ,any advices please?

  11. gabrielle

    Hi i am trying to work out my macros but not sure what to put my TDEE as after exercise, whether it be maintain or lose weight? I’m wanting to lose body fat but gain muscle. I paid for someone to do my macros and they came up with 1500 calories, 101g P, 150g C, 50g fat. Yet when i did your calculations and set it at maintain (as i wasnt sure what to put) i came up with 1881 calories, 92g P, 261 C, 52g F. I’m 5ft 3 female and weigh 112lbs. Can you give any advice please?

    • Ted

      Hi Gabrielle, You have to be in a calorie deficit to burn fat but not too much that you won’t gain muscle. Matainance wouldn’t do this for you.

      • gabrielle

        Thank you for your reply! So on your macro calculator would i use the lose weight 10% setting or the lose weight 20% one? According to my fitness tracker i burn on average 2000 calories a day and i work out 6x a week.